As inbound marketers, we know the ultimate purpose of inbound marketing is to attract new prospects, engage them with insightful content and delight them by delivering expert advice, products, and services. All without annoying or interrupting them. If this is news to you then consider checking out our guide to inbound marketing for an overview.
Of course, there is a fourth step every inbound marketer should follow . . . Improve! Regardless of how well our latest campaign is doing it’s never too early to be thinking about how we’ll improve upon it next time. After all, inbound should be an iterative process where we learn from our successes, failures and most importantly each other. With this in mind here are my top 5 tips to help you improve your inbound marketing campaigns in 2019. Of course, we’d love to hear your advice for fellow marketers too so be sure to leave your top tip in the comments!
1. Ensure your buyer personas are up to date
Buyer personas are in my opinion the most important step in creating an inbound marketing campaign, and yet you’d be surprised at how many marketers either don’t update or haven’t created buyer personas to focus their campaigns around! Buyer personas (also known as marketing personas) are semi-fictional representations of your perfect customer and are key to ensuring our marketing campaigns are effectively targeted and speak to the right people. If you’ve yet to create any buyer personas for your business then this great tool from HubSpot will help you through the process.
Many of us spend a lot of time on social media and regularly use it to check reviews on products and services we’re thinking about using. However we tend to ignore the fact that other buyers are doing exactly the same for the products and services provided by the companies we work for.
The buyer’s journey has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. That doesn’t mean that people have diverged from their usual route to the shop, but the one that they experience when they are deciding where and what they are going to buy when making purchasing decisions. The proliferation of the internet means that buyers now have access to more information than ever before. As a result of this, 93% of a customer’s buying decisions are started online.
Consider Pain Points
To begin with, it is important to realise that each buying journey starts with a pain point. It is not a literal headache but a symptom of a problem that a customer has identified as something which can be improved. It will typically be an internal issue but can sometimes be external. It could be a B2B, B2C or just an individual consumer looking to purchase. Even if at face value some problems appear similar, each pain point is unique and has a range of different solutions. When outlining your content strategy, having an overriding plan to identify people with a pain point is important to maximise leads. However, once a lead has turned into a qualified lead, it is important to consider all facets of a pain point rather than just the main issue. You wouldn’t build a house without foundations; so why solve a problem without addressing the underlying issues?
Look at your Buyer’s Journey
There are three primary stages to a buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision. Planning your content for each stage of a buyer’s journey is important to ensuring that you can add value and insight throughout the journey.
Although the pain point is part of the awareness stage, it is only the beginning of the buyer’s journey. Once they have identified their pain point, the buyer will be looking to define their problem, opportunity or eventual goal and the consequences that will come with inaction. Some buyers may have more than one pain point but will prioritise which ones to address based on which is the most urgent. 74% of buyer’s will choose the first company which added insight and value into their journey. At the awareness stage, buyers will tend to ask generalized questions, so if, as marketers, we can add value at the awareness stage, then there is a real chance that they will turn into a qualified lead.
However, the most likely stage where the earliest opportunity will arise to add value is at the consideration stage. By this point, the buyer should have paid serious thought to what their issues are and will have begun researching solutions to their problem. Unless they’re purposefully wasting their time, they should be committed to fixing the issue at hand. The buyer will be wanting to address the pros and cons of the solution, how much it will cost to implement solutions and what the logistics of implementing any resolutions will be i.e disruption to operations or business development. They will be trying to educate themselves whilst refining their options, “57% of the buying journey is done before a sales rep is involved” so if your marketing team can be the first to provide value and insight, whether it be blog posts, tips or blog posts, there is a real chance the customer will use your services.
Following the consideration stage, the buyer should land at the decision stage. The buyer will now be assessing their options to see what solutions best fit the circumstances of their problem. They will be looking at factors such as offerings, who needs to be involved in the decision-making process, comparing the costs of different solutions and whether they would like to trial any of the available solutions before buying them. Although you don’t want to help the competition, you should remember that it is important to have the customer at the heart of everything you do. So, if they outline reasons why your product isn’t quite the right one for them, you should be gracious in defeat instead of pushing your product or services. It is better to build a good reputation among customers rather than pushing a product which doesn’t fit their criteria and could lead to bad reviews and reputation.
Generation C is not an age group or a demography of people. It is not those obsessed by technology. It is a new wave of consumer culture which values creation, curation, connection and community above all else. Customers are sick and tired of old, outdated marketing techniques such as cold-calling, pressure tactics and phishing emails. They want value and a personal touch to their buying experience. Where possible, make them feel as though they are your only customer rather than one of many. By providing them with a positive experience you are increasing the likelihood that they will recommend your company to others, whether that be by word-of-mouth, reviews and social media sites.
Generation C are focusing more on connection and community. The connection isn’t solely the connection they have with the company they are buying from, but also with likewise consumers who are purchasing similar items or services. The internet, review sites and social media means that buyers are communicating with each other more than ever before. Just having a good reputation by word-of-mouth is not enough anymore. You need to ensure that your online reputation is just as good, if not better. Good reviews will drive customers to your products and show them that they can trust the service you’re providing.
But how are you going to get those reviews in the first place, if people can’t find your site? Having good search engine optimization (SEO) is imperative to ensuring your company appears as close to the top of the results page as possible and really driving web traffic. Remember, buyers are more likely to choose the first company to add insight. There are various ways to achieve good SEO. A simple one is having a good company name which fits the criteria of what people are searching for, especially if your company is new. However, your company will also need to look at aspects such as having posts which best fit Google’s algorithms. For instance, the optimal blog post is approximately 1800 words as this shows that there is some authority to the piece. Furthermore, having a good meta-description with relevant key words is an important part of your work having good SEO. The meta-description is what will draw a buyer to reading your piece and could, potentially, be the difference between them using your services or going elsewhere.
Content Mapping and Buyer Personas
Having an outlined buyer persona and mapping your content are entwined. Briefly, a buyer persona is a fictionalized biography of your ideal buyer’s needs, habits, wants and questions while your content mapping is the how you plan your marketing and sales strategy and the work you will produce or conduct to attract customers to your company based on your ideal persona. You can have multiple buyer personas and content mapping to meet each individual persona. You wouldn’t have the same buyer persona for a company director as you would for a team manager or someone who is self-employed. The key concept to remember with content mapping is that you are trying to ensure that you are providing the right content, to the right person at the right time. Your content should be aiming to convert as many potential leads to qualified leads as possible. It is important that you review and revise your buyer persona’s periodically and that they are based on data driven research. Don’t leave anything to assumptions or guesswork as the buyer persona is only as effective as the data supporting it.
There are a variety of factors which you will need to consider when mapping your content. Firstly, you will need to consider what the logical path will be that your buyer undergoes on their journey. You need content that will fit each stage as they may not already know about our product or service, so being able to meet them and convince them at whatever stage they’re at is important to securing a sale. You need to be able to efficiently and effectively identify what each persona’s typical pain point is and be able to meet them at any point of their buying journey. What questions are they asking when researching? How are you going to answer those questions in your content mapping? This should be contributing to your content strategy as your persona’s should be providing you with topics and questions they want you to cover.
Dump the Classic Sales Funnel
The emergence of Generation C means that the old sales funnel model is effectively obsolete. The old top-to-bottom approach (awareness, interest, desire, action, retention and advocacy) places the customer at the bottom of the pile and is, essentially, a selfish, seller-centric approach to your sales techniques. Remember, Generation C values creation, curation, connection and community and the traditional sales funnel isn’t overly abundant in any of those areas. Instead, your sales funnel should take a more holistic approach where the customer is placed at the centre, not the bottom, of everything that you do. To do this, you will need to align your marketing, sales and sales enablement team. Although the emphasis on awareness and interest will be in the marketing department, desire and action in sales and retention and advocacy in sales enablement, it will be most beneficial to adopt a cyclical approach where each stage is concurrent and constant.
8 things to Remember when considering Buyer Behaviour
Each journey starts with a pain point
A buyer’s journey has 3 primary stages- Awareness, consideration and decision.
The earliest opportunity to add insight, and probably the best place to do so, is the transition between the awareness and consideration stage
93% of a buyer’s decision is made online
74% of buyer’s choose the first company to add insight into their journey.
The old sales funnel is dead. Aligning your three departments and placing the customer at the centre of everything you do is important to meeting the needs of Generation C
Having buyer personas and content mapping is key to ensuring you are prepared for anything that may come your way.
Have a range of buyer personas so that you can meet the criteria of different customer’s pain points.
At Digital Media Edge we are passionate about the powers of the inbound marketing methodology. Technology is moving faster than ever and for many businesses, we understand keeping up has never been more daunting. We know, it would be wonderful to believe prospective customers will naturally fall upon our website and come knocking down our door, the truth is the world is busier than ever, our buyers have shorter attention spans than ever and are constantly being bombarded by sales messages – so how do you cut through the noise, connect and engage with your target audience in a way that will make them love you.
Inbound Marketing is the answer. The sad fact is that traditional means of marketing are no longer working, and business is beginning to see revenue stagnate or even drop as they fail to keep up. As we’ve all experienced from a customer’s point of view, companies shouting about offers in an impersonal and intrusive way via cold calls, direct mail and other forms of hard selling are frustrating and downright annoying; we simply don’t respond to them any more.
Inbound marketing is the human, holistic and helpful way to market to and attract your buyer to your website.
The strategy before tactics approach
You’ll have heard us discuss the importance of a strategy before tactics approach here at Digital Media Edge before, a concept we pride ourselves on when it comes to delivering long term results for our clients. This strategy first approach perfectly captures the concept of inbound and is key if you want to attract customers, get leads and drive sales – spending the time implementing what needs doing and crucially, questioning why.
Because of this, you need to first look at who your target prospect actually is and what pains they face on a daily basis. If they are involved with a competitive product or service, what issues and challenges would they like to overcome? This is where you come in, clearly determining how your business can solve said challenges and do so in a way that makes you stand out above others in your sector. Every tactical landing page, blog, email campaign and video you then produce needs to reinforce how and why you are the obvious choice above that competition and why you and can help your prospect in a way the others cannot.
Developing real relationships with prospects
Perhaps the main point of difference between inbound and the outdated outbound approach is the force with which your product or service is pushed onto the customer. Selling should not be the main reason for interaction in an inbound marketing campaign; your product or service is just one of the offers you are presenting.
If we think about this in terms of the prospect funnel above, each stage represents an emotional state through which your potential customer will pass through over their series of interactions with you. Which part of the funnel they are in at any one time will determine their needs and the content you need to make in order to help with their decision-making process, giving more value the further down the funnel and more interested they become.
Through offering free and low-cost content that will help with their identified pains and educate them on what you offer, you will draw your customer further down the funnel, positioning yourself as a voice of authority that offers valuable, remarkable content to help convert your contacts into suspects, prospects and ultimately customers. In turn this will help establish that solid relationship based on trust and authority, leading the way to a long term relationship with you and the associated loyalty and advocacy that every business craves.
Let us show you more
If you want a more in depth look into inbound marketing and how you can create a successful, optimised strategy for your business then consider reading our ultimate guide to inbound marketing or click below to download a free printable version.
If you run a B2B business or work in marketing or sales you will probably have heard the phrase “Account-Based Marketing”, but why is it becoming the go-to strategy for many businesses, what makes it so effective and how does it work?
Account-based marketing (or ABM for short) is a relatively new concept that’s emerged in the B2B market over the past few years, with HubSpot claiming that “60% of B2B companies plan to launch an ABM based campaign in the next year”. You can read our in-depth guide to account-based marketing here – Account-Based Marketing: Your Step By Step Guide
“60% of B2B companies plan to launch an ABM based campaign in the next year”
Account-based marketing is a new type of B2B strategy which compliments existing sales and marketing strategies such as inbound marketing, advertising and direct outreach. The important thing to understand is that ABM is a strategic apporach rather than a feature set or collection of tools.
ABM is focused on targeting and closing high value deals
All deals are not created equal and with most verticals or sectors in B2B there are high value deals and high volume deals. Strategies such as inbound marketing are superb at attracting a higher volume of leads into your pipeline and ensure the sales team are constantly connecting and engaging with new prospects. This approach suits products, services or solutions with a short sales cycles, a single buyer and a lower value.
However, in many sectors and businesses, there are also a top tier of higher value deals, with multiple stakeholders, a longer sales process and smaller volume of target buyers. If you work in these sectors or are trying to attract these key accounts to your business, you will realise that this requires a far more structured approach, based on developing relationships with a multi-person buying group of up to 12 people, with highly-personalised content and it requires sales enablement with marketing and sales working together to identify and nurture opportunities. This is what ABM is all about.
What type of B2B companies benefit from ABM?
The companies that we have worked with over the years, on developing an effective ABM strategy tend to fit these profiles:
High value business-to-business product or services – i.e manufacturing companies who are selling a high value piece of machinery.
Sectors with a limited number of target companies – This could include the top 20% of high-value accounts in a sector. There are limited number of buyers who are a good fit or can afford to pay for the product.
Companies who are regularly selling to multiple-person buying groups – This is normally the case with high-value B2B deals, that are complex and require input from multiple stakeholders. Remember this means multiple people on the buying side and also on the selling side.
A sales process which requires highly personalised content and engagement – The success of a sale depends on the education of each of the multiple stakeholders with content that is highly relevant to them and their position in the buying process. Human engagement is key to these sales and you can not simply rely on automation.
So what makes ABM so effective?
The standard demand-generation process in marketing is a traditional “what” based funnel approach of creating valuable content to attract a volume of targeted visitors or personas, convert those visitors into leads which are then handed to sales to close into customers and revenue. Inbound starts with understanding the persona or person.
Account-based Marketing flips this approach around and starts with the “who” by identifying which company accounts are most likely to become high-value best-fit customers in a “target list”, then create highly personalised content that is relevent to those accounts, select the right channels and strategies to reach the right personas within these target accounts and nurture relationships with multiple personas within the company. As with sales enablement strategy, an effective ABM strategy relies on marketing and sales aligning around these target accounts. ABM starts with understanding the company.
Getting started with your ABM Strategy
As with any effective marketing and sales approach, the key to running your account-based marketing programme is in planning out a detailed strategy, identifying the tactics, skill sets in your team, technology needed, specific financial goals, timelines and metrics for success.
At the core of this is the alignment between your sales and marketing teams, so having a financial goal to unify the teams around is important. Marketing will be used to a one-to-many approach, while sales will used to dealing with the lead handed over by marketing. On top of this marketing and sales often use totally separate content and insights to fulfill their jobs, with ABM the two teams need to come together to engage buyers in a cohesive aligned way.