What is Inbound Marketing? In today’s competitive climate, there is a belief that in order to pull ahead, you and your business need to be ruthless and cutthroat. That in order to be successful, you have to grow at the expense of your customers. This small business guide to inbound marketing sets out to disprove this theory.
But this sentiment is everywhere.
From ads we see every day to references across pop culture, and even in the behaviour of some of the world’s biggest companies.
The problem with this type of linear thinking, especially in a world that’s driven by word of mouth, is that it leads companies to make short term decisions that sacrifice long-term relationships.
Because today’s buyers have all the power it is simply bad business to be tough with your customers.
There has been a massive shift in the relationship between business and buyers. Now, the buyer is more empowered and has more information about your product, industry and competition than ever before.
And if you fail to meet their needs, or your business terms are too onerous, customers will opt to use your competition. This also applies to your digital marketing messages. A recent study concluded that if a company’s promotions and messages were irrelevant to the target market, 94% of consumers discontinued communications with the company.
74% of people are also likely to switch brands of they find the purchasing process too difficult.
51% of customers never do business with a company again if they have just one negative experience.
On the flip side, 77% of consumers shared positive experiences with their friends or on social media last year.
And 93% of consumers said that they’re more likely to repeat as customers with companies with remarkable service.
Evidently, there is a better way to do business.
Inbound marketing for small businesses is about creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people within the business, and those the business serves.
The inbound approach means conducting business in a personal, more human way. It seeks to builds long lasting relationships with prospects and customers. Inbound means meeting people on their own terms and interacting with them on the sites, networks and platforms they value most.
The key is to focus on long-term customer-centric satisfaction. Which in turn builds trust with your target market. Eventually this will position your services or products as solutions to problems your customer needs solving.
This knowledge monetisation focuses on empowering your prospects and customers rather than forcing them to engage with you through interruptive experiences (HubSpot).
Inbound Vs Outbound
Interruption-orientated outbound marketing dominated much of the market previously. By extracting value out of your prospect, it diminished returns and eliminated fun for the prospect and for the person going to market with the message.
Inbound Marketing for your business is a state of mind (Brian Halligan, CEO, HubSpot). Building relationships and having conversations with, not at, your customers is the mindset it produces. In turn, Inbound strives to help people go to market in the way that human’s want to be sold and marketed to.
If you want to get value out of your prospects and customers, you need to give them an experience that they value – from attraction to advocacy.
What is the Inbound Methodology?
Outbound marketing meant the best or cheapest product always won, and what you sold formed the be-all-and-end-all of your sales strategy. With Inbound, it’s more about how you sell it than what you sell (HubSpot). This means it is less about the product you sell, and more about creating a small business model around human behaviour.
Companies that integrate a humanistic, and in turn empathetic approach, are the ones that leverage data to create the best user journeys. These are the same companies that retain customer loyalty over long periods of time.
Your customer journey must start by pulling people in because your content, service or product is helpful. By caring about the problems of your potential customers and trying to solve for them, your business’ purpose becomes to help the customer. When you help the customer, you become their go-to solution. This leads to repeat business because your services feel relevant, helpful and valuable.
Brands such as Apple, Amazon and Spotify recognise that their most influential stakeholders are their repeat customers. This is why they’ve built customer loyalty around their software interface and subsequent user experience, not just their products.
Every individual is unique, and they want to be treated that way. So, when all of your processes centre around your customer touch points, you can provide a holistic experience that eventually turns strangers into advocates.
The Proven Methodology to grow your business
Over the past few years, the same change in buying behaviour that sparked the inbound movement has also spread throughout the whole customer experience (HubSpot). How people make buying choices, the way they communicate and what they expect from a business has changed.
The inbound methodology, along with technology, helps small businesses adapt to these changes within sales, marketing, service and customer experience.
Inbound not only helps you keep a customer centric mind-set throughout your sales pipeline, it ensures that everyone in your business has access to data to understand each customer’s profile. This enables all employees at all levels of the customer journey to deliver value and build trust at every interaction.
What are the fundamentals of an Inbound Business?
Alignment of internal processes within your customer journey is vital to creating an intuitive flow for employees that interact with customers. This references the stages your marketing, sales and services teams will use to create and maintain client relationships. Eventually feeding the top of your sales funnel using customer feedback.
These stages are: attract, engage and delight (HubSpot).
Each of these forms a section of the ‘Flywheel’ that must now be placed in your sales funnel. These three stages need not replace your existing customer funnel, but should be used to improve your existing customer experience.
All of these phases apply to everyone in your business. Attracting isn’t just the role of marketers, and engaging isn’t solely dependent on your sales teams. In order to create relationships that last and customers that stay, every customer-facing team needs to focus on how they can contextually attract, engage and delight customers, to build trust in your brand.
STAGE 1: Attract
During the Attract phase, you must focus on attracting prospects and customers through helpful and relevant content. The best way to start your customer journey is by giving them this value. Valuable content is contextual, meaning that it relates directly to the question being asked, the outcome being sought or an aspirational goal (Marketo). This should provide information that not only informs, but shows your insight on the given topic. Regular content of this nature will position you as a thought leader. And provide potential customers with the easiest path to the desired solution with your expert-level insight.
For a marketer, this could mean creating content and experiences that demonstrate your knowledge.
Alternatively, sales reps need to make customers want to engage in conversation and see you as a resource. Make yourself available for meetings or calls to discuss areas they’re likely to have the most product questions. This will qualify you as solutions based, and not profits based, as you’re solving for a problem, not simply selling a product.
A small business’ service phase must now cater to the constant demand of customer enquires. Knowledge docs and chatbots make information easy to find for people who are looking for it. While a human element might be needed for in depth assistance.
Every business is an expert. Every customer-facing role is a knowledge broker.
Attraction is about using this expertise to create content and conversations that solve problems and answer questions. Therefore, promoting these relationships will allow you to gather information on the client as you work with them. These initial customer responses could include website interactions, marketing feedback or form inquiries. The key is that all interactions must use data provided to create a warm initial meeting.
STAGE 2: Engage
The engage phase then builds upon the relationship formed after your first interaction. Data gathered from this point should be used to further help you to solve problems with context, clarity and creativity. By focusing on what motivates your audience, you are able to apply your skillset to become a resource. During this stage, you will start to sell your brand by solving problems for your prospects and offering them value, rather than telling them what sets you apart. Whether you’re a marketer, sales rep, or services rep, you must communicate with customers using data collected at every stage of the flywheel.
STAGE 3: Delight
The final phase involves delighting your customer by providing an outstanding experience. And must be done every time a prospect or customer interacts with your company. Your aim is to exceed their expectations so they will refer your services to their network. These clients then become advocates and feed the top of your sales funnel.
The delight stage is about more than just customer service, as any prospect has the ability to be your loudest voice on social media. You must use the opportunity to ensure that you’re actively creating advocates rather than detractors of your brand. This revolves around a system that delights customers in a continuous motion that feeds your flywheel and attracts prospects.
Your marketing team is your loudest amplifier of brand content, but when executed correctly your advocates can be louder.
Attract, Engage, Delight means aligning your marketing, sales and service teams around providing outstanding service in their content, conversations and interactions. You must first understand what motivates your prospects and customers to make it easy for people to find the answers they need. By providing a solution through helpful content you are qualifying yourself before you enter any business agreement. By rereading this small business guide to inbound marketing you are helping yourself achieve sustainable growth. This will get you paying attention to the needs of the customer, what their pain points are and why you’re best qualified to help them.