Months ago, I decided to get new boots. I had a practical reason (an upcoming vacation with a lot of walking on the plan), and a superficial one (my other boots are old). In the roughly 10 weeks that I’ve had shoes on my mind, I’ve casually browsed online without buying anything. My Facebook feed is covered in ads for boots I left behind. Then, prompted by a gift card, I checked the Frye website, found a half-off deal for one of its styles on Amazon, and bought the damn boots.
As a consumer, I see this as a standard course of action. But, as a marketer, I see a few different elements at work, which hold true for both consumer-facing retailers and B2B organizations:
A complicated buyer’s journey
Research and customer review consultation
Personalized, targeted ads
A third-party seller with a better deal
Shopping has changed, and marketing is trying to keep up. Inbound marketing – a term coined by HubSpot that has grown in prominence in recent years – centers around this core tenet. The days when a salesperson cold-called all of his prospects are over. Now, companies employ teams that nurture sales leads with relevant content, social media engagement and one-to-one relationships based on loyalty.
Every marketer’s job is to not only nurture customers on their own terms, but to help move them through the funnel at their preferred pace, whether they’re buying boots for their vacations or technology solutions for their companies. This shift in perspective manifests in a few ways for both marketers and customers:
“Buyer persona” isn’t just a buzzword. Buyer personas are a fundamental part of inbound success. These are profiles of a brand’s ideal customers, built from research about where its message is resonating – the demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals that align best with its product or service.
Since Frye, the boot retailer, knew enough about me from my browsing history to build my buyer persona, its personalized ads encouraged me to buy its product. The world of B2B inbound marketing is no different. By creating and distributing content that’s written and designed for one specific customer – from her job title and preferences to her mannerisms – I can focus on the “why” and “how” behind a buyer persona, and market in a way that appeals directly to real buyers.
Sales and marketing need separate KPIs. You likely know that sales and marketing need to work together to be successful, but how are you tracking those efforts? In a survey, Corporate Executive Board found that 87 percent of the terms marketing and sales teams use to describe each other are negative. Inbound marketers often find themselves working to bridge this gap and join “smarketing” (as HubSpot puts it) teams on the same page.
This cutesy term represents a simple objective. Inbound campaigns need their own set of key performance indicators (KPIs). These are generally separate from the ones a sales team might use, and include benchmarks such as content downloads, emails collected, website traffic and social shares. When you’re actively tracking and measuring the growth of these aspects, you can clearly identify the connection between inbound efforts and sales results.
Inbound marketers spot one another in the wild. Today, many B2B companies are on board with some interpretation of HubSpot’s inbound methodology to attract, convert, close and delight. One aspect that’s not mentioned in this cycle, but is present throughout the process, is listening and analyzing – a constant practice that can help a marketer pivot, find her ideal customers and deliver the right messages at the right time.
Digging into the reasons driving the inbound cycle reminds me to listen, analyze and report data from every step of content marketing campaigns, media strategies and other client interactions. I also learn something new as a marketer every time I engage in the buyer’s journey as a consumer. Recognizing the inbound methodology in use, whether I’m on an ecommerce site or in a quarterly sales strategy discussion, offers insights about what works in various situations and how to strengthen a campaign.
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