Over the past 7-8 years, the marketing game has changed from outbound marketing to inbound marketing.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is an optimal configuration of a set of online/digital activities aimed at helping companies/websites attract relevant and interested customers or tribes using a variety of techniques, engaging them, capturing and managing leads, converting them into revenue and in the process, measuring everything. Inbound marketing involves following activities:
- Using a range of (head, long tail) keywords in organic SEO and paid search marketing and online campaigns
- Engaging the audience with remarkable content (blog posts, social media content, videos, eBooks white papers, case studies, info-graphics etc.)
- Frequently bringing the audience back to the digital hub (often a website) with content-targeted email marketing campaigns
- Capturing lead information using optimized landing pages
- Qualifying and managing the leads by the sales force; establishing strong relationships with the customers
- Measuring all of the above activities using marketing analytics systems and improving the effort on an ongoing basis
To achieve the competitive advantage, the sales and marketing teams have to work in tandem and amplify each others’ efforts to create value for the customers.
The big question is – How to get it right? In that context, I would like to share 10 best practices in inbound marketing from my experience.
- Profiling ideal customers may work better than segmentation and targeting: Most marketers tend to identify customers based on demographics, profession, industry, etc. Such segmentation leads to one segment being targeted with marketing messaging. The issue here is that digital revolution has made it more difficult to put a large chunk of people into one category. A better way may be to profile the ideal customer and think from his/her perspective. Creative behavior maps, customer journeys, scenarios, etc., help in identifying touch points where the customer will be more responsive.
- Content is king; so serve the king well: When it comes to content, there is no getting away with “standard” stuff. In short, without remarkable content, it would be difficult to engage customers. Marketing campaigns and catchy taglines will surely get customers on your website and landing page and may even generate a lead. But to make them come back and keep them engaged in the long run, creative content is the only way. Use as much creativity as you can in generating white papers, case studies, videos, blogs, tweets, ebooks, infographics, marketing charts, idea snippets etc.
- Consistency in using keywords is indispensable: In fact, it is as important as consistency in messaging. Be consistent with the keywords that are used in the page titles, meta-tags, headings, web-page content and blogs, white papers, video content, tweets, social media content etc. This has everything to do with how human beings learn i.e. through repetition. Once people start associating your products with certain keywords, they form a mental image and more often than not, that becomes your brand.
- Spend some money on advertising, it will help in understanding whether it helps: Yes, go ahead and spend some money on Google AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter, Facebook Advertising and other advertising tools. Being short on budget is a good argument against spending money but a stronger argument is – it doesn’t work. You wouldn’t know whether it works or not, unless you try. Tell your boss that you have data that shows if paid advertising works for your product or not. He will be impressed.
- Measure not only what’s easy to measure, but also what’s relevant: Measure everything. Measure page views, clicks, click-through rates, most read blogs, most commented blogs, case study or white paper downloads etc. Also, measure the number of times your content is shared on social networks. Measure how leads convert into orders and how orders convert into long term projects and revenue streams. Besides the standard stuff, also measure costs; cost to generate 100 leads Vs. cost to convert one order, cost to produce a case study Vs. cost to produce a video, cost to acquire a customer Vs. cost to maintain a customer, etc. This will help you do better, if not more.
- Avoid the trap of “what gets measured gets done”: Sure, measure everything so that you can optimize the effort and the spend. But don’t get stuck in measuring what can be measured and habitually getting that done. This relates to how people are incentivized. In the incentive scheme, also include qualitative stuff such as “customer happiness quotient” and “first impression impact”. Don’t lose the sight of the ultimate objective, which is to create value for customers.
- Numbers don’t paint the complete picture: Don’t just measure whatever I have mentioned above; also read through what your clients or customers are saying about you. That is, we need to put some resources in qualitative analysis. These analysis will reveal what the problems are, how big they are, what’s the tradeoff between urgency and impact etc.
- Avoid the weak link effect: Do you want to achieve great success in inbound marketing? Hire some smart people. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. It is important to get rid of the rotten apples from the team. Your next level of growth will come from people who are hungry for that growth. Having “also ran’s” in the team is not an option. Forces multiply when A players work together; avoid mixing the As and the Cs. C players will consume a lot of energy from the A player and adversely impact their productivity and performance.
- Clients want to pay you because you solve their problems: There is no standard B2B sale. Most clients are looking for a solution to their problem. If you are using content for attracting clients, the content has to address how you will solve their problem, which means that you have to understand what their problem is. Understanding client’s problem is a consultative process; it needs you to spend time with the clients. Don’t just focus on selling your product but spend more energy on understanding client’s problem and then figuring out, if and how, your product solves the problem.
- Authenticity of content comes from research: If you are writing a white paper targeting a particular industry, the white paper should demonstrate your understanding of that industry. This means that white papers are different for different industries. This also means that you need to do a lot of research to make the content meaningful. Else, you may have a risk of diluting the credibility of your brand. Read more and think more. That will help.
Would you agree? I would like to get your views on this.