The primary objective for inbound marketing is to drive traffic to your website. That means bringing visitors by means of your published content. And not just any visitors, but those who will make your ideal client or customer.
That may sound pretty simple and even a bit obvious. But the truth is that too many brands simply publish content without a clear objective in mind nor with a structured strategy in place. And the results are... well, less than stellar.
Do You Know Your Audience?
Part of the problem many business owners and even marketers face is being able to really know and understand their inbound marketing audience. Keep in mind the fundamental purpose of inbound marketing:
Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer's buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.
This means that it stands to reason that a brand should have a clear understanding and knowledge of their ideal customer.
But that's not always the case!
One of the problems that business owners face is the mistake of assuming their customers are just like them. Not only is this unlikely, it can be deceptive and misleading. Creating content based solely on what appeals to an owner (or marketing manager) is a recipe for nothing. As in, nothing much will be the result.
Another danger is to assume that all of your ideal customers are the same. While it is true that they may share a number of common factors, your audience is comprised of individuals. And it's likely that your "ideal customers" are actually a collection of like-minded groups as opposed to one faceless mass.
All of this means that it is imperative to learn everything you can about your current customers and your prospective customers. Assuming your current buyers are what you would consider "ideal", then knowing them will help you to know and understand those who have yet to become customers - your inbound marketing audience.
And that requires research.
Personas, Avatars and Profiles - Oh My!
A "market” is simply any group of people (or organizations) that either are, or could be, customers for your products and services. While, not everyone is a prospective customer for your products, your products are a good fit for some kinds of people. The key is to identify those people and learn all you can about them.
If you could target only those people who are most likely to buy—your most probable customers—think how successful your marketing efforts would be. By directing all your content specifically to people who are likely to be your ideal customers, rather than to everyone, your inbound marketing will succeed.
Marketing research can be conducted either by companies themselves, of by professional research firms. while paid research can often be far more extensive and comprehensive, it is also typically expensive. On the other hand, when it comes to understanding the mindset and subjective aspects of your customers and prospects, business owners can be as good and even better than a professional firm.
An essential tool in customer research is the customer profile, often known as a persona or avatar.
So, what is a "persona"? According to our friends at HubSpot,
"Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all -- in marketing, sales, product, and services -- internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention."
The good news is that this is something that any brand can produce with a little work and focused effort.
Surveys, existing data your company owns, interviews, and past experience can all be combined to create a fairly accurate picture of your typical, or ideal, customer. This buyer persona, or customer avatar, can be used to design and direct your content development and distribution.
It helps to structure the question you need to ask by using the following categories:
- Who: This is a question that focuses on what are known as the demographics of your customer. Age, gender, education, occupation, income level, and marital status are common factors considered. You can have more and they should be limited to what is relevant to your product or service.
- Where: For inbound marketing purposes this is not so much the geographic location of your customers and prospects as the online habitats that are commonly frequented by these folks. This is critical for developing your inbound marketing strategy.
- What: Here you want to establish the needs of your audience. What do they need to know, learn or have that you can provide via your content and your product or service? What keeps them up at night? What do they read or view online?
- Why: This is a bit trickier, but you want to understand the deeper reasons for buying your product or service. And, more specifically, why yours as opposed to your competitor's?
- When: There can be two aspects to these questions: When do they need your product or service? Every day, a few times a month, or even once every few years? The second aspect is when are they online and most likely to see your content? When are they buying? While at work or at home?
And these questions just scratch the surface. One truth about customer research is that you can probably never know too much about them. And the more you know, the better.
Getting Strategic With Your Profiles
Eben Pagan, online sales trainer, sums up the value of customer profiles,
“When you really understand your customer and what their needs are, you can create things that speak directly to them and really meet their needs.” -Eben Pagan
Ultimately, this is the underlying purpose of your customer research, to know and understand your audience so that the content you create, and how and where you publish it, can be designed specifically to appeal to them.
One way to think about your highly focused content is to imagine a skilled fisherman. He does not use generic fish bait - he uses specific lures designed in such a way to appeal to a certain species of fish. He does not randomly toss his line into a body of water - he chooses the place and the exact location. And he does not fish anytime of day - he knows when his fish will be most receptive and most likely to take his lure.
This is because a skilled fisherman knows his craft and his "target market" extremely well. The lesson here is to be like the skilled fisherman - carefully craft the best content for your ideal customer and prospect using your well-researched customer persona or avatar.
Inbound Marketing Strategy for Results
Using an inbound marketing strategy can truly boost your business. In fact, reaching your ideal audience is, in some ways, easier than ever before.
But achieving your marketing objectives with an inbound marketing strategy does take time an it won't happen with a few blog posts or a few great videos.
Your audience will need to experience your content for a while before they contact you. And only quality, relevant content will drive your organic search traffic and boost your SEO results. In fact, without your content compelling them to contact you, your goals may never be met.
The good news is that you don't have to figure out alone. In fact, one of the best investments you can make with your marketing budget is to partner with a solid firm like BroadVision Marketing.