Inbound marketing – it’s all about attitude, experience and content
10 October, 2023
Inbound marketing – we all know it works and that we should be doing more of it. But you can’t just make it the bedrock of your content marketing strategy and declare victory. The whole organisation needs to have the right systems and mindset in place for you to truly succeed.
How do you make inbound marketing actually work?
Yes, you need to choose and then implement a clear ‘inbound first’ content marketing strategy that everyone within your business can see and understand. But to actually make it work you need great CRM systems and a huge level of coordination between teams. In reality though it's even more than that – the single most important factor in making it work is your people’s attitudes: a selfless ‘helping’ mindset from anyone in contact with a customer. Every single touchpoint must be helpful and relevant.
The role of sales teams is changing, fast
Prospects typically don’t engage with sales until they’re almost 60% of the way through their buying cycle, according to Gartner research. What are they doing first? Well, lots of this time is spent consuming content online: becoming aware of a particular opportunity or how to solve a problem in their sector, researching how to take the next step with it, making product comparisons, looking at user forums and pricing, and then writing their short list of preferred options. At any point in this process your brand can suddenly join or leave the consideration set as your prospect becomes more informed. You can shape the way organisations feel about your chances with a well-thought through content marketing strategy. Obviously, the aim in each phase is tomaximise the chance your various pieces of content are found by prospects rapidly, and that they engage with them, read them and are left with a lasting impression of your company being helpful.
Address needs with your content, first
It’s important to map your content so you address each potential need, probably with different assets and across several channels. But attitude is equally as important. Mostly, in the earlier stages, prospects are not ready to be closed. So, you’re there to help people with what’s on their mind right then. Inbound marketing means beingfocused on your customers’ immediate problem or need, and helping with that (so it’s less direct, no more ‘Meet the team here at ABC recruiting’, and instead it might be a short video, ‘Smart ways to boost your grad recruitment pipeline for free in 48 hours’.)
People remember being selflessly helped when they needed something. Similarly, when the prospect enters that vital last 40% of the buying journey, and contacts your organisation, the whole company needs to be ready for them to potentially arrive through multiple channels, at any time, and they need to be met with a joined-up, helpful experience. Making this a day-to-day reality takes huge effort and top-down sponsorship, getting everyone who touches a customer to live and breathe the ‘helping out’ mindset.
Putting customer experience first puts you first too
Typically around half of companies say they ‘plan to be top in their sector for customer service in the next 3 years’ but a recent survey of CMOs revealed that, even though they had ‘consistent customer experience across channels’ as their second-highest priority, on average organisations are at least two years or more away from being able to deliver individualised, one-to-one customer experiences, often because of challenges ranging from CRM systems to their company’s siloed thinking. More than one in three said achieving this is at least three years away. So, in other words, your competition can see the value of superior customer experience (CX) and are marching towards it as fast as they can. Perhaps this isn’t strictly a marketing or sales concern, but there’s no doubt it affects brand perception. And don’t forget CX definitely includes the post-sale phase, where follow up and support experiences count strongly in repeat buying and recommendation.
So, a fully mature inbound strategy needs a fully customer-centric organisation and won’t – and shouldn’t – happen overnight. It also means a clear data strategy to stay sane when faced with a mass of market and customer-behaviour data. But the pay-off, not just in marketing ROI, is huge. In the marketing jungle, be the brand that helps people find the waterhole, and maybe over time you’ll become the waterhole yourself. It seems to me it all starts with adopting a ‘helper’ attitude.