Your customers don’t want to be marketed at. They want to be attracted, delighted and engaged with. If you’re going to bring them to your brand, you’ll have to be deliberate about courting them. You need to make it clear to them that they matter to you.
That’s exactly what inbound marketing helps you achieve. And it’s not just one more selling strategy to master. It’s part of a different way of doing business. We could even describe it as commerce driven by humaneness and purpose.
What is inbound marketing? How exactly does it help you grow your business? And what are the specific ways you can deploy it to make it work for you?
What is Inbound Marketing?
We have already answered this question, somewhat. Inbound marketing is an aspect of a broader way of thinking about (and running) business. It’s about marketing to attract, delight and engage potential and existing customers- in that order.
In real life, it could play out like this: instead of placing pop-up ads all over social media asking people to buy your product because it’s the best of its kind, you present them with a less intrusive advert which begins with a funny anecdote that’ll make them laugh, or a fact that’ll instantly surprise them. The aim here is to attract their attention to what you’re saying- and what you’re about.
And that’s just the first phase- the attract phase. Once you’ve gotten their attention with an ad like that (or some other kind of content that interests them), your next move will be to delight them with your product, and other stuff that they’ll find useful and appreciate (like information you can give them as an expert at what you do). You delight them by over-delivering on your promises to them.
Finally, you engage with them. In other words, you keep in touch with them and build a relationship that’s based on the value you’re providing them with. As you build trust with them, you’re able to resell, upsell and cross-sell to them. Just as importantly, they’ll become word-of-mouth ambassadors for your brand, spreading the word about your services to their contacts.
You’re not doing all of this to ultimately hit the profit jackpot. You’re in it to fulfill a purpose- add value to individuals and businesses by solving their problems. It’s in doing this that your money is made. If you get this job done well, the rewards will come.
How Inbound Can Help You Grow Your Business
While this article is concerned with the marketing side of the ‘inbound philosophy’, it’s worth noting that its principles could apply to other aspects of your business as well.
For example, your customer service team takes cognizance of the characteristics of your company’s buyer persona (a ‘standard model’ of your typical customer), understands their wants, preferences, hopes, and aspirations, and interacts with them with this knowledge in mind. This tends to lead to more pleasant customer interactions; they come away from conversations feeling understood and valued. And they’re likely to have a good opinion of your brand as a result.
There’s also the benefit from the simple fact that every contact you have with customers adds something significant to them. Think about this. Every time they come across you, they see that you’re either giving them brilliant life hacks, informing them about some great deal, or offering answers to their most pressing (or even trivial) questions. On top of all that, your team is always courteous, sensitive to their needs, and always ready to assist where they can. They will very likely stick by you.
Then there’s the component which keeps the marketing wheel spinning: positive word of mouth. When you consistently delight your customers, they become repeat buyers. They also tell others about your business and attract others to it. That’s more people to delight and engage with- and more people to convert to word-of-mouth ambassadors for your brand.
Practical Steps to Inbound Marketing
1. Create a Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your typical customer. For example, if you run a nanny hiring agency, most of your customers may be middle-class working mothers of school-aged children. In this case, your target persona could be a certain ‘Busy Mrs. Bose’, a character which possesses these traits. Busy Mrs. Bose doesn’t exist in real life- she’s a character you create on paper –but she’s a representation of the kind of people you’re offering your services to.
If you’re going to create a buyer persona, you’ll have to know a whole lot about the sort of people you’re targeting- their income levels, purchasing habits, how they want their challenges to be tackled, and what their customer journeys look like.
You can get this sort of information by conducting surveys of your target market, using data from analytics tools, or having one-on-one interviews with them. Educated guesses are also an option, but be sure that you’re making them out of a place of real, deep knowledge of the market you’re reaching out to.
2. Attract Potential Clients with Great Content
We know that attention spans have fallen over the past few decades (and continue to fall). Along with that, there’s a greater pool of options for customers to choose from. How do you catch their eyes quickly, and keep them interested in you?
The answer is great content. And for today’s impatient, convenience-seeking person, great content means text, video, and pictures that grab their attention and maintains a hold of it for an extended period. But how do you achieve this?
First, remember that you’re targeting specific kinds of persons, so your content should be tailored to appeal to their tastes, as well as meet their need for information. So you should create and present them with something that’s both aesthetically pleasing and takes them closer to solving a problem that they have. Nice graphics, tunes, videos, brilliantly crafted informative articles, and even GIFs used in the appropriate spaces could draw your ideal customers towards you.
Avoid being too sales-y. Inbound is always about the person on the other side from where you’re speaking. Try to reach into your target’s sentiments, hopes, and aspirations, and mirror it back to them with the content you create.
You may opt for reaching a wider audience with your content via paid adverts on social media or search engines; or you could do it all organically, relying on the quality of your material, SEO, guest posting, and other content marketing approach to bring in the traffic.
3. Over-Deliver on Your Promises
We don’t always think about getting the job done as an aspect of marketing. But maybe we should. How else can we sustain the momentum we build with our marketing campaigns?
But besides ticking all the boxes you promise to strike, you should also be conscious about not letting your customers slip out of your sights once you’ve completed the first transaction with them. Keep in mind that it’s wise to focus on making your customers loyal to your brand than to always be on the lookout for new ones. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of many businesses.
Maintain an email list. It’s a great way to stay on your customers’ (or lead’s) horizons. You can email them information that they’d consider useful on a periodic basis, updates about other products that they may like to know about, and promo offers if you’re running any. Keep them interested and appreciative of what you do for them across all the points you have any contacts with them, online or offline.