U.S. businesses are obsessed with marketing. The country has the highest advertising spend per capita in the world. It stood at $604.2 per person in 2016 and will increase in 2017.
Cumulatively, U.S. businesses will have spent $206.77 billion on advertising by the end of this year. That’s more than the GDP of Portugal, which stood at $204.56 billion in 2016.
Despite brands pouring in massive amounts into intrusive ads, the results have been mixed. Some of the U.S. ad spend generates leads and build brands, but a large number of ads do little more than irritate consumers.
Buyers are so sick of advertising that 226 million of them were on the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry in 2016. In the same year, 11 percent of the global Internet population had turned on ad blockers to protect themselves from intrusive ads.
Those numbers are enormous, and they send a powerful message to small businesses, marketers, and anyone involved in sales: Your clients are not in a mood to hear another sales pitch from you. They have had enough.
This said, slashing your advertising budget to zero and breaking the contract with your digital marketing agency is not a solution. In a world that uploads 814 photos on Instagram, publishes 7,831 tweets, and sends 2.64 million emails in a second, going silent is not an option. You still need to speak out and engage with your customers, but the nature of engagement must change.
Don’t Be Annoying. Be Helpful.
Most ads are annoying. A recent Nielsen Norman Group survey has created a list of the most hated forms of advertising on the Internet. Autoplay videos rank on the top but persistent banners and retargeting ads are not far behind.
Most hated forms of advertising on the Internet:
Why Do Ads Irritate?
Because ads are perceived as intrusive and nowadays, they are ubiquitous. Here are the top reasons, from a HubSpot research study, a lot of your customers find ads irritating:
Having said this, ads are not passe. They are still useful. Customers are receptive to marketing messages when they are actively seeking information. Inbound marketing is a method to reach out to your customers when they are most receptive to promotional communication.
Inbound Marketing Does Not Irritate
Inbound marketing is the art of revealing your sales pitch when your customers want to hear from you. This form of advertising is not at all annoying. Indeed, it is helpful. Let’s try to understand with an example.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a form of inbound marketing. Done well, it directs consumers to your website when they are looking for information in your vertical.
One of your potential customers may be looking for ways to get rid of hazardous trees. If you are an arborist, you can write a DIY guide on how to identify hazardous trees and the best practices to disappear them from your yard. If the homeowner finds your guide useful—thus a proof of your expertise—he (or she) will attempt to contact you. You will have acquired a customer by helping him (or her), instead of annoying him (or her) with an invasive ad.
That is a very simplified example. Inbound marketing can be more complicated. Despite its complexity, however, it contains these four elements:
- Understanding the journey each visitor is on
- Tailoring information for your ideal customer
- Creating content that will engage, delight, and convert visitors
- Optimizing the content so that you are easily found
With extensive research and assistance of a local digital marketing agency, you can capitalize on the power of inbound marketing to grow your business.
4-Step Process to Getting Started with Inbound Marketing
You can complete these steps alone, or consult a local digital marketing agency for assistance.
Step 1 — Create Buyer Personas
Inbound marketing is all about your customers. So, the first step in a successful inbound marketing plan and perhaps the most important is learning about who your typical customers are. Your website can get found online by tailoring information for your typical customers.
This said, don’t assume that you already know who your ideal customer is. Grab a pen and a notebook. They will come handy during your research process. A way to get started is to interview past, present, and potential customers.
Here are a few examples of questions you might want to ask:
- What industry do you work in?
- What challenges do you face in your role?
- What goals are you trying to reach?
- What social media platforms do you use?
- Do you use the internet to search for products, services, or vendors?
These questions are broad. You ought to ask things specific to your business and try to collect information relevant to your marketing plan. Later on, you can analyze the information, identify trends, and create buyer personas.
Once you have an outline of your buyer persona, you can create targeted content that will offer solutions to your customers’ most pressing issues.
Step 2 — Determine Buyer Journey
The journey of a customer, from the time when he (or she) learns about your product to the time when he (or she) busy it, is rarely straightforward. Consumers go through a process we call a buyer’s journey.
Your inbound marketing efforts can be many times more effective if you cater to your buyers at each stage of their journey. Traditionally, the buyers’ journey is divided into three stages.
- Awareness. A customer becomes aware of a problem. That problem may be sending emails to clients in bulk, getting to work faster, or managing books.
- Interest. A buyer realizes that the problem, he (or she) has can be solved. That’s when he (or she) begins to look for solutions and discover trends, products, and brands.
- Consideration. A consumer considers several brands and assesses them on their pros and cons. This is the stage when a customer is willing to engage with sellers.
- Purchase. A customer completes his (or her) research and makes an actual purchase.
The key to driving traffic to your site, and converting visitors into customers, is making sure you have content that will appeal to people throughout each stage of the buyer’s journey.
You can create content that solves real problems (awareness and interest), compare your solutions to your competitors’ (consideration), and helps them make a decision (purchase).
Get found by publishing content that will identify their problem, allow them to research, and decide on a purchase.
Step 3 — Create Amazing Content
Now that you have figured out your buyer’s persona and understood the buyer’s journey, it’s time to create content that will help you get found online by engaging, delighting, and converting your visitors.
Consider the following to get found online:
- Blog posts
- Interactive tools
But as you know by now, not just any content will do. In order to get found by both visitors and search engines, the content you publish must be informative, targeted to your audience, and offer solutions to you’re their problem.
Take notice of posts that get a lot of attention in the form of comments and shares. Doing so will teach you what works and what doesn’t work for your specific customer base.
Step 4 – Leverage Content Created
Once you have created your amazing content, you must know where to effectively distribute it in order to get found online.
Common channels of distribution are landing pages, calls-to-action, marketing emails, and social media platforms.
However, it’s imperative to know which ones will work for you, and what channels to avoid. You won’t get found by distributing your content in the wrong places.
Know where your customers spend their time online. Don’t waste your time endlessly posting on Facebook if your customers aren’t using it. Get found by learning the online habits of your customers. This will allow you distribute your content where it will get the most attention.
Get Found with Inbound Marketing
Effective and innovative marketing strategies can make or break the success of any business. A lot of advertising annoys consumers, but inbound marketing does not.
If you aren’t currently using inbound marketing, you have already fallen behind your competitors. But you can quickly catch up. And if you are using inbound marketing tactics, make sure you are using them correctly.
Either way, it’s important to consistently research and analyze your customer base if you want to get found online.
There’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to inbound marketing. Knowing who your customers are and creating content they want to read and engage with is the key to your success.
Note: This is an update to the original article written on August 10, 2015.