Daryl and I were discussing Inbound Marketing over a cup of coffee the other day, when he asked, “What are your principles of Inbound Marketing and how do you apply them?” This is a sophisticated question for a cup of coffee. Most people ask me “How do you do Inbound Marketing?” Although, it is appropriate to discuss the principles before discussing the mechanics, as one flows from the other. So, I thought I'd share my 12 principles for Inbound Marketing with you.
First, let’s start with a definition: inbound marketing is the process of attracting the attention of prospects, via content creation, before they are even ready to buy; it's one of the best and most cost-effective ways to convert strangers into customers and promoters of your business.
In the context of this definition, certain principles ensure that Inbound Marketing is employed correctly and maximise the marketing efforts of my business.
- Get into the right headspace. Any business environment has its share of static that eats away at focus and profits. As a business owner of a marketing agency, I consciously maintain focus and attention on activities that dive revenues and profit. I schedule my day, so that I'm spending 50% of my time concentrating on the activities that drive revenue (i.e. sales) and the other 50% on the process of delivering the product or service to the customer. Both require careful consideration, as this is the heart and soul of the business.
- Why am I doing this? The answer to this question is called your mission statement. Your mission statement gives your business a compass to navigate the company and helps to create the buyer persona you will need for your Inbound Marketing campaign. You should create your goals and objectives to align with your mission statement. This will give your customer a clear understanding of the service or product you will provide. A good Inbound Marketing Campaign can clearly show the potential customer that your goals and objectives are aligned with theirs creating a win/win scenario for both company and customer.
- Who is my customer/ client? This principle is a company-wide policy that ensures everyone from senior executive to receptionist clearly understands who our customer is. A clear description of the buyer persona allows everyone to target the right audience, shake out the wrong consumer, and concentrate more time on revenue generating activities. A semi-fictional representation of my ideal customer, based on market research and real knowledge about my existing customers, is crucial to this process. A clear description of the buyer persona identifies the target market and forms the beginning of all Inbound Marketing campaigns.
- What is the customer’s thought process (the Buyer’s Journey)? A clear comprehension of the Buyer's Journey enhances communication with the customer and allows me to keep my message on point as the customer displays their thoughts and feelings about our products or services. Our comprehension plays a critical role in forming the content of our message and in what context we invite them to engage with that content.
- What is my marketing campaign? In my 8 years working with Inbound Marketing, I have been exposed to four categories of Inbound Marketing campaigns, Little, Some, Basic and Advanced. Key factors that are considered include the business’ products or services, location, price point and repeat business from the customer. It’s a system, a list of steps to attract, convert, close and delight your customers.
- What tools / technology am I using? Technology is constantly changing the way in which our customers communicate with us. Different channels such as the iPhone, Android, text messaging, FaceTiming, Instagram, walking into the store, instant messaging, video chat, SMS, and all forms of social media channels provide an opportunity to interact with a customer. Knowing and mastering the tools our customer base uses most, becomes a very critical aspect of our Inbound Marketing. At Crocodile Marketing, HubSpot is primary management tool for all our Inbound Marketing campaigns.
- How should I promote this? The manner and media I use to broadcast the content of my message will be determined by the persona of my customer base. Whether I choose to advertise in the local tabloid or distribute circulars in the newspaper or engage in ad words and Facebook AU advertising will largely depend on the description of my ideal customer. If my customer is between 50-75 years old they may not trust what the read on the iPhone but will gladly call the number on TV, if it is promoted by a personality they know. On the other hand, if the customer is between 20-30 years old, and instant message or twitter may be the best method of communication. Clarity on the habits and tools my buyer persona uses, makes it much easier to determine where to spend my advertising dollar.
- What is the level of talent working on the campaign? All marketing companies are not created equal. Just as not all marketing talent carries the same skill set. Someone needs to create the content, landing pages, emails, social posts, publish blogs and engage with people in the digital world. True mastery of digital marketing is putting the right people to best accomplish the tasks, thereby creating the highest quality product your company’s talent base can provide for your customer.
- Who is the company leadership? A high level of talent requires superior leadership. Great companies all start with great leaders that can attract and retain top-level talent. In large companies, Inbound Marketing systems may be driven by staff with a sophisticated leader responsible for the HR elements; training; OH&S of the staff; and the culture of the company. In smaller companies, Inbound Marketing may be a portion of the management duties or farmed out altogether. When staff is happy, the Inbound Marketing system works.
- Who reacted to the message today? This principle brings us closer to the actual content, we are creating and if that content is providing the desired reaction from our customer base. Just looking at revenues is not enough. We have to ask and answer, “Am I creating content that people love? Is it attracting people to our website and to our company?” This becomes a daily activity - looking at the visitor rates, engagement rates and bounce rates and conversion rates to vet out what can be improved to bring more people to the door. As I said this is a daily task as the world is an ever-changing environment and the customer base often changes with it (what works today will not always work tomorrow).
- Who did I sell my product or service to today? This principle follows on from #10. Here we are taking the next step to nurture the customer and make the sale. Often person to person sales techniques are used to obtain customer feedback regardless of whether a sale is made at that moment. While we solicit the sale, we respect the customer's choice to buy or not to buy, yet still obtain valuable information for the marketing campaign.
- Where did I succeed, and can I amplify it? This principle is all about ROI reporting and analytics. While it takes place after the Inbound Marketing Campaign is launched, this principal form is critical as the campaign becomes a living, breathing and changing entity fed by the information obtained, at the end of the process. Often people spend far too much time analysing what hasn't worked getting lost in “analysis-paralysis.” I encourage my staff to use the “Test & Amplify” method by finding the process/ activity/ message that is working and asking “How can we amplify that?”
These 12 principles for Inbound Marketing have helped ensure that I'm staying on track and the revenues and profits generated are a direct result of that effort. I use these principles when planning and implementing each campaign.