In my previous post I shared ideas as to why typical marketing strategies, often called “outbound” marketing strategies simple don’t work well any more.
As business, marketing and non-profit professionals, what are we supposed to do? The answer is quite clear adopt a an Inbound and Content Marketing mindset. And then take action.
WHAT ARE INBOUND AND CONTENT MARKETING?
Let’s start out with some basic definitions from my friend Marcus Sheridan, aka The Sales Lion
Inbound Marketing: The process of attracting customers to you versus the old-school method of interruption (aka Outbound Marketing). Instead of using mediums like radio, print, TV, direct mailers, etc. — you instead create powerful content and strategies, through the use of blogs and social media, to attract qualified leads to your website and business.
Content Marketing: Very similar to inbound marketing, but the process of using informational blog posts, videos, etc to teach consumers, thus earning the trust of search engines and customers, ultimately resulting in more business and sales.
The core concepts of inbound and content marketing are actually quick simple and straightforward. Potential customers have questions. We provide answers, good, honest, helpful answers to their questions. Remember, people today are relying heavily on Google searches and social searches as the first step in the buying process. When you have questions what do you do? If you’re like most people you aren’t calling sales people, sending emails to businesses, or stopping in a physical stores first. Instead, you are jumping online and doing research to educate yourself BEFORE reaching out to make a purchase. If you aren’t doing inbound marketing and content marketing well, you won’t be successful in today’s marketplace.
How important is this? Many industry experts estimate at minimum 60-80% of the sales process is complete BEFORE a customer ever reaches out to a vendor. Think about that! People or prospects in virtually EVERY market are educating themselves before they contact a sales person. And who are the contacting? The businesses that provide valuable, helpful answers to their questions. If you aren’t providing quality, helpful and high visibility information, you are in trouble.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Think like a great teacher or salesperson. What does a great teacher or salesperson do?
First, they listen to their students or prospects. They listen actively. They pay attention to the questions these people have. They look to see what the most frequently asked questions are. And, regardless of the question, they answer them. What? That’s it? Yep, it really is that simple. People ask questions, you provide answers. But you have to LISTEN and RESPOND to all questions, not just the ones feel will promote your product, service or organization in the best light.
REALLY, THAT’S IT?
Remember, people are using search tools and typing in actual questions humans would ask. We call these “long-tail searches”. So if you know the questions people are asking and you answer them on your blog (which I prefer to call your education center), by videos, through ebooks or white papers, etc., guess what can happen? You can come up in search results. If you thoughtfully produce your content, what happens next? People click on your links and then engage with you and start building a relationship. If they see you are helping educate them, not just sell them, you build trust and likability. This MUST be done in a real and authentic way. One of the greatest attributes of the social web, in my opinion, is if you are a snake oil salesman, you will get exposed fast. So be real, be genuine and be helpful.
So am I saying just figuring out your customers questions and answering them thoughtfully through sharing content on your website is where to start? Yep, it’s really that simple. But you must know WHY you are doing it and HOW to do it as well. For now, I recommend you download our free ebook on the 8 Critical Steps to Successful Digital Marketing. It’s meant to be a kick-starter guide on how to think and act strategically and purposefully with inbound and content marketing.
A WORD OF CAUTION
It’s important to note, this isn’t a magic bullet and it won’t work overnight. We are building relationships and trust with people. Virtually all quality relationships are built over time. Think about your best relationships in your personal and professional life. How did these relationships develop? WIth consistent nurturing and trust over time. As my friend Bob Burg says in his best-selling book the Go-Giver, “People do business with and refer business to people they know, they like and they trust”. It takes time (usually 6 months) to become knowable and trustable.
OUR NEXT POST: SHOW ME THE MONEY?
In our next post, we’ll share a case study of how River Pools and Spas (owned by Marcus Sheridan) used Inbound and Content Marketing to go from a struggling company to an industry giant!