Herd of sheep. Heard of inbound marketing?
Marketers are keen to put things in buckets. For many reasons of course: it makes it easier to run advertising if you’re picking placements to reach ‘B2B tech target market A’, easier to pick an image that represents ‘B2B tech target market A’, easier to do just about anything if you can convince yourself that ‘B2B tech target market A’ will behave like a lovely big flock of sheep guided down the purchase funnel by several helpful sheepdogs.
Oh, but we all know that real life is never that neat. People are much more diverse and fractured. Every buyer has a different route to discovery, obscure and specific interests that make for a journey that is hard to lump into clusters for the purposes of advertising. Which means that target markets can’t be neatly segmented into precise little Venn diagrams without risking a fair bit of wastage – which is a fancy word for throwing away money.
OK, I guess we can segment people into those that are prepared to risk a bit of money, and those that aren’t. But if you’re in the second category and wanting to give every marketing dollar a fair chance at convincing your buyer, how do you build an audience?
If there are so many random paths that people will take to find you, you need to think about it differently. Instead of actively pursuing your target market around and around the paddock, sometimes all it takes is a little bait, and a little bit of technology to put a smile on your face.
In other words, we’re talking about B2B inbound marketing.
Scattering a trail of attractive, yummy breadcrumbs across your blog and social media to capture hungry little sheep looking for a quick bite, and spread into your email marketing to nurture and grow those who already know you.
You still need to develop customer personas of course; it’s hard to know what and where those little tasty nuggets of information that will draw potential B2B leads to you should be unless you understand your customers’ journeys, know the questions they might be asking, the internal buying process and the barriers to making decisions – all the things that form the basis of B2B inbound marketing.
But what makes B2B inbound marketing really worthwhile is twofold.
Generating properly qualified leads has always been the tension point between marketing and sales. But inbound marketing supported by an automated email program provides the ability to rigorously qualify leads by progressively collecting valuable new information each time they download an additional piece of content.
And then there’s the cost. On average, B2B inbound marketing leads cost 61% less than outbound leads, with blogs and social media offering the lowest cost per lead - proof positive that treating people as more than just sheeple will always pay off.
Image via Flickr CC/Son of Groucho