Inbound marketing and sales is all about creating content. Whether you offer this online or offline, in whatever form, by offering educational content you guide a potential customer through the purchasing process. In B2B sales (certainly within the maritime, logistics and industrial sectors) this purchasing process can quickly take months or sometimes even years to complete. The more important it is to actively guide your leads and prospects through this process.
Not yet familiar with the term inbound marketing? You can find a detailed explanation here.
Content content content
All right, let’s get the main (and lamest) objection against inbound marketing out of the way first, shall we? Yes, inbound marketing revolves around content. Yes, creating content takes time. Also, you need (preferably) two hands to type with, a few topics, and some basic writing skills. But that is it. Of course, we ourselves are specialized in writing content and this is daily fare. However, the marketing and sales professionals we support are able to publish good articles themselves in no time at all. Most of the time you already have more content available then you realize. Consider, for example, e-mails to customers, sales consultations and internal presentations.
So, when business leaders tell me their team can’t generate enough leads, but they don’t have the will (often repackaged as “not enough time”) to put together a decent content strategy either? Get over yourself. Have the will but not the skills? Start learning or start hiring. Neither have the will, nor the skills, nor the money? Well, then reading this article probably isn’t going to make a difference anymore either. Regardless, sellers who CAN produce content but WON’T, apparently do not care about their potential buyers’ need for quality information and therefore do not deserve their attention. These sellers will be perceived as B-players, if even that, and treated as such. Simple market forces. Period.
The benefits of inbound
A lot has already been said about why inbound marketing works better than outbound marketing (outbound tactics focuses on ‘pushing’ your marketing message to get the attention of your potential buyers) from the seller’s perspective, in both B2C and B2B. As we all know, inbound marketing favours quality content over anything else, so the most important driver for success is the width of your brain rather than the size of your wallet – hence levelling the playing field between small and large organisations. Subsequently, inbound marketing is relatively affordable compared to traditional outbound methods (cost per lead is 61% lower). Relevant content such as problem-solving blogs, educational videos and honest reviews have to be created only once, but may generate leads for many years. It’s almost like buying property and then renting it out – invest smart once, benefit perpetually.
However, this article is not intended to emphasize the benefits for you as a selling party, but rather to make you think about why inbound marketing is the most pleasant purchasing experience for your leads, prospects and customers.
Since I am willing to bet that not a single reader of this blog enjoys being interrupted by an irrelevant message at an unwanted time – especially business leaders should recognize this – it baffles me that the exact same business leaders expect their own marketers and sales reps to do this to their own potential buyers. “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”
Instead, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our customers (some empathy can really get you a long way here). If considering a purchase, what are our potential customers doing on the internet? When are they looking for what, and where? Subsequently, what sort of content do they want to consume and which interactions will they find most helpful?
“Inbound marketing is a philosophy where companies focus on attracting and engaging with best-fit customers, through human interactions that are actually relevant to the buyer. Interactions refer to the consumption of meaningful content (marketing) and having helpful conversations (sales).”
Obviously, what qualifies any buyer-seller interaction as ‘meaningful’ or ‘helpful’ differs massively per person. This mainly depends on the questions a prospect was looking to answer in the first place. However, contrary to what many marketers seem to think, prospects rarely search Google for “Why is company XYZ the best in the world and where can I buy their stuff?”.
Resulting customer experience: your website and content are irrelevant to buyers who need answers to their actual questions, and you probably didn’t help them at all. Hence, buyers have no reason to consume your content or visit your website, nor to leave their contact details to become a lead, nor to take the time to speak with your sales reps, let alone give their money to you. The truth is actually very simple: buyers have problems and questions, sellers may have solutions and answers. Logic dictates that the seller who answers first and best usually gets the deal, and inbound marketing capitalises on that notion.
Through the eyes of your prospect
Let’s get back in empathy-modus for 60 seconds. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers, and review your marketing strategy from their perspective. Hopefully, you’ll soon realise there are several reasons your customers need you to invest in inbound marketing:
1. Website visitors, i.e. potential customers, are attracted to your website because they suspect you might have a solution to their problems – not to read about how amazing you think you are. It is your responsibility to understand what kind of visitors (should) come to your website, what kind of specific buying questions they might have, and how you can provide them with helpful answers through relevant content. Content is NOT just blogs! Your content strategy may contain anything like reviews, events, emails, videos, demos, research and more – as long as it makes sense for your customers’ buyer journey and their questions.
2. Now, some visitors will understand that your company might actually be able to help solve their problems. The more helpful and specific your content strategy, the more people will recognize your expertise and added value. Not really rocket science, right? Generally speaking, this group is more open to receiving regular marketing communications and let you guide them to a potential purchase. You need to make it as easy and compelling as possible for those visitors to convert into leads, i.e. give you their contact details. Customers want to be taken through a smooth, simple and swift buyer’s journey. Strategically placed Lead Forms and personalized Calls-to-Actions are great tools to accommodate today’s need for instant gratification.
3. Here comes the most important part: turning leads (someone merely interested in your organisation) into prospects (someone interested in potentially buying your product or service). To be very clear, there is absolutely NO business value in having a bunch of leads if you can’t convert them into prospects, let alone into paying customers. That is like going fishing, but not bringing any bait or your fishing rod: a complete waste of time. The process of turning leads into prospects is called lead nurturing. At this stage, buyers want to consume content that is relevant to their questions and where they are in the buyer’s journey. Marketing automation will ensure that different customers, with different problems and questions, at different stages in their decision making process, receive helpful answers that are relevant and timely for them as potential buyers.
Remember why these strangers came to your website in the first place? Because they suspected that you might be able to help answer their questions, which as it now turns out, you actually can. Now THAT makes a happy and loyal customer!
Want to know more about the application of the inbound method for your organization? Visit one of our FREE events!