Does Inbound Marketing Work?

Inbound

Yes.  Right out of the gate, Inbound Marketing does work.  But like everything else in life, success is largely dependent upon a few key ingredients beginning with a clearly defined objective.

Many companies look at Inbound Marketing as a way to simply accelerate their cold calling efforts. These are the companies that still believe that the only way to generate more revenue is to shake more hands.  The concept of Inbound Marketing however is focused on a virtual handshake evolving into a virtual hug.  It’s about creating a safe environment for your customer to learn, ponder, and explore at their own pace.  For Inbound Marketing to work your customer must believe the content you’re offering has value.  They must also believe you have a passion…a purpose…a genuine desire to help solve their problem the best way possible. This means the content you develop answers their questions and provides enough information to lead them to ponder new ideas or considerations.  It all begins with great content.

Some companies try to disguise their sales materials as content.  Don’t bother!  It won’t work!  Your customers are too savvy.  They know too much.  They have access to other competitors content that they are comparing yours against!  No.  Your content must be factual, original, thought-provoking, specific, and end-result focused.  That means you must understand your customers needs; in fact better than they know them themselves.

Once you’ve created killer content be sure to have a system in place that enables you to manage your Inbound Marketing efforts.  There are a number of solutions available for companies of all sizes to manage their Inbound efforts without breaking the bank.  Check out HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot.  Each of these systems have their pros and cons depending on your own objectives.  The good news is they all produce great content to help inform you in your decision making process. After all they are in the business of Inbound Marketing.

In summary, Inbound Marketing is about being invited to the party rather than crashing the party with traditional Outbound Marketing activities.  It’s permission based.  Inbound’s philosophy is to establish virtual credibility and rapport first, before a sales attempt is made.  It’s about nurturing.  Cultivating.  It’s about content.  In my next blog I’ll show you some easy ways to great started on creating content that matters to your customers.

Let me know if this was helpful.

 

To Social Media or Not to Social Media

idea

I’m often asked “should I be doing social media?”  Teachers, athletes, corporate executives, doctors, and lawyers all struggle with answering this question. And even if they’ve answered “yes”, they still need to decide just how active they want to be. Jumping into the realm of social media requires time, knowledge, and consistency.

Here are some reasons why you should participate in social media regardless of your occupation:
1. More than 1 billion people on Facebook
2. Nearly 300 million LinkedIn users
3. More than a billion people watch more than 6 billion hours of YouTube every month
4. A quarter of a billion people on Twitter

Need more reasons why you should get involved with social media? Here goes:
1. News and world events are unfolding on social media often times faster than they hit traditional media. Accidents, disasters, and gossip, all originate via social media channels first before the Main Street media picks it up.
2. Sales, offers, deals, etc are all launched on social media. See ads for Nordstrom, Jos. A. Bank, Macy’s, and even your local bakery via Twitter, Facebook, or a daily blog.
3. Embrace technology and the new communication of the world. You can fight it all you want but social media is not just here to stay but is growing. New social media platforms are being born all the time. Think Instagram and selfies.
4. Social media is where your friends, family, customers and prospects are hanging out. It’s where conversations begin, problems are voiced and solutions are provided. Many companies are employing a social media staff to build a community they can engage and learn from. It provides these companies with real-time insight into the customers wants, needs, problems, etc.

How should you get started? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. If you’re a business person you MUST have a LinkedIn profile. This profile must be complete with a photo and contain sufficient background information. Less formal than a resume, yet powerful enough to provide the reader with a clear view of who you are and your capabilities, interests, and accomplishments. Join some groups. There is a group for just about any of your interests. Join and participate in their discussion boards, or better yet start a discussion of your own.
2. Tweet. Set up a Twitter account and Tweet. HubSpot, a major Inbound Marketing firm, suggests tweeting 5 – 7 times each day throughout the day. Anything less than that is insufficient. Once you set up your Twitter handle look for people to “follow”. You’ll find that those you follow will open your door to followers of you. Tweet relevant content. Stay away from personal, emotional tweets. Don’t drink and tweet as your comments once posted live forever and can be found by any one.
3. Set up a Facebook page. Yes Facebook is a bit more personal than LinkedIn or Twitter but you must have one. Prospects you’re targeting, if you’re a business, or customers you’re trying to learn from are all on Facebook. If you’re not there, rest assured one of your competitors is.

Jump in. Get involved. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn and how many doors begin to open.

Buyer Personas. The Key To Sustained Growth.

Who

In my prior blog, 3 Philosophies of a Great Company, I wrote about the importance of knowing your customer.  We’ve all heard this expression before but many companies still struggle with the essence and simplicity of its meaning.  Knowing your customer involves having a thirst for knowledge, the ability to confront reality, and dedicated resources including time and dollars.  Those that embrace this strategic component are those that excel and succeed.

Using a buyer persona process is a great way to get to know your customer.   Companies like Sirius Decisions and HubSpot have invested countless resources in the development of creating a buyer persona process that drives new customer growth while improving the retention rate of existing customers.  When used effectively, buyer personas can become a powerful P&L management tool.  How?  Buyer Personas help to:

  1. Improve target marketing by aligning your product or service to the right audience.  If your product is geared toward SMB (Small-Medium-Business) or enterprise-size companies, your buyer personas will provide critical insights into the buyer behaviors of these specific segments.  Having a deep confidence in knowing your customer helps to avoid wasting precious time, and money, spent marketing to the wrong prospect group.
  2. Provide granular detail around how your prospective buyer thinks and gathers information.  How do they make their buying decision?  This information helps improve your ROI on marketing investments by knowing what to say, where to say it, how often to communicate your message, etc.  Keep in mind that each business could have more than one buyer persona.  A CEO, CFO, Office Manager, General Manager, all make decisions differently.  Why?  Because each have their own perspective from which they process information.  This becomes extremely important when determining where each of these individuals go to find information.  Sirius Decisions concept of “watering holes” illustrates the importance of knowing where to place your message – where your customers and prospects spend their time.
  3. Convert your value proposition into a high-impact message.  The strength of your value proposition is dependent upon how well your message aligns to the needs of your customer or prospective buyer.  You cannot succeed if your value proposition is disconnected from the buyers needs.  Therefore, having a completed buyer persona allows you to take your value proposition and craft it into a specific message that addresses the needs or pain points of that buyer.  Being able to demonstrate to the buyer your understanding of their needs, builds their confidence and, ultimately leads to their conviction to select you as their provider of service.

Think about the companies that really seem to know what the customer wants.  Companies like Apple, Toyota, Cadillac, Samsung, Proctor & Gamble, and Victoria’s Secret are all companies that have taken a buyer persona approach to growing their market share.  They invest heavily in knowing their customer.  They understand that what worked yesterday may not work today given internal or external influences to their market.  The key is change.  Seek it, drive it, embrace it, demand it.  Change is what drives innovation and innovation, if done correctly, drives growth.

3 Philosophies of a Great Company

Greatness-vs.-Mediocrity

You work for a great company, right?  You know what your customers want.  Your product, your service, your company has got it.  You’re the best out there and you know it.  You’ve built things from the ground up or possibly revamped an existing infrastructure to improve your sales effectiveness and efficiency.  You installed a sales CRM tool, you’re looking at a marketing automation system, and you just bought a prospect list that will help you focus on where to fish.  You’re ready.  You’re set…and off you go!

But wait.  You’ve spent months focused only on the internal aspects of your company.  You’ve developed plans based upon a certain set of assumptions, all of which, are best guesses based upon what you know.  But herein lies the problem, it’s not what you know that presents the risk of failure…it’s what you don’t know.  And  right now you’re missing the biggest piece of your success equation – what does the customer want and how do they want it?

Most companies still operate from an inside-out viewpoint.  What do we sell?  Why are we the best?  What makes us different?  Why is our product or process better?  This is why we’re special.  This is why you’ll love our solution.  And on, and on it goes.

So what separates average companies from star performers?  While there are many things that go into creating a great company I’d offer the following three philosophies as perhaps the most critical:

  1. Outside-in view.   Placing the buyers needs first is crucial to a company’s growth and success.  This requires dedicating time and resources to studying and understanding your prospective buyer.   Sirius Decisions, an expert in the integration of sales and marketing, developed a proven process that companies can use to identify and define their various buyer personas.  These personas provide deep insight into the buyer, who they are, how they operate, where they go to gather information, and their preferred methods of absorbing information.  Without this deep understanding of your prospective buyer, your sales and marketing efforts will continue to produce disappointing results.
  2. Thirst for knowledge.  Great companies are also learning companies.  They apply different techniques to deepen their awareness and familiarity of the marketplace.  Leadership gurus like Noel Tichy have introduced various methods for gaining and using this knowledge, inside of large organizations, that can also be applied to small businesses.  Tichy’s Virtuous Teaching Cycle, introduced in his book The Leadership Cycle, provides clear steps for how to gather, assimilate, and cascade knowledge throughout an organization.  Companies that commit to this quest for knowledge are better prepared to take the lead when the opportunity arises.
  3. Commitment to talent.  It’s no wonder that the companies on the list of Fortune’s Great Places to Work have some of the strongest performance results around.  For years, we have read the studies and seen the data that prove a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and high performance.  Today, we see companies like HubSpot, Zappos, and Square2Marketing providing benefits to employees ranging from “unlimited vacation time” to “pet friendly work places”.  Companies are beginning to see the benefits of providing more control and accountability to their employees.  Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s CEO said, “we hire very smart people who focus on the growth of our company and we expect them to use common sense”, and they have done just that since this HubSpot’s unlimited vacation policy was introduced in January 2010.