2020 has been filled with disruption, to say the least. In recent years, disruption in business has typically been considered a good thing. Companies, people and ideas ushering in “disruptive innovation” have been generally defined as positive conductors of growth with the potential to shake up an entire industry.
However, in the last six months alone, people have experienced enough disruption in their personal lives through the various economic, cultural and social issues at-hand. As a result, companies are rethinking the ways in which they make their initial connection with target audiences, but in ways that are not as disruptive or invasive to their daily lives.
At this moment, it is predicted people will leave 2020 feeling over-stimulated and fatigued. So, what does this mean for your 2021 content marketing plan? Tread lightly, and consider growing your organization’s inbound marketing program.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is the practice of growing your company’s prospects, clients and customers by forming organic and lasting relationships through non-interruptive inbound content marketing. While outbound marketing involves an organization reaching target demographics through e-blasts, cold-calls and other marketing techniques that are active attempts at direct communication, inbound marketing allows potential clients or customers to find your company on their own through your company’s web-based content.
The nucleus of inbound marketing is assisting potential customers or clients find your product or service, even before they realize the need for it in some cases. Inbound marketing tools work especially well during disruptive times in business and society; this is because it allows potential clients or customers to make organic initial connections with your organization on their own terms through passive searching.
Before implementing or refreshing your inbound marketing strategy for 2021, you must first understand the three core components of inbound marketing. Understanding and executing these components are essential for connecting with your audiences in ways that bridge strong relationships and solve their problems.
The first and possibly most important factor of any inbound marketing is program attracting the right people, i.e. your target audience, to your organization’s website. How do you get them there? You create meaningful conversations and interest through valuable, solution-based content.
This content can come in many shapes and sizes, so to speak. If you are a financial planning firm, you could write a blog or record a podcast that includes helpful insight into how a portfolio should be successfully managed. While this solves half the equation of inbound marketing, you must also be able to strategically position this content so it can be found by the right people.
One of the best ways to position this content with effective, maximum reach is through SEO optimization. This is accomplished by creating web-based, owned content with specific keywords and phrases that are associated with your company, product, service, and industry. These keywords and phrases should be solution-based and written with your target audience in mind. Building on the previous example, if you are a financial planning firm, your target audiences will be searching for businesses like yours to solve specific issues, using keywords and phrases such as, “how to make a comprehensive financial plan,” or, “financial plan for startup example.” In application, it is recommended to build a much deeper SEO strategy than two simple search phrases, but the idea of inbound marketing is to draw in potential clients and customers with a specific problem they are hoping to have solved via search engine.
With a solution-based strategy, your organization’s content-driven SEO will position your company to organically appear in search engine results for the people searching for and in need of this information.
An overlooked device for the first component of inbound marketing is the humble, handy press release. Typically viewed as a traditional method of providing the media with important news or company updates, the press release has found itself in an interesting position during the digital age. When used as native content, and posted to your organization’s website, it can be as practical as a blog or article to build solution-driven SEO keywords and phrases that attract key demographics to your website.
Earned media placements of an SEO-based press release on publications’ websites or digital issues can also be used as a tool to passively draw desired audiences to your organization’s website. Earned media placements typically garner more trust from its readers than owned media, so make sure the press release also contains backlinks to take the reader back to your website.
A prime way to implement the first component of this strategy, using our examples, would be to start out of the gates in 2021 with a well-written, solution-driven and SEO-based press release campaign. Make sure the basis of the press release is rooted in some sort of solution your company offers.
If you are an in-house marketing director at a software company specializing in cybersecurity, for example, kick off 2021 with a press release about enhanced-security updates your company has made to the product that further solves the problems of its current and future users. Place keywords and phrases that are based on search terms your target audience would be using if they were to find your organization via search engine. Then, post the press release to your website and distribute it to various media outlets your target audience would be reading.
When a potential client or customer is served the press release on your or a publication’s website via search engine, they are met with a much more organic, valuable initial connection with your organization, rather than being inundated by your cold-calls or e-blasts. By using this less-interruptive method, prospects feel they have discovered your organization’s solutions on their own terms.
2. How to engage with an audience acquired through SEO-based content
“I’ve attracted the right people to my organization’s website using tools such as SEO-driven, published content on my website. What now?”
Once potential new clients or customers find your organization by way of non-interruptive means, it is essential to engage with this newly acquired audience in ways that encourage long-term relationships. In keeping with our prediction for 2021, it is important to consider less-disruptive methods of introducing solutions and insights that are adjacent to prospects’ goals. This not only motivates them to become a client or customer with your company, but it helps establish yourself as a trusted consultant with whom they can engage.
There are various ways to engage your audience using inbound marketing strategies. Whichever direction you decide to take, it is important that you lead with solution-based selling rather than product-based selling. If you truly want to capitalize on the non-invasive nature of inbound marketing, you should not direct-sell yourself as a product or service, but rather a stream of valuable information and insight geared to offer solutions for a unique set of problems.
In order to sell your solution, you must first understand the “pain points” of a potential client or customer. Regardless the channel of communication, start off the dialogue asking important questions of the prospect’s business or service, and not direct selling in the first interaction.
To apply this to your 2021 marketing strategy, think about how your organization sells itself on social media channels. When someone follows your company on one or more of the social channels on which you are active, they decide that following your company provides them with some kind of value. They likely found your company’s channels on their own, and it is even possible they were served your content from Facebook or Instagram’s “Explore” algorithm; this algorithm, created by Facebook, performs in a similar manner to that of Google’s search engine algorithm.
Regardless of how they found you, a key demographic is now following your company on social media, making your organization visible to them on a daily basis. Once you are aware of this notion, it is important to understand their needs, and work solution-based selling – not product-based selling – into your daily, weekly or monthly social media content. Though the act of posting social media content lies within the “active” marketing arena, it is typically not considered to be disruptive to your followers. After all, they made the conscious decision to follow your organization.
However, in accordance with our 2021 inbound marketing outlook, you will not want to over-stimulate your followers with frequent, aggressive, hard-sell posting, in the same way you would not want to over-communicate with a lead or attracted party you’ve acquired through SEO-based content on your website.
3. Servicing new business generated through inbound marketing strategies
So, you’ve signed a new client through your inbound marketing efforts – congratulations!
Now the real work begins. In order to complete the triad that is inbound marketing, it is vitally important to continue satisfying new clients or customers through consistent non-interruptive marketing strategies. Nothing turns off a new client or customer more than realizing the company in which they have been interfacing acts in a completely different manner once a contract is signed, or a purchase is made.
Consider incorporating automated support mechanisms into your inbound marketing strategy to assist and request feedback from clients and customers. Surveys, in particular, are a great tactic to install in your company’s customer journey. By asking for feedback from your customers or clients using some kind of automated platform, you are continuing to passively sell your company’s ability to understand the needs of its customers, and react and adapt to new ideas for improvement. If, as a company, you can constantly improve your service through mechanisms such as this, you are proving your long-term value, which will in turn lead to renewed contracts or purchases in the future.
Another non-invasive way of servicing your existing clients or customers is through social media listening. Your organization’s social media followers, some of which are not even clients or customers, serve as an effective tool in feeling the pulse of your target audiences. Become familiar with your follower base, especially the followers who are clients or customers, and provide solutions via social media that demonstrate continued support for your patrons.
That said, make sure the solutions you offer directly to your social media followers are warranted; you do not want to appear “needy” or high maintenance.
As you implement these inbound marketing strategies into your marketing plan for 2021, it is important to keep in mind that the most important aspect of inbound marketing is delivering repeated value to new, existing or potential clients, even if the value is not reciprocated in some cases.
With 2020 drawing to a close, and a promising 2021 on the horizon, many in business are more fatigued than ever with tone-deaf and aggressive marketing tactics. Eberly & Collard Public Relations is a HubSpot Certified Inbound Marketing Agency, which means we guide clients in various industries through the steps outlined in this blog. Whether you decide to implement this strategy on your own or with the guidance of an agency, we hope this information acts as a valuable resource for your 2021 marketing planning.