When people think about marketing and advertising as an industry, some of the first things that come to mind are the cool Madison Avenue vibes of Mad Men or a complete flip of that image into the annoying, intrusive, often deceptive ads creeping around on the internet. Plus, as alluring as the mid-century characters on TV were, they were hardly depicted as honest and forthright in their dealings.
A survey of the modern opinion of advertising found that 91 percent of people said ads were more intrusive than just a few years ago. Almost 90 percent said there are more ads in general, and 79 percent felt like retargeting campaigns were tracking them around the web. In other words, people are overwhelmed with advertising and its continual—and sometimes unnerving—interruptions. Ad-block usage is on the rise, and of the ads people still see, 76 percent of viewers find them exaggerated, and even more viewers think ads use Photoshop or other deceptive measures.
A bleak view, indeed.
A More Respectful Approach
While there are plenty of companies that get results from a variety of advertising methods, there are even more that would prefer a way to reach customers to make genuine connections and influence their buying behavior by providing real information and helpful knowledge. Rather than trying to “trick” people into buying their products and spending money on their services, most brands would rather earn consumer trust and build lasting relationships with a foundation of mutual respect. The shift to the Inbound Method of marketing demonstrates this desire from brands, and the success of brands that use Inbound demonstrates that consumers strongly prefer this approach.
What is the Inbound Method?
In short, Inbound marketing seeks to put consumers in the driver’s seat of the information gathering and consideration phases of the buyer’s journey, and the brand is charged with designing the routes people can take to reach a decision. In other words, brands distribute all the information that people will need to make a purchase decision, include some helpful road signs and other navigation tools, and then step back and let people navigate the course on their own terms until they are ready to engage with the company.
Once the consumer has chosen to make themselves known, the sales team can continue supplying helpful information to aid in a decision. Then, once a purchase is made, customer service can take over and maintain the relationship by making sure the customer gets the most from their purchase, and ultimately build brand loyalty for future considerations.
How the Inbound Method Works
The exact strategies that each brand deploys will be customized based primarily on the needs of their audience and customer base, along with balancing the goals of the company. All strategies, however, follow these common steps:
- Attract. This first step is where brands build awareness of their products and services as well as the brand itself by producing and distributing content. By using tools such as blog posts, videos and social media updates, consumers will have opportunities to discover solutions for their problems and pursue them in a way that is most meaningful for the individual.
It sounds simple, and on the surface, it is a simple process. However, it takes some work and strategy for brands to optimize the content they create so that it not only shows up when people are ready to look for it, but also captures their attention, addresses their needs, and presents the right path toward a solution.
The ultimate goal of the first step is to convert members of a targeted audience into qualified leads to create a group of interested people who are ready for more direct engagement.
- Engage. During this step of the Inbound process, the company continues to provide the information that consumers need to reach a purchase decision while doing so in a way that’s meant to build a relationship. The focus should be on solving the customer’s problems in a helpful way rather than pushing hard for a sale. The goal is to create mutual benefit for the company and the customer: you provide genuine value and solutions, and in return, you stand to gain a loyal customer.
This step involves all the nurturing processes that many marketers are already familiar with: email marketing, lead management, and website tools that include downloads, free trials, and smart content. What’s different is that these processes are all driven by data; the customer’s behavior and choices directly inform what type of interaction should come next. By showing attention to one web page, downloading information about a particular product, or engaging in a chat to learn about a specific solution, the customer is showing not only what they want to see, but also giving valuable insight into what they don’t want to see.
The result should be a customized experience focused on that customer’s needs without a lot of “noise,” or unhelpful, irrelevant information that’s frustrating to get past or otherwise sets up a roadblock of annoyance.
- Delight. This stop of the journey is both the end and the beginning. Once a deal has been closed, or a purchase has been made, it’s time to settle into a long-term pattern of continuing to deliver value to the customer, whether or not the company gains direct value from every interaction. This service comes in the form of ongoing support for past purchases, helpful evaluations for future purchases, requests for feedback, and engaging in communications from chats, forums, social media, and review sites.
Once again, the focus should be on serving the needs of the customer and not on pushing for more sales. It’s a fine line to walk, but a worthy endeavor if you approach with integrity, transparency, and honesty. People will be receptive to a sales message if it’s truly relevant, even if they don’t end up moving forward with a purchase—an approach that’s the opposite of spamming.
The payoff for this step, especially if it does not result in a new sale, is the preservation of the relationship; maintaining the happy customer. What this does for the brand is provide opportunities to demonstrate their ability to produce satisfied customers, especially when interactions happen in public places like social media, and create the holy grail of Inbound: the brand advocate. These customers are so pleased with their experience that they cannot help but share with their friends and family, and we all know how valuable genuine word-of-mouth advertising is.
In this way, the Delight step serves as the end and the beginning, or perhaps more accurately, it completes the loop as it helps to do some of the work of attracting new customers into your Inbound pipeline while keeping existing customers in the loop should a new need arise.
A Breath of Fresh Air
The Inbound Method of marketing is a holistic approach to working with the customers who keep your business successful. It is the process of meeting people where they are and being where you need to be when they need you to be there. It is about focusing on the needs of the customer with every approach. Most importantly, Inbound provides a proven path that’s mutually beneficial to both the company and the customer and allows everyone to stay “above board” as brands don’t need to fuss with complex emotional manipulations and customers don’t have to feel like they must remain on guard to such schemes. If you’re tired of the hard sell and expensive ad campaigns that don’t seem to deliver enough new traffic to your website or a framework for converting sales leads and new customers, you’re not alone. Wingspan Communications is ready to be your trusted partner and help you fully leverage the power of Inbound to reach new customers, implement efficient and effective lead generation programs, and successfully nurture leads through multi-point buying journeys.