The holidays are just around the corner, which means that the season for record-breaking revenues is upon us once again. It becomes easy for many new sales and marketing professionals to get caught up in the Christmas frenzy—with shoppers racking up the highest purchase-rates per minute—and overlook the equally important task of drafting sales targets and strategies for the next year.
However, as every industry expert knows, crafting a winning strategy for the upcoming year is crucial to ensuring that a business not only stays afloat, but stays ahead of the competition.
Coming up with the perfect formula that ensures yearlong revenue is never easy.
So, how do you supercharge your sales amidst constant industry changes and cutthroat competition? I’ve got two words for you—inbound marketing.
What is it and why should I care?
Coined by inbound sales and marketing platform Hubspot, inbound marketing refers to the strategy of attracting customers to your business by offering high-quality, engaging content that they are actually interested in, instead of going out of your way to get their attention via traditional marketing techniques like cold calling or buying ads.
And while old-school sales techniques are still important to ensure overall brand growth, inbound marketing has emerged as the most effective way of doing business, especially in today’s age of 24/7 internet and social media networking.
For example: A backpacker is planning a vacation to Cambodia and needs to find cheap accommodations. He goes online and uses Google to search for a hotel with good reviews and inexpensive rates. He also logs on to Facebook and Twitter to ask for recommendations from his friends. After a few minutes, he decides to book a room. The chosen hotel has just clinched a sale without exerting too much effort—all because the customer found and reached out to them at the exact moment that he was ready to make a purchase.
But while you might think that inbound marketing is as easy as having and maintaining an online presence, things aren’t quite so simple. Just like every other sales technique, your inbound marketing strategy needs to be planned and implemented carefully in order to be successful.
Basically, inbound marketing involves four main marketing actions:
Attract: Invest in getting to know your ideal customers, and develop personalized content that will attract their attention. Provide them with high-quality blogs, social media pages and web pages that cater to their needs and interests.
Convert: After piquing the interest of your visitors, hook them in by converting them to actual customers. Craft enticing offers and use “calls to action” in offering them something valuable (example: download a free ebook, watch a free episode, etc), in exchange for contact information. You can now use this information to build your database and facilitate future interaction.
Close: After converting visitors to active leads, you now need to close the sale. Use CRM (customer relationship management systems), email subscriptions and marketing automation (via social media) to provide more information and further entice leads who may be reluctant to make the purchase just yet. This makes it easier for you to keep track and ensures that the lead is able to contact you as soon as he is ready to buy.
Delight: Create and nurture relationships with customers to ensure sustainability and brand loyalty. Use social media to build and maintain a community of customers that your company can engage with on a regular basis—this will serve as a vital source of feedback that can help attract new visitors. Use surveys to monitor the needs and interests of your ideal customers so that you can adapt your services accordingly. Continuous engagement with customers also improves your credibility and fosters brand loyalty.
Track the trends
Read to see what some industry experts have to say on how to rev up your inbound marketing strategies for 2016:
“The name of the game in 2016 is personalization. Inbound Marketers will have more opportunities than ever to deliver the exact content that personas want when they want it. By staying helpful, these new tools will yield results and foster more engagement,” says Gray Mac Kenzie of GuavaBox.
Marketers need to invest in technology that can help them acquire an in-depth knowledge of the exact needs of their customers. As customers get bombarded with information and offers from a lot of companies, marketers need to make them feel special, they need to make the customer feel as if the company can provide services that are tailor-made to fit their exact needs.
Matt Heinz, the president of Heinz Marketing, a company that focuses on sales acceleration, demand generation and sales management, emphasizes the need to stand out from the crowd. According to him, “sales leaders need to focus on discipline and process. Fundamentally, this literally comes down to email management, time management, calendar management, task management.”
With so many players in the industry, it can be challenging for a company to generate and maintain inbound sales. A company needs to show first-time visitors and returning customers that it is able to provide excellent service in an efficient and timely manner.
“This year in sales, we will see more social data and intelligence used in sales calls. This data, once pushed to sales, arms the reps with intelligent talking points, building trust and shortening the inbound sales cycle,” says Daniel Kushner, the CEO of Oktopost, which is a platform built for B2B Social Media Marketing.
This means that marketing professionals need to maximize the use of social media and data analytics to track the behavior not only of customers but also of potential business partners and competitors. Companies need to be updated with shifts in consumer and industry behavior to be able to offer services that are relevant and desirable to customers. Marketers also need to ensure that the right technologies are used to deliver perfect content at the perfect time.
Aim to serve, not to sell.
Modern marketing advisor Jill Rowley underscores the importance of connecting with your customers.
According to her, “We’re living in the Age of the Customer where buyers have choice and voice. Sales professionals need to read; read what their buyers read and share that content across their social networks. Sales professionals learn how to listen; listen to the conversations being had on the social web.”
Basically, companies need to focus on providing content that is not only entertaining but also valuable. Marketing needs to focus more on the voice of the customer and offer services and support that goes beyond the point of sale. The perennial question of “what’s in it for me?” needs to be answered quickly and decisively. Communication lines need to be open to ensure that customers receive valuable content and service before, during and after the sale.
Any last tips?
While inbound marketing is actually more of an approach (a methodology, if you will) that needs to be applied rather than a set of specific tactics, there are some useful tips that can be considered when developing your own inbound marketing strategy.
With the sheer number of people using their smartphones to surf the web and do business, providing a high-quality mobile experience to customers should be on the top of the list for marketers. Invest in developing mobile-friendly pages and apps that can deliver content on the go.
Go big or go home.
It’s been ten years since Bill Gates declared content as king, yet this still holds true today. And the standards set for excellent content has been higher than ever. The growing number of customers, along with the increasing number of industry players has led companies to develop excellent content—gorgeous web pages jam-packed with entertaining AND interactive content, high-speed downloadable games and apps, highly informative ebooks and clear videos. Companies need to develop systems that will help them provide all of these in a timely manner in order to stay on top.
Just go and do it.
Inbound marketing is not the alpha and the omega of the entire marketing industry. It still needs to be integrated with traditional sales techniques in order to be truly successful in generating sales. But as more and more consumers and companies engage online, inbound marketing is poised to be one of the top approaches that marketers need to consider in drafting strategies for years to come.