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 ‘target market A’, easier to pick an image that represents ‘target market A’, easier to do just about anything if you can convince yourself that ‘ 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, and you don't have the budget for multiple micro-campaigns to target each and every one, 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 inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing means 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 leads to you should be unless you understand your customers’ journeys, know the questions they might be asking at each stage, the internal buying process and the barriers to making decisions – all the things that form the basis of inbound marketing.
Understanding what your customers are looking for at different points along the way will help you sequence your content in the way of the very best relay runners; this, and then this, and then this. Helpful, there when you need it, exactly what you wanted to know - makes the best sort of content.
But what makes inbound marketing really worthwhile, is twofold.
It makes marketing and sales friends again
Generating properly qualified leads has always been the tension point between marketing and sales. Inbound marketing can be supported by an automated email program that provides the ability to rigorously qualify leads by progressively collecting valuable new information each time they download an additional piece of content.
And how do you think your sales team will feel and perform in a world where there is no more need for cold calling? With inbound, your sales team are contacting potential customers who already know about the business and have a window into the depth of your teams's knowledge and experience, and are much more primed for a conversation.
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.
Convinced about the benefits of inbound marketing, and want to know more about how to put it into action?
Image via Flickr CC/Son of Groucho