In the digital age, attracting, converting, closing and delighting your ideal customers requires effective online marketing techniques. Your marketing can be a surefire success provided you architect and implement the right online strategy. Your brand's digital presence needs the support of both clever campaign initiatives as well as a holistic, consistent plan of action to channel all your efforts towards a single set of goals. Create a custom-fit marketing strategy and be a magnet for prospects and customers.
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Use inbound marketing and convert, close and delight your ideal customer.
In the dawn of the internet age, it was not yet obvious what potential the new ‘world wide web’ held. The ability to connect with others, explore their content, and access news from far corners of the globe was novel enough to distract most, but those with vision understood that the internet could be so much more. Enter the inbound marketing concept.
Inbound marketing is widely regarded as being among the most successful forms of marketing. The term quickly became a buzzword in daily conversation when marketers started to realize the immense potential of the online world when it came to attracting leads, nurturing prospects and even generating conversions without the need for the hardcore methodologies that have defined marketing for a longer time.
The modern day consumer is more comfortable with brands that earn the customers’ interest rather than those who want to forcefully get their attention. After all, who likes a brand that tries to force potential customers to buy from them with all means. And this is the starting point of inbound marketing. It provides proven means for B2B and B2C businesses to understand and tailor their marketing strategies to customers’ needs with ‘laser precision.’
Traditionally, customers were used to intrusive ads on their browsing pages, TV ads, spam advertising emails among others. But evidently, the consumer behavior has changed with scientific studies showing that most people surf the web using a device with an internet connected app as they watch TV. In fact, 84% of 25 – 34-year-olds quickly move out of a website once they encounter irrelevant or intrusive advertisements. According to PageFair, 615 million devices globally have an ad blocker. This only means that consumers are no longer actively engaged in watching ads. And that businesses with special customer groups need a new approach.
Studies show that marketers today find generating traffic and leads to be their biggest challenge, followed by proving ROI and securing budget for marketing programs. While on the sales side, sales professionals confirm that it is getting harder to elicit a response from a prospect and to close deals online. In fact, 19% of sales professionals say they’re struggling to incorporate social media in their sales process, and 13% think using sales technologies is now harder than it used to be. Most sales teams agree that prospecting is currently the toughest part of the sales process. Sales teams need help qualifying leads, whether it is with more robust lead scoring or for marketing to use better lead-qualifying actions to ensure salespeople are given accounts that are most likely to convert into customers. This definitely calls for inbound Marketing. But what exactly is inbound marketing? What does it look like?
According to HubSpot, the worldwide leading inbound marketing and sales platform, inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer’s buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for potential customers attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.
Inbound marketing is a cost-efficient and organic way of marketing that drives traffic and leads to a business website months and years to come. With inbound marketing, organizations can get competitive advantages over other businesses by having customers who buy more, stay with the business longer, promote the business to their networks, and even become their brand evangelist.
You start inbound marketing by defining your business’ target buyer personas, and what steps they would take if they were to be your customers. What is their research process if they are to ultimately buy your product(s)? What content do they consume along the way? You need to develop that particular content and place it where the prospective clients can easily find it. You then follow every move they take, and when the right time comes, you can then bring in the sales team. All of these steps constitute the inbound marketing methodology.
The inbound marketing methodology has four phases and these include:
Within the first 30 seconds of the prospect's interaction with a given website, they should say, “where have you been all this time?” You do not want to attract just anyone; your aim as a business at this time is to draw in individuals with the potential of becoming your customers. These individuals are referred to as buyer personas. They are at the center of all inbound marketing efforts. They are likely to become leads and eventually happy customers. So how can a business organization get them? By offering relevant content, at the right time, that answers to their needs, problems, and challenges. Some of the key strategies relevant to attracting buyer personas include – but are not limited to – blogging, content strategy and social media marketing.
With 4.021 Billion internet users globally, depending on the peak hours or downtime hours, a business could make the most of this online traffic. Unlike the brick and mortar stores that are limited to given localities, online businesses can take advantage of having access to the whole globe. Given that 81% of shoppers first carry out an online research before buying a product, there is a critical need for businesses to invest in informative, interesting and authoritative content that will wow their visitors. Depending on what stage the buyer is in their buying journey, their needs or questions will vary.
Those at the very beginning of the buyer's journey may want to know the features offered in the particular product while those at the very end stage of the buyer’s journey may want details on the best price offered on the market. Here are some tips to actively implement inbound marketing into your marketing strategy:
Once you have attracted website visitors, it is time to work on converting them into leads. The best way to do this is to open up a conversation with each of your audience in whichever way that works best for them. You can use messages, forms, chats, or even meetings. Once you are in touch, ensure that the audience feels that you prioritize their needs. Be patient in answering each of their questions without pushing or pitching your idea. Let them have as much information as possible so that they can make a choice. There are different tools available in order to successfully convert prospects:
This is a response to a ‘call to action’ and is one of the key indicators of a buyer persona – one who is interested in your brand and product. They are willing to submit their information – that is trust. Prospects fill out your forms with their information and contacts hence making it easy for more conversations for conversion.
For anyone to win new deals, they are going to have to meet with their prospects – whether virtually, physically or even over the phone. Make it easy for your prospects to book meetings and calls with you. Be sure to show up promptly for every meeting and remain productive for each of the sessions. Show up, be kind, and engage on your way to winning a new customer.
Messaging and personalized messages are a great way to connect with prospects right when they are ready to be engaged. Chat with visitors on your site, be available at the right time to chat with the right clients. Ensure your chat conversations make for a natural part of your sales process. Use the live chat tool meant for sales teams to close more deals.
CRM helps centralize all the data and interactions a particular brand has with the leads they are converting in a common database. Through analysis, brands can make use of the trends and patterns in each interaction and be able to even predict the next move as well as behavioral patterns for their leads and conversions. This will help optimize their future interactions to enable for more effective attraction, conversion, closing and delighting of customers.
Additionally, brand marketers can now harness the power of social media to supercharge their CRMs, creating a 360-degree view of their customers. They can better qualify prospects based on specific actions they take via social.
For instance, social media management platforms such as Zoho Social can enrich CRM entries based on how they have interacted with a given brand across touchpoints. This may be a mention, retweet or comment on a piece of content, or it could be clicking on an ad. Brands can then customize which of these actions qualifies prospects as leads and store that data in their CRMs accordingly.
This streamlines the process of social selling by giving you insights into what individual leads are most interested in – and exactly where ‘the conversation’ has left off, regardless of where it is taking place. With many brands struggling to point to a specific ROI via social, the ability to tie your CRM data to your social data is a game-changer.
You have attracted your visitors and converted the right leads. You now have to focus on how to transform those leads into customers. You need sales tools like pipeline management, lead nurturing, email and predictive lead scoring to close the right leads at the right time in an easier and faster way.
Pipeline management is the representation of the sales process that consists of the various steps a salesperson needs to take to sell to potential customers. For effective pipeline management, brands will need to research and vet a lead before qualifying it for pipeline management. The initial processes of attracting and converting should have already helped the brand to understand the needs and pain points of the prospect and how the brand could provide solutions. A salesperson should now propose desirable solutions to their prospect that addresses their pain points. Depending on the interest of the prospect, the salesperson could send proposal detailing the scope of work inherent in the solution as well as the cost. And once this is agreeable, the deal can now be closed.
According to a report by Bizible, titled “State of Pipeline Marketing” marketers are emphasizing lead nurture processes instead of prioritizing demand and lead generation. This means that each of the leads needs to be nurtured according to their stage in their buying process as well as their interests. Consider the pages they have visited, the content that interests them as well as the whitepapers they have downloaded. All of these actions show shifts in their levels of interests. Good lead nurturing ensures adoption of personalized messages and content for each level of interest and stage in the buying process. Staying relevant makes winning customers easier and faster.
Brands should nurture leads by distributing articles that educate; combining content marketing and social media through scheduled posts. Besides, they can leverage the power of social media when it comes to nurturing their leads since social affords a unique opportunity to engage with leads and prospects in real-time. There is no arguing that the social landscape is evolving, and marketers have taken notice. Buyers are likewise increasingly comfortable with the concept of buying via social, with studies showing that three-quarters of social users now are following brands whose products they are interested in.
While there is certainly power and reach in social commerce, the ability to connect with leads in a conversational setting represents the state of effective nurturing. Take Sprout Social’s weekly #SproutChat as an example. Using their branded hashtag, Sprout manages conduct regular Q&A sessions to both tap into the pain points of their audience and get in the trenches with their prospects.
This point can further be driven home by the popularity of video and webinars to nurture leads. As noted by Instapage, 35% of webinar attendees are engaging via social media during their sessions. Combined with the fact that 90% of social content shared is video-based, social marketers should focus on compelling content (live video, for example) if they want to continue to nurture leads effectively.
This is one of the greatest ways to handle growth in a company. With more effort in inbound marketing, and as your business grows, you are sure to generate numerous leads. It may not be practical at this stage to get in touch with every single lead. You want at this stage to have the sales team prioritize the most qualified leads and give them appropriate attention while those who are still in the early stages of their buying process also given appropriate attention by the marketing team. Predictive lead scoring can ensure prioritization for effectiveness and efficiency in handling leads.
Email provides a more direct way of reaching out to the prospect with more clear information regarding their need for your product. Through email, you could answer any further inquiries and get to close the deal. Be sure to personalize your emails for every prospect based on their demographic data and their stage in the buyer’s journey.
Inbound marketing is all about providing the best and memorable experience for your customers. They already have high expectations from your brand; they look forward to being treated more than they have been ever before. It is important to continue engaging to completely learn what delights them to align it with the brand and go forward to ensure you work towards their success. Once the customers know you are working for their success, they trust you more, buy more, stay longer and would be glad to refer their friends and even tell the whole world that they prefer you to others. Make use of Customer Hub, Smart Content and conversations to delight your customer.
Customer hub, when effectively used, avails stronger and lifelong relations between the brand and its customers. The brand must continuously seek to have a 360-degree understanding of their customers. This will enable the brand to know how to help their customers succeed. The customer hub avails tools as well as the playbook needed for you to know, connect with clients and truly help them succeed.
Smart content can come in handy for both the brand and its customers. You do not want to pitch to a client that has already bought in. Smart content ensures that the brand does not show CTAs to loyal customers neither show them content meant for first-time buyers. Smart content ensures that you show clients’ offers and content that matches the buyer persona and their stage in their life cycle.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30% of our interactions with technology will be through ‘conversations’ with smart machines. Consumer behaviour is already leaning in that direction; we kick off a conversation in person or over the phone, we follow up with a text message and then take it online to Facebook, email, or Slack. These conversations are fluid and portable. They move across channels and mediums, and we never miss a beat.
Historically, brands have struggled to have these same kinds of natural, fluid conversations with prospects and customers at scale. HubSpot conversations will give businesses the tools they need to do just that and help when it comes to management, collaboration, and response to customer messages from any channel. It helps keep track of potential deals, comments, questionnaires, requests and enables better and meaningful customer conversations.
Buyer personas are researched, analyzed and deduced insights about your buyer. The most basic of a buyer persona starts with their demographics, their challenges, their goals, how your brand works to help the buyer meet their goals and overcome their challenges and lastly it helps the sales team prepare to converse with the buyer persona to close the deal. A buyer persona informs the brand what their prospective customer is thinking and doing as they evaluate their options in choosing a solution for a problem that your company is offering. It is much more than a one-dimensional profile or database of the prospects that you need to influence your brand. It is more than a map of their buyer journeys. Actionable buyer personas reveal insights concerning buyer’s attitudes, behaviors, decisions, criteria, and concerns that drive prospects to choose a given brand.
With insights into what your prospects think about doing business with your brand (including insights into verbatim quotes from other prospects who have decided to solve a similar problem recently), you get the knowledge you need to align your brand’s marketing decisions. This will influence your product and content positioning, messaging as well as sales enablement.
The simple trick of an effective buyer persona involves helping buyers evaluate your solution and approach on their terms. This builds a bond of trust that other competitors may not match.
You may want to start with doing market research through interviews, and surveys among others. Forms on your website help collect information about your leads and customers that would form a basis for collecting data for analysis. Your contact database could uncover trends in your leads and consumers. Consider your sales team feedback on their interactions with leads and customers. Do interviews with prospects, customers, third party networks, and referrals among others. Be sure to answer the ‘why’ behind your respondents’ answers.
Samples of questions for buyer persona interviews
From all the data gathered, you now have to analyse and understand the insights presented. Infer, identify patterns, and commonalities that you could use to develop a particular persona.
You will need quotes from your interviews with your prospects about what burdens them, and what they want. Try to think through the objections that they may raise so that the sales team is prepared.
Brands need to find the buyer’s reasoning behind their choice of solution. Know why customers would choose to invest in a solution like yours and why other buyers would choose to retain status quo.
Discern the organizational circumstances that push customers to allocate a budget, time and even political capital among others in a bid to resolve their pain points.
For instance, a salesperson could guess that a marketing executive buyer persona’s pain point is in the area of campaign automation and marketing metrics. But an insightful buyer persona will go further to give insights on which marketing executives are least or most affected by the pain point and which ones are least or more receptive to your solution and why.
What organizational/operational or personal results does a given buyer persona look forward to achieving if they purchased a particular solution? They resemble the advantages or benefits, but they should now be more specific and written from the buyer’s perspective-speaking the language of the buyer is critical to getting buyer’s attitudes and reasoning.
Here is an example: A salesperson may choose to emphasize a brand’s impact on cost reduction. However, an insightful buyer persona would go further to the extent of the cost reduction that the buyers anticipate. And additionally, an insightful buyer persona would widen the scope of outcomes for the buyer to include such personal outcomes like impressing peers, increasing the sphere of influence or enable the buyer to have control over a given aspect of their environment.
These are factors that could hinder your buyer persona from choosing your brand as their best choice solution. You may want to go beyond you guesswork/assumptions, beyond barriers that may not be factually correct and get insights into company-specific or product-specific obstacles. Your buyer personas could have negative perceptions out of having negative experiences with similar solutions, direct negative feedback from peers and online interactions with negative reviews. Other barriers could be business or personal related that could hinder your prospects from investing in your brand. Examples include fear for change, acceptance by end users and politics in the organization.
Insights with regards to the buyer’s journey touch on what impacts prospects as they try to evaluate the available options for solving their problems and eventually selecting one. For instance, an enterprise may want to get insights on which personas have the most impact on the decision to continue evaluating their solution at every stage of the buyer’s journey. It is important to note that the economic buyer may not be as influential as you may think with regards to making the purchasing decisions in the buyer’s journey.
To get important insights from this stage, you may want to know which resources the buyer trusts at each level of their buyer journey for their decision-making process. Consider, for instance, if a marketing executive has an off-site event to plan as well as web conferencing to conduct, they will not base their decision making for the two events on one resource. You need to know the decision criteria, perceived barriers and why they should choose you over your competition.
This helps to gain insights that guide the decision criteria of the buyer persona. Determine which aspects of competing products and services buyer personas perceive to be most critical together with their expectations. It may not be the newest or trending solution. For instance, if a buyer wanted a cheaper solution, you should ensure that the buyer’s journey – when acquiring such a solution – is easy and straightforward.
A keyword is generally a word or phrase that is also a topic of significance. Visitors still use keywords during their online browsing as a way to identify and verbalize their problem or topic in which they are looking for more information. Businesses create content around relevant topics to their business which helps them rank and be the content in which searchers find.
Keywords are, in addition to Content Clustering, a part of the foundation of your website content. The topic of every page and what it is about should tie directly back to a keyword or keyword phrase. Since keywords are topics, they are also prevalent when creating offers and emails.
Keywords help visitors and potential customers understand the purpose of your page. When reading the content of the page, a visitor will often scan for the keywords they searched for. Keywords help search engines understand the purpose of your page. When a search engine crawls your website pages to index them it will parse the keywords on the page to determine the purpose of your pages.
It is clear that content marketing has seen a lot of changes during the past few years and many of these changes can be attributed to the rapidly evolving search landscape, as well as a huge shift in the way people are actually discovering content. New, more sophisticated search algorithms, changes in the way people use search engines, and new ways that marketers go about actually developing their content are just a few of the contributing factors and outcomes.
And not only are search engines evolving, but searchers are also changing in the way they communicate with search engines. Amplified by the rise of mobile and voice search, queries have become more and more conversational. A few years ago consumers entered fragmented terms into search engines. Now, it is more common for people to ask complex questions using full sentences. Google’s updates over the past 2-3 years have focused on understanding these types of queries better through natural language processing, most notably with the rollout of Hummingbird in 2013. The introduction of this new search algorithm, which began analyzing phrases instead of solely relying on keywords, marked a major switch for the search giant from keyword to topic-focused SEO.
This means that the traditional view of ‘keywords’ in search has changed. Where a few years ago there were maybe 10-20 ‘big keywords’ that would be sought after for ranking within a topic, there are now hundreds or thousands of long-tail variations that are regularly searched within a topic and change based on location. Simply dominating a few words is no longer enough to produce successful results. Thus, enter content cluster or rather topic cluster.
The core idea behind building a topic cluster content program is to enable a deeper coverage across a range of important topic areas, while creating an efficient information architecture in the process. Simply put, a pillar page is a broad overview of a specific topic – think of it like a summary or road map. Brands can build pillar pages for each of their major focus areas and then link into the pillar content a range of content that covers individual, more specific subtopics, otherwise known as cluster content. Each cluster topic page for the pillar focuses on providing more detail for a specific long-tail keyword related to the main topic. The pillar links to each cluster page and each cluster page links back to the pillar with the same hyperlinked keyword.
The benefit of this model, in addition to organizing your site architecture, is that one high performing cluster page can elevate search rankings for all the other pages linked to the same pillar. By aligning sets of web pages this way into topic clusters, you can manage the internal linking between each page more efficiently, boost your search ranking, and also provide a better user experience for visitors.
Workflows are a time-dependent, sequenced marketing actions that are automated, in order to nurture leads to lead them to an ultimate goal (e.g. download an offer, fill out a form, becoming a customer etc.) Workflows intend to help brands automate and scale their marketing interactions, in an effort to find out more about their contacts so that they can provide them with contextual information that relates to their specific needs and questions. By learning more about their contacts, brands can better segment those contacts into their respective persona and/or their location in the funnel, and entice them with more contextual content. Successful marketing automation relies on triggering relevant and timely actions, based on a user's context. HubSpot's Workflows, for instance, combines the power with the context required to effectively scale your marketing efforts.
A CTA is just as the name implies – a call to action. It is a call to your website visitors to make some action. It could be a text or an attractive image that is meant to attract the attention of the visitors on the website and urges them to do something. It could be to:
Calls-to-action are crucial because they seek to evoke an active response from an otherwise passive visitor to the website. Successful CTAs should be eye-catching, they should offer the visitor something that is useful or helpful and the language used should be catchy.
A landing page is a critical page for an inbound marketing website. It helps capture a visitor’s information through a lead form. A landing page could be accessed through a link on a social media platform, through a call-to-action on one of the websites, or through strategic anchor texts in the website content. The landing page should not show your website’s main navigation bar. It should, however, lead to a thank-you-page as well as access to the content your visitor was looking for.
Lead generation is the way brands develop a strategy/method of attracting the most qualified to their websites and further, convincing them to continue engaging with the brand. Customized lead generation strategies are what set inbound marketing apart from outbound marketing. The inbound marketing offers relevant, useful, and authoritative content that prospects are looking for.
Search Engine Optimization is the art of optimizing both your website content as well as off-page content so that you rank as high as possible on search engine pages. Your brand’s keywords and topics too need to be optimized so that they are relevant to your prospects. SEO ensures your brand overcomes its competition and gets qualified leads to your website easily and quickly.
This is the percentage of visitors who get to your website, click on one page and then close off. A high bounce rate is indicative of a problem on your page. It could be bad design, long page load times, lack of relevant materials, and difficulty in navigation could all turn off your visitors. To reduce high bounce rates, enterprises will need to align their webpages to their user’s expectations. Have great designs, simple navigation, snappy load times, relevant, interesting and authoritative content for customers, and this will make them stick around for longer times.
This is the rate at which visitor/web traffic is converted into leads. For inbound marketing, it takes 3-12 months of consistent blogging and posting on social media for businesses to see great results. This is particularly true if considered in the light of current Google search engine ranking algorithm. Google rewards websites that are consistent with providing fresh, and quality content that is regularly posted by ranking such websites higher. For increased conversion rates, a brand needs effective landing pages, effective call-to-action pages, good content aligned to the buyer persona and consistently ensuring that your brand’s value proposition is embedded in all lead conversations. Experts agree on 1-3% as the conservative rate for inbound marketing.
Brands can learn a lot by tracking what their competitors are up to. Whether it is formulating ideas or your own content marketing strategy or figuring out what your audience needs in order to be nurtured effectively, paying attention to social metrics associated with content relevant to your industry is a must-do.
Just as you would look at your own social analytics, you should examine similar metrics among your competitors. Tools like Buzzsumo provide a simple avenue to figure out what your industry and competition are talking about and can likewise inspire your own content. Whether it is webinar topics, blog posts or lead magnets, looking at competing content can offer eye-opening insight.
There is no arguing that the way people do business has changed, and companies are rising to the challenge to meet consumers where they are – whether it is on Facebook, YouTube, in a messaging app, or on a mobile device. A solid inbound strategy will of course, require forward-thinking ideas to be embraced, experimentation to figure out which channels work best for your business, and an openness to try new technologies and tools to foster better relationships with your customers.
However, one needs to remember: Inbound marketing is a long-time investment marketing strategy. It should not be an alternative when everything else has failed. Such situations cause businesses too much anticipation when creating it for immediate results. And when there are no immediate results, the business managers panic and distrust the inbound marketing system believing that it has failed when it is a long time investment that will yield fruits in due cause. It may be wise to have it complement your efforts, this way; it will encourage patience among stakeholders, enough to see it work.
Furthermore, salespeople acknowledge that buyers nowadays are more independent and often bypass the salesperson completely and that is why both B2B and B2C brands need to embrace inbound marketing. Inbound marketing, as a strategy, builds a long-term relationship between brands and the buyers while increasing sales and profits as well as seller and buyer satisfaction. In fact, data shows that 68% of companies enlisting inbound strategies feel their marketing strategy is effective compared to 48% of those who use outbound. And when inbound strategies are well integrated with marketing automation applications, marketing and sales departments can collaboratively generate and qualify leads from various sources such as social media.