Since the ‘good ol’ days’ of marketing, when mavericks such as Philip Kotler and Peter Drucker-marketing and business management pioneers who quite literally wrote the book– spread the gospel on how best to take products and services to market, the face of marketing has changed so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
For the better, mind you! Like when the beast at the end of Beauty and the Beast transforms into the handsome prince. Or when…- okay, you get the picture!
But how exactly has it changed?
Back then, marketing was all about the push-physically placing the product in front of a prospect through TV adverting, billboards, print ads, flyers, radio et al. This approach still exists and in certain cases holds some value-during my walk to the office this morning I encountered a myriad of different event posters and parts of Queen Street, Cardiff, have these enormous digital marketing billboards with several different adverts on rotation.
Moving to the online arena, push is as prevalent as ever-think interstitials, video adverts (i.e. the sort you get before YouTube videos), email campaigns and banner adverts. The thing is, it’s generally accepted that this sort of marketing isn’t really effective anymore, or at least for certain demographics it isn’t- it all depends on your target audience.
For instance, Millennials and Generation Z consumers will typically ignore all forms of online advertising, whereas adverts may well still resonate with Generation X or Baby Boomers who were brought up on them (and more importantly had no way of controlling them).
‘Tell me more!’, I hear you say! As interesting a topic this is, it’s the subject of a future blog. The following should whet your appetites for now, though: http://bit.ly/2dHZUJ1
Nowadays, marketing is predominantly about the pull-creating brand awareness and attracting new customers to your website via search engines, social media and events etc. The pull is facilitated by the distribution of well thought out content, the sort that adds real value to the users work or personal life. This digital content comes in many forms such as blogs, white papers, videos and infographics.
The idea is simple:
User stumbles across a useful piece of content while scouring the web in search of a solution to a problem
User reads your piece of content and finds real value in it. In other-words, you have managed to solve their problem. Hooray!
As a result of this, the user regards you as a trust worthy brand and decides to dedicate his/her precious time to checking out your website
From here the user may well engage with your brand some more or even buy something.
Cooking. With. Gas.
But why such a shift?
Blame the internet. Or more succinctly, the power it yields. Back then, the ad executives were in control (think Mad Men): they controlled the messages you saw; they dictated what products you bought; in essence they shaped the way you think. Thanks to the internet, the power has been placed firmly in the hands of the consumer-it has provided us with the ability to conduct thorough product research, solicit advice through peer to peer discussion and leave online reviews. This ability to tap into a wealth of user generated knowledge has provided the consumer with a level of purchasing power that has brought some companies to their metaphorical knees…
You’ve gone off on a tangent there, pal…
Quite right! Getting back to the topic of digital marketing…
This pull style of marketing has a more concise name. Introducing Inbound marketing or the inbound methodology, the contemporary approach to lead acquisition.
Understanding the Inbound Methodology
Although the basis of Inbound marketing is based on the pull mechanism mentioned above, the methodology is comprised of a number of stages and is best explained as follows:
Strangers -> visitors: drawing in prospects from search engines and social channels through shared content and keywords.
Visitors -> leads: once on your site or landing page, compelling copy and strategically placed CTA’s (calls to action) should encourage prospects to make a direct enquiry, or more likely, fill out a contact form.
Leads -> customers: upon receiving a prospect’s contact details, permission to make contact has been granted. Through useful content (i.e. newsletters, white papers, market insights etc.), the goal is to instil trust and gently nudge the prospect towards the end of the sales funnel.
Customers -> advocates: the result of nurturing the relationships you have with your client base, through further CRM, additional content, newsletters, offers, market insights, general engagement on social media etc., is customer advocacy-word of mouth (or word of mouse) referral is arguably the most powerful form of business acquisition.
This approach is both B2B and B2C orientated and can be adapted to almost all industries and business types. For instance, if you have an ecommerce store, you may expect a prospect to make a direct purchase instead of leaving contact details as per the methodology above. However, 95% of all shoppers do not make a purchase the first time they visit a website. To combat this, you could programme a pop-up box to appear after 60 seconds of inactivity, for example, compelling the user to leave his/her email address. Afterwards, you could target the user with a personalised message offering an attractive discount off his/her first purchase. All the other steps apply, they just need to be tailored to your business type.
Tips to get started.
By now I’m sure you are sold on the concept of inbound marketing. However, it’s no walk in the park and there are no quick wins. An effective inbound marketing campaign requires strategic thinking, skill in other areas of digital marketing and a well thought out content plan centred around attracting your ideal customer. The tips below will help you gain an idea of what’s required to get started.
Work to your strengths and get help if required
As mentioned, Inbound marketing requires skill in a few different forms of digital marketing; they all work holistically to draw prospects to your website. To begin, you will need to take stock of your skill set and where your expertise lie: perhaps you are a great blog writer but have no knowledge of SEO; maybe you’re able to craft amazing pieces of visual content but have no idea how to effectively distribute them on social media. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses and the number of different components required to launch your campaign, consider forming a dedicated team or outsourcing where appropriate.
Further to this, read up as much as you can about inbound marketing to solidify exactly how it works and can help your business. There are a great number of resources out there such as: http://mklnd.com/1K49Ncv
Define your inbound marketing goals
Defining your marketing goals will help steer your campaign and retain focus. Aim for goals which are SMART (i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & timebound). They should ultimately be based on your overall business goals (i.e. what your business has set out to achieve).
Know your customer
At this stage, it will be well worth developing a series of customer personas to base your campaign around. Customer personas are real-life representations of your ideal customer. Get into the mindset of your personas and come up with stories describing their individual backgrounds and why they might want to engage with your business. Work out their individual pain points (i.e. problems they may be facing) and how your product(s) or service(s) fulfils their individual needs and wants (i.e. gain points).
Aim for three different personas and ask yourself the following additional questions:
-Where do they hang out online?
-Why do they like my brand/business?
-How do they like to buy? (i.e. online, offline, once a year, frequently etc.)
The answers to these questions will help shape your content strategy…
Develop a content strategy
it’s now time to piece together a content strategy. Your content strategy is your overall plan of attack, detailing how you are going to achieve your inbound marketing goals. Before crafting your content strategy, consider the following:
-What tools, technologies and resources will you need?
-What social media channels will you use?
-What types of content will resonate best with your audience?
-Will CRM (customer relationship management) software be required?
-What sort of content will you produce as part of your CRM?
-What will you blog about and how often?
-What other channels will you make use of?
-When is the best time to publish and promote content on social media?
Optimise your website for conversions
Attracting prospects to your website is one thing. Getting them to convert or take a course of action is quite another. How your website looks and performs is just as, if not more important than your content strategy.
Designed with your personas in mind, your website should satisfy the following criteria:
–Easy to navigate, ensuring the user’s journey is smooth and seamless.
-Optimised for SEO and mobile responsive.
-Equipped to generate leads or encourage conversions through strategically placed and compelling CTAs (calls to action)
-Feature engaging content designed to instil trust in the user or encourage a sale/conversion.
-Make use of effective landing pages-acting as the sole point of entry for anyone that has interacted with your content, there are two types: click through and lead generation.
Click through encourage your customers to progress through the site towards an end conversion goal; lead generation are designed to capture data from a customer upon arrival. Again, whichever you use will be dictated by your marketing goals.
–Thank you pages (if possible) should appear whenever a conversion takes place. Not only do they help guide the user back into the website or sales funnel, through Google Analytics you can attribute them with goals via its goal tracking application. Essentially, each time a thank you page is triggered, google will count this as a goal/conversion allowing you to work out which pages work best and which need to be optimised.
We live in the digital age which means that everything is tracked, monitored, quantified and analysed. Including your marketing (provided you have the correct software in place). At the very least you should have Google Analytics encoded into your website to monitor web traffic behaviour and where it came from.
Ultimately, you will need to monitor closely what works and what doesn’t and make changes where appropriate. For instance, if the bounce rate on your home page or one of your landing pages is very high (e.g. 60% +), then you need to make changes to reduce it. Try to foster a culture of analysis, insight, action & review with all your inbound marketing activities.