HOW THE WEST WAS WON WITH INBOUND MARKETINGHOW THE WEST WAS WON WITH INBOUND MARKETING

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Content for the Wild West

The concept of inbound marketing has been around since 2006 and is considered a gold standard for online marketing. Content marketing has yet to find a stronghold in the West, specifically Bozeman, Montana as a whole, and even many parts of the Rocky Mountains. There is a massive shift occurring in the marketing landscape, and content marketing is making its way out West.

Content marketing is pioneering a new way for marketers to carve out a unique identity and craft a strategy that will produce a lasting and productive pipeline of customers.

As Bozemanites, we share a commendable heritage of the Western landscape that has produced hard-working, honest people. We roll up our sleeves and go to work, often making due with far fewer resources and never opting for the shortcut.

Content marketing is perfectly suited to the West’s way of doing things. It’s an honest, resourceful, and creative approach to marketing. Its benefits aren’t instantaneous, but it’s invaluable in the long run.

Wait, WTF is Inbound Marketing?

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Inbound marketing focuses on high-quality content that attracts customers because it provides actual benefits and value to their lives. We refer to inbound marketing as using an indoor marketing voice, rather than shouting at prospects and it's an integral part of each stage of the sales funnel. By aligning the content that you create with your customers' interests, you naturally spark interest and repeat visits. We will take a deeper dive into buyer personas later this month, which will help you to better understand what makes your ideal customer tick.

There are four basic principles for content marketing

1. Content Creation + Distribution

Create laser-focused content that answers prospects’ and customers’ questions and needs. Then publish that content through the channels that make the most sense for your desired audience. Distribution can be in the form of emails, push notifications, social media, and press. Again, align your content to the channels where your customers live.

2. Lifecycle Marketing

Content plays a major role in all parts of the customer lifecycle. Customers don't start as customers. They start as strangers who then become visitors, who could turn into a lead, and if you're doing your job right, then they become a customer. When you align content with each persona you create a consistent educational path for them to follow.

3. Personalization

This is where much of the heavy lifting takes place. We just touched on creating content for each buyer persona, which means content cannot be one-size-fits-all. Content needs to be specific and actionable. It also helps to speak like a human, spell things correctly, and talk to your audience as if they were sitting next to you having a normal conversation.

4. Multi-Channel

Inbound marketing relies heavily on digital channels and knowing specifically which channels to use to distribute the content. Content marketing can also be an offline tactic. Direct mail and print aren’t dead; they just need solid content with strong connections to online channels to connect all of the dots along the customer journey.

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There are four stages of content marketing

1. Attract

You want to attract the ideal customer with your content, which means understanding what the right customer looks like. These ideal customers are your buyer personas. If you don’t have a good gauge on your ideal customer, you should step back and walk through some simple steps to identify what makes your ideal customer tick. (Those will come from Sarah later this month, so stay tuned). Personas encompass pain points, end goals, and questions that your visitors, leads, and customers share. They should also include demographics and personal information.

If you can only pick one for this stage, then pick this one:

Blog

One of the best places to start is with a blog. Now, before you click off of this post and run for the hills because of the work this implies—stay with us a bit longer, and we’ll do our best to convince you otherwise. A blog is the single best way to attract visitors to your website. Consistent blogging can be a content machine that will allow you to be found online. The only thing blogging will cost you is your time and there are plenty of stellar blogging tools. Instead of using paid advertising and tired techniques to acquire new leads, try blogging. According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound Report, marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy a positive ROI, and marketers who use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not.

By producing reliable, informative, and entertaining content, you can increase inbound links, Google rankings, and your overall online reputation. Companies will often have multiple buyer personas, so make sure that you have a blogging content strategy that will directly speak to each one of them and all of their particular pain points or questions. Thus, your content calendar for a blog should be robust!

If these stats and anecdotal evidence don’t do it for you, here’s one more for your pipe, again from the State of Inbound Report. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.

If that’s not some Skynet shit, I don’t know what is, but it’s an insightful observation regarding the future of the customer journey. This doesn’t have to mean human interaction is dead; it simply means that you, as the human author, need to step up your game and produce content that is highly actionable, highly distributed, and highly personalized.

2. Convert

Once you’ve attracted visitors to you site, the next step is to convert them by gathering their information. A minimal ask should be their email addresses. Customer contact information is a little pot of gold. You can’t close the deal if you don’t know whom you’re talking to, but before customers are willing to give you their information, you need to provide something in return. This payment can come in a variety of content currencies: eBooks, whitepapers, how-to lists—whatever information would be valuable and interesting to each of your personas.

IF YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE FOR THIS STAGE, THEN PICK THIS ONE:

Landing pages

We debated on which tool to highlight at this stage, and it's worth noting that honorable mention goes to contact forms and CTAs (calls to action).

Why did we choose landing pages, then? Well, using landing pages can significantly improve your marketing ROI and deliver a more steady and reliable stream of inbound leads. A landing page can be your gateway in the vital sequence of taking unknown visitors and turning them into valuable leads.

When visitors click on your CTA, they should hit a landing page, and this is where the action of that content payback is fulfilled. The customer should be able to enter personal information that your sales and marketing teams can then use to begin the conversation to close the deal.

3. Close

At this stage of the inbound game, you have attracted the right visitors, and you now hold a precious group of leads in your clever little marketing hands. And yes, you guessed it, we are going to recommend content marketing as a way to do this. We aren’t alienating the sales and marketing relationship and realize that there are more intricate dynamics that can take place to close the deal. We are simply saying that by following a steady path of content marketing, teams can find more alignment and cohesion through the sales cycle. Quite frankly, for the purposes of this post, we don't care about your internal sales and marketing politics. We care about a living, breathing human being on the other end of the transaction that wants to remain in a seamless, beneficial dialogue with your company. Sales and marketing teams can achieve this through content.

IF YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE FOR THIS STAGE, THEN PICK THIS ONE:

Marketing Automation

In this category, we identified a few more honorable mentions, and it was a tight race to the top of our list. Tactics like emails, CRM, and reporting were all close seconds, but a marketing automation tool allows you to accomplish all of these other tactics within one seamless platform.

Marketing automation software allows you to create emails, initiate lead-nurturing campaigns, and manage the entire customer lifecycle in a single location. You can capture contact information and segment lists to receive a specific content campaign. Finally, you can run reports and see real-time data on what’s working and what’s not. This instant feedback loop is vital to the content creation process and for gaining buy-in from internal teams.

As an example, say a visitor hits your landing page and downloads an eBook on SEO. This can trigger an action within the marketing automation tool that puts the lead into an email nurture campaign that highlights your company's SEO prowess. It might also give you feedback that the lead is following you on Twitter and has visited three additional pages on your site over the past two days. Marketing automation can capture all of these actions in one place, giving you the ability to trigger the right content at the right time to the right audience.

4. Delight

Inbound marketing is all about providing remarkable content regardless of the stage of the sales funnel. Once the customer has been through that funnel, and you have captured his or her cash, you can't let up on creating meaningful 1:1 content. The companies that continue to engage and delight their current customer base create a tribe of loyal followers who act as brand advocates and promoters. A referral from a satisfied and happy customer is worth its weight in gold.

IF YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE FOR THIS STAGE, THEN PICK THIS ONE:

Social Monitoring

I want to start by saying that we view social media primarily as a content publishing channel. However, when you hit the delight stage, social media can be a key tool in monitoring your customer base and maintaining a positive relationship with it. Social media is a brutally honest, real-time channel for gathering data on how customers perceive your brand. Customers turn to social media as their outlet for both good and bad experiences, and there have been some epic fails because brands did not monitor, respond, and delight in a timely fashion. #Socialfail

We don’t advocate that marketing peeps spend a ton of time on social media because there are some great hacks to help do it for you. First, figure out what matters to you on social media and then create a social monitoring hierarchy.

An element of that hierarchy should include immediate notifications when your brand is mentioned directly in a social post. Make a concerted effort to be more responsive and aware of these mentions, which is vital to understanding current and prospective customers’ wants and needs. A second fundamental rule is to speak up. When people do mention you—for good or bad—use it as a way to directly engage with them. Thank them, praise them, joke with them, and ask more questions. If the comment is negative, do everything you can to take the convo offline as quickly as possible and directly work with the person to resolve his/her issue.

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A New frontier

At the heart of this methodology lies a common bond. All visitors, leads, and customers are human, and they want to be treated accordingly. Deliver experiences that matter. Experiences that are rich with information, entertainment, and/or emotion. Speak like a human and address their needs with consistency and conviction, and in turn, you’ll produce a trail of loyal followers that will keep coming back for more.