Perhaps you have already heard of it. You even may consciously or unconsciously already apply these methods. Inbound marketing has namely everything to do with creating the ‘ultimate online customer experience’ for the buyer. Inbound marketing allows an organization to be present at the right place, with the right people at the right time with the right information.
Picture yourself in a buyers role. Would you then be interested in the pitch of a salesman telling you exactly the same as what you have already read on his or her website? Most likely, you wouldn’t. Unfortunately, this is how we often tend to approach our potential customers.
Wouldn’t it therefore be great if you could tailor your approach and message to the specific needs of your potential customer? Right!
Educate your customers
Before the internet era, the buying party was often dependent on the information provided by the selling party. It rarely happens nowadays that a potential customer will get in contact with someone in your organization without a preliminary online research of your products, services, social media and/or employees. The power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. During this preliminary investigation your potential customer meets your organization for the first time. It is therefore crucial to create a good and reliable impression at this stage. Moreover, thanks to search engines like Google, we are used to get the information we are looking for within seconds. Obviously, making the desired information difficult to find on your website, might drive your potential customer back to the search engine and into the hands of your competitor.
Clearly the content (information) on your website must be relevant to your target audience and provide them with a reliable impression. Should the content be focused on how fantastic your organization is, when you were founded and does it also have to include the extensive list of services or products you have to offer? I do not think so! In 90% of the cases your target audience will not be interested in this kind of information. And while we’re at it: please also remove the phrases ‘unburdening’, ‘personal contact’, ‘customization’ and ‘thinking along’ from your repertoire. These terms are meaningless and are also claimed by your competitors.
But what is good and relevant content then? This of course depends on your target group. I strongly recommend conducting a target group survey in which you map out your various target groups and their needs. What always applies however, is that the content on your website must be educational. Content that educates the target group and provides them with new or additional knowledge, leaves a reliable impression and thus puts your organization in the forefront of building a valuable and long-lasting customer relationship.
The inbound marketing method
The inbound marketing method consists of three phases: ‘Attract’, ‘Engage’ and ‘Delight’. The ‘attract’ phase attract ‘strangers’ or ‘newcomers’ to your website. The ‘engage’ or connection phase ensures that your prospect feels connected to your organization and ultimately become a customer. The ‘delight’ phase aims to bind customers to your company for as long as possible and even encourages them to act as an ambassador for your organization.
The outline above shows both the different phases that your customers are undertaking as well as the phases your organization goes through in parallel with this customer journey.
In the attract phase you attract ‘strangers’ or ‘newcomers’ to your website through blog posts, application of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEA (Search Engine Advertising) tactics and publications or advertisements on social media. This will convert ‘strangers’ into visitors. Website visitors however cannot be marked as ‘leads’ yet. A ‘lead’ is a person who has not only shown interest in your products and / or services but has also identified him- or herself. Because the process of ‘stranger’ to ‘customer’ can be lengthy, especially within the maritime industry, the content in this stage can make a world of difference. This is the phase in which the foundation of trust is built until the potential customer is finally ready to make a purchase.
The ‘engage’ phase is divided into two stages: the ‘convert’ phase and the ‘close’ phase. The ‘convert’ phase is all about persuading visitors to identify themselves by leaving his or her contact details on your site. This can be achieved by offering valuable content in the form of a whitepaper or an e-book. Once this has happened, the visitor transforms into a lead. Because leaving your contact details can be a high threshold, it is highly likely that the person is genuinely interested in the information provided.
When a person has identified himself, it does not mean that he (or she) is ready to make a purchase. Compare it with a first date. You know the person in front of you is interested otherwise he or she would not have agreed to go out with you. But at this stage you will normally refrain from making a marriage proposal. Proposing a second date would be a much more appropriate approach. The same applies for your sales process. This phase is also called the ‘lead nurturing phase’. This phase is ideally suited for the application of marketing automation. You register the personal preferences of your leads in the CRM-system so that you can provide them with customized information. This can take place both online and offline. Once a lead has been converted into a customer, you want to keep them satisfied to stimulate repeat purchases and encourage them to recommend your organization in their networks.
Inbound marketing software
To apply inbound marketing successfully, having good software is essential. You need to have a customer database available in which the information is stored to provide a ‘personal customer experience’ throughout the organization. Also, having good software ensures the time of your sales and marketing colleagues is spend more effectively by automating many processes without losing the personal touch. HubSpot is the leading provider of inbound marketing and offers tools for marketing, sales and customer service.
Kelson Marketing & Content organizes a monthly Lunch & Learn event, in which the inbound marketing method will be explained. This event also allows you to brainstorm with fellow commercial professionals from the maritime industry while enjoying a good meal. Would you like to be kept informed of these events? Visit our event page for more information and register!