Are you losing market share to your competition, missing projections, not hitting your sales goals and in general finding it tougher to compete each quarter?
If the answer is yes, and you have not adopted inbound marketing or use a blog as a key tactic in your content marketing strategy, then this post is for you.
Not to undermine the importance of sales, but pushing products and solutions is not enough. The internet has changed everything and ignoring or moving too late into the digital marketing environment can cost you valuable market share and relevance with your target audience.
If given a chance wouldn’t you want to nurture relationships and build brand preference with your target audience?
Inbound marketing provides the ability to build and nurture relationships that create brand preference that produces significant bottom line results. An inbound marketing approach provides a way to help you make a course correction and achieve your organizational goals.
In general, I have experienced organizations that fit into four categories relating to inbound marketing and blogging:
If your organization fits into one of these four categories, this blog post is for you.
The following post defines inbound marketing, explaining the critical elements you need to ensure your business and marketing strategy success. The post also goes a step further detailing the importance of a blog as a fundamental tactic for your business.
Inbound marketing is a pull methodology vs. a push approach such as, cold calling, advertisements, and email that interrupt a customer’s time. Instead, inbound marketing focuses on a pull approach using content tailored to your ideal customer when they are engaged and proactively seeking information.
The pre-internet age was characterized with a relatively uninformed customer with a linear buyer journey and interruption marketing where companies were fighting for the customer’s attention.
Inbound marketing is focused on building trust and providing content that is psychologically and socially significant to the targeted audience. Inbound marketing provides valuable content giving the customer a reason to seek your content and trust your brand. The art and science of communicating without selling is a good synopsis of inbound marketing.
I like this quote from Joshua Gill that sums up the effectiveness and reason to use inbound marketing:
“Inbound Marketing is so powerful because you have the power to give the searcher/consumer exactly what answers they are looking for at the precise point that they need it. That builds trust, reputation, and authority in whatever niche you are practicing this form of marketing in.”
-Joshua Gill, Inbound & SEO Marketing Consultant, Inbound Authority
Traditional marketing tactics that interrupt the buyer’s process have become less effective. Customers no longer want to be sold. Modern customers want educational information that meets their needs or solves a problem so that they can make an informed decision.
Customers don’t want to be sold in the traditional manner anymore.
The purpose of the four marketing actions listed below is to provide the right content at the right time to move the prospect through each stage culminating in a customer that is a brand advocate. You might hear the words demand generation or lead generation, so I’ll define these terms without going into too much detail.
Demand generation creates awareness and an interest in your organization’s products or services or possibly the industry as a whole. Free content most likely with a call-to-action (CTA) at the end with the goal of building awareness characterizes demand generation.
Lead generation uses content or other marketing to gain access to names and contact information for future follow-up. Gated content with a CTA combined with forms is the most common lead generation tactic. From there leads are taken from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead. Various scoring criteria determines if a lead is contacted by sales.
Lead nurturing is another term used to describe the process of developing relationships to move the customer through each stage of the sales funnel using the marketing actions described below.
Research is the key to identifying buyer personas, or ideal customer that is the heart and soul of any successful marketing strategy. The better you understand your target, the more likely you are to reach or exceed your business and marketing goals.
It is critical to understand your customer’s pain points, questions, challenges, and objections.
The real power unleashed by marketing technology is the level of personal detail such as demographic, personal information, interests, and any other behaviors.
Common tools during the attraction stage include:
The key concept is being a consistent resource for providing your target consumer valuable information. As a result, the consumer willingly provides increasing levels of personal information.
As the prospect or consumer provides more information you can provide higher levels of value and personalization. Content in the convert stage can include whitepapers, eBooks, or guides.
The most common and critical tools for the convert stage include:
This stage is more about the tools to help you close the leads and market to your target audience at the right times. It is an absolute must to have the correct tools and technology at your disposal. If you don’t have these tools, make plans to get them ASAP.
Don’t allow your competitors to gain a competitive advantage and take market share from your business. Think of it as the cost of entry to conducting business in the modern business climate.
The tools listed below are essential in the modern business environment, regardless if you are B2B or B2C.
Let me explain each of the tools at a high-level and help you to understand their importance.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System – A CRM system manages and analyzes all customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle. The goal of a CRM is to improve relationships with customers, driving sales growth and customer retention.
A CRM system makes sales easier by ensuring your organization has the right information at the right time to improve engagement with prospects across every channel.
Closed-loop Reporting – Integration with a powerful CRM system provides reporting to understand what marketing efforts are bringing in the best leads. Closed-loop reporting allows you to attribute revenue to campaigns, associate opportunities with campaigns, track marketing spend, measure ROI accurately, and build customized reporting.
The idea is to see where the lead came from and the influences along each step of the sales funnel to identify efforts that have the highest ROI. With an increased understanding of your target combined with knowing the ROI of the most successful marketing efforts. Reporting provides a mechanism to optimize and continuously improve.
Another benefit of closed reporting is the ability to analyze how well your marketing and sales teams are performing with the goal to ensure better alignment and close deals.
Email – This provides a useful tool that works in combination with other digital marketing efforts. Email is a powerful conversion tool to help a prospect that has made the following actions listed below, but hasn’t pulled the trigger.
A series of target focused emails providing useful and relevant content is a productive way to convert. Specific content distributed through email helps to build trust providing the right information at the right time to make the prospect feel more comfortable and ready to buy.
Marketing Automation – The goal of marketing automation is to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, customer segmentation, campaign management, and other website actions.
Marketing automation software focuses on lead nurturing tailored to each stage of the customer lifecyle for every lead in the system providing increased efficiency and additional functionality.
Marketing automation software works together with CRM software. Many of the top software providers have an embedded CRM at its core with various additional functionality. Also, the top software providers can integrate other CRM software into their solutions, but asking these questions is critical to obtaining the right solution for your needs.
*As a word of caution, you can purchase the best software tools out there, but if you don’t use proper Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) methodology for planning, creating, testing, and deploying, these tools will not provide the benefits listed.
Spending the additional money to do things right is critical to the success of your marketing and business efforts. Based on my experience you get what you pay for and cutting corners in this area will come back to bite you later on down the road.
The key element of inbound marketing is providing useful, relevant content to your target audience regardless if they are prospects or existing customers. Neglecting your existing customers is a missed opportunity to upsell.
An even more important function of inbound marketing is the ability to effectively turn customers into key promoters of your product or service and brand.
The inbound methodology ensures you have content that adds value for your existing customers. It’s much easier to sell to existing customers that are happy; then it is to sell to new customers that are unfamiliar with you.
Your existing customers are the foundation of your business. The inbound methodology embraces and nurtures your existing customers with a process and reason to keep them coming back and promote your brand.
The tools used to delight customers include:
Surveys – Simply asking your users what they want ensures you provide your customers what they are looking for and the ability to take corrective action.
Smart Calls-to-Action – Using calls-to-action that are intelligent and tailored to the target audience are important to drive the consumer to the next behavior your organization desires. The calls-to-action are tailored based on buyer persona and lifecycle stage to ensure the best results.
Smart Text – Smart text or copy used in your content provides your existing customers with content that is personalized to their challenges and interests. The goal of smart text is to optimize your content to help your customers achieve their goals and identify new products or services that they might interest them.
Social Monitoring – Social media monitoring (SMM) is a software tool capable of listening and monitoring conversations across the internet and on social media platforms using a predefined search query. Other important features include the ability to analyze and engage in conversations.
SMM tools are designed to evaluate your organization’s activities and inform digital and social media strategy. The insight gained from using SMM tools provide the ability to focus on the highest potential markets or groups.
SMM identifies these markets or groups with market segmentation and influencer analysis. As an added benefit, SMM tools provide the optimal time to engage with these customer segments and influencers to provide the right content at the right time.
Software tools assist organizations to:
Blogging is a critical tool of the attract phase of an inbound marketing approach. Blogging is the best way to attract your target audience to you or your business online. To cut through the clutter and noise, and get found by the right prospective customers, you must develop educational content that addresses the pain points and questions of your target audience.
A blog is a tactic and a tool within your content marketing strategy. Top marketers agree that a blog is one of the most important and effective content marketing tactics. A blog forms the core element of most successful content marketing strategies.
In a previous post, Why Should B2B Organization Use Content Marketing I define content marketing and explain the importance in business and especially the B2B space.
Business blogging helps your organization to:
I’ve made a list of more specific benefits of blogging to provide further evidence why you and your organization should use blogging as the cornerstone of your inbound approach.
Blogs provide the following benefits including:
In the next section, I will elaborate further on some of the specific items from above from a B2B perspective and add a few more that cross over several areas.
B2B organizations that blog can increase awareness, credibility, search engine rankings, and leads while linking marketing efforts to business goals.
Best-in-class B2B marketers rank blogs as one of the most effective content marketing tactics used by 81%, according to the 2016 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. (Source: CMI)
If you are a B2B organization and not using content marketing, the report provides compelling reasons that may change your mind about inbound marketing and use blogging as a primary tactic to achieve your goals .
A business blog is one of the core elements of inbound marketing and allows you or your organization to demonstrate expertise and build trust with your target audience.
Nurturing your leads through the sales funnel providing educational and relevant content starts the relationship and helps build the foundation for the relationship with the target audience. The content also allows consumers to understand your brand better helping to reinforce your brand strategy.
The ability to speak with authority on subjects that are important to your industry allows you to highlight your organization’s expertise and position itself as a thought leader. The blog will cultivate trust increasing your reader base providing a go-to resource for them to visit repeatedly for valuable information.
I like this quote from Guy Kawasaki that illustrates this point:
Customer and prospects don’t set an appointment with you and your organization anymore to start the buying process, but you already know that. They typically start any search using the internet.
Without going into SEO, blogging increases the chances you are found with relevant and engaging content that;
Quality content delivered on a consistent basis and optimized for your target is essential. A blog post that’s available when your target wants with all the key items provides a continuous resource for your target audience. Strategically, a blog is focused on top of the funnel stage of the buyer journey to attract prospects to your organization and brand.
It shouldn’t be shocking news, but search engines adore content. Adding content to your website through blogging increases the amount of pages your site can be indexed for by search engines.
Provided your organization blogs consistently, ideally two to three posts a week, this increases the ability to rank for specific keywords critical to your industry and business.
Optimizing your blog posts for keywords and relevant content provides the best way to increase traffic and give links to popular posts on your site. SEO optimization provides an increased ability to ensure you are identifying the correct keywords and speaking to your target’s needs and wants.
The content your employees created works while you and your organization are not, providing marketing that works 24 hours a day, Seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
If you are an international organization or have plans to expand internationally, this provides a mechanism to give your brand and content global exposure.
If you want more leads, blogging is an important tactic that cannot be ignored much like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
Blogging is really the entry way and the first step in the customer journey of the digital era.
Most likely someone visiting your blog will be in the early, top of the funnel phase of the buying process with various pain points and challenges to overcome. Readers of the blog or prospective customers seek information such as how-to’s, best practices, and industry trends at this stage.
A blog educates and nurtures your target audience enabling them to share your posts in a variety of ways such as email or social media. Blogging taps into the nature of people to share helpful content. When individuals share your content, it extends your organization’s reach much further, at no cost, resulting in increased leads.
Measurement is critical to any good strategy with the intent to continuously improve. A quality inbound strategy is no different.
At a minimum, I recommend measuring the following items:
These questions can be answered and much more with marketing automation software.
The right blog content specifically geared toward your target audience is critical. Continuously providing engaging and relevant blog content compels your target audience to take the next step in the buyer’s journey. A blog is typically a top of the funnel element, so getting it right from the start is important.
Nurturing prospects through every stage with engaging content is critical, and the right blog content makes a powerful first impression. The goal with a blog in most cases is to move the prospect to the next stage in the buyer’s journey, ultimately leading to a sale.
Measurement provides a powerful mechanism to analyze and optimize your blog content and any other content.
The key is to monitor consistently and improve your content to deepen the relationship with your prospects, customers, and brand advocates.
Measurement provides actionable insight to increase value to your target audience that results in the customer moving through the buyer’s journey efficiently and reaching or exceeding your sales targets.
I think the case has been made for using an inbound marketing approach and why you should have a blog. Businesses that have a blog as part of a clearly defined inbound marketing strategy have demonstrated meaningful bottom-line results. If you want to increase your presence online, inbound leads, and be considered as a thought leader and expert in your industry inbound marketing and blogging is the answer.
Now, I challenge you to put a robust philosophical and functional inbound methodology into place along with a blog. Using an inbound methodology with a blog as a core component will help you and your organization unlock its true potential.