This post is second in a series on Inbound Marketing. Here is the first post in the series: What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is based on one simple premise: People have changed the way they consume information. The internet and accompanying personal electronic devices present today’s consumer with many more ways to engage with information. They’re empowered to control the sources where they get information, and the channels are virtually endless.
The consumer’s appetite for engagement is unquenchable. They’re constantly engaged with news, information, images and updates. Where there once used to be a trusty desktop computer as a gateway to the internet – there is now a laptop and internet-connected TV in the living room, mobile phones everywhere else (including the bathroom) and increasingly sophisticated interfaces in the car. People are never disconnected unless they’re forced.
This new content exposure changes the expectation of customized experiences – consumers expect brands and marketers to essentially cater to them in the places they get their information, through the methods they prefer. This new breed of content consumer does not want to be chased around with the same big butterfly net. This consumer wants to be strategically engaged with a series of morsels that satisfy and delight their every whim.
How does the information flow?
Ad hoc: People are exposed to a gushing stream of consciousness that floods them with information in every waking moment. Images, posts, texts, tweets, billboards, TV ads and websites are all passing by in a constant parade.
Unfocused: The information comes into the consumer’s brain in no particular order. While it could appear seemingly unassociated and unconnected to the piece of information, it could be related by a twice-removed relationship or topic that came before or after it.
Misdirected: Marketers cannot control the stream of information – and even more importantly, each person’s stream of information is different due to the consumer’s vantage point. They each listen to friends and associates and visit their preferred information resources – as well as the river of information flowing their way.
Go with the flow:
How can a brand marketer possibly be relevant to a particular consumer given all the obstacles in the way? It can be a daunting prospect, but here’s some advice on how to get through to them – and inbound strategies are at the heart of it. After spending some time to identify WHO your target customer is:
Message through the right channels: Find out which channels are right for the audience you’re trying to reach. Make sure the content is helpful and engaging.
Follow the leads: Once consumers find your content, ask for a few pieces of information – like their name and email address – in exchange for information they are looking for. From that moment on, you can create a customized experience for them.
Create “post-journey” follow-up experiences: With knowledge of the consumer and their preferences, funnel them to content and contacts that they’ll appreciate. This gives them the feeling of being understood. Once they are no longer a stranger and have become a customer they naturally become a promoter - That’s when they become brand advocates.
Information in the consumer’s “stream of consciousness” tends to be ranked in terms of where it originates. Brand and business-derived messaging is definitely not the most trusted source – but it’s an expected part of the mix.
Being a source of content and ideas is not really an option anymore. Don’t completely cede control of the message simply by saying nothing. Inbound marketing is a great way to be included in what your customers hear – and what they ultimately decide to pursue.