Before practicing inbound marketing, it’s important to understand the 4 pillars of the inbound marketing methodology. Ultimately, people don’t want to be sold to, they want to be educated, and the inbound marketing methodology can deliver the kind of information your prospects need to help them make smart, well- informed decisions.
You can begin to do this by keeping these best practices in mind. First, by using buyer personas, second, by using the buyer’s journey, then by creating remarkable content, and knowing how to leverage it. Let’s start by taking a look at how to use buyer personas. Since inbound marketing is customer-centric, you need to know who you’re trying to reach.
You don’t want just any traffic to your site, you want the right traffic. You want the people who are most likely to become leads, and, ultimately, happy customers. Who are the “right” people? The right people are your ideal customers, what we call your buyer personas.
So what exactly is a buyer persona? Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of an ideal customer, based on real data and some educated speculation about demographics, behaviors, motivations, and goals.
Personas are created through research, analysis, and taking a close look at who’s already buying from you. They can help you get into the mindset of your potential buyers and create the right content. When you create the right content, you’ll effectively attract your ideal visitors, convert them into leads, and close them into customers.
They’re the glue that holds every aspect of inbound marketing together. These personas give you a really clear idea of exactly who these potential customers might be, what they are interested in, what they are dealing with, and what they are working towards.
But when it comes to creating a great inbound strategy, it’s not enough to know just who you’re trying to reach, you also have to know what they want to see.
That brings us to the buyer’s journey. Every interaction your persona has with your organization should be tailored to where they are in the buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey is the active research process someone goes through leading up to a purchase. Knowing the buyer’s journey for your persona will be key to creating the best content possible.
Instead of talking about top, middle, or bottom of the funnel, the buyer’s journey is made up of 3 stages that portray the experiences your potential customers go through. These 3 stages are the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage.
Everyone has gone through the buyer’s journey. It’s the path you take when you have a problem to solve, from researching potential solutions to purchasing one.
1. The Awareness Stage
The awareness stage is when your prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity. They’re doing education research to more clearly understand, frame, and give a name to their problem.
2. The Consideration Stage
The consideration stage is when a prospect has now clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity. They are committed to researching and understanding all of the available approaches and/or methods to solving the defined problem or opportunity.
3. The Decision Stage
The decision stage is when a prospect has now decided on their solution strategy, method, or approach. They are compiling a long list of all available vendors and products in their given solution strategy. They could also be researching to whittle the long list down to a short list and ultimately making a final purchase decision.
Buyer’s Journey In Action
Here’s a real life example of the buyer’s journey. Ever been sick before? Remember that feeling of feeling ill but you’re not really sure what you might have. In the awareness stage you’re experiencing symptoms or having a problem. In this case, you feel like you have a sore throat, fever, and are achy all over. You ask “what’s wrong with me?”
In the consideration stage, that’s when you’ve given a name to your problem and now needing to figure out your options. You realize – a-ha! I have strep throat, but what are my options for relieving or curing my symptoms?
That’s where the decision stage comes in, this is when you decide on your approach to solve the problem. If you have strep throat you could see a primary care physician, go to the ER, or go to a clinic. You might decide that the ER costs a lot, but you insured and you go with that option.
That’s how one could go through the buyer’s journey – it’s from the buyer’s perspective.
But imagine you as the marketer, or in this case – the doctor. Doctor’s will typically listen to your symptoms, provide options for you to get better, and prescribe you your solution. But what if you went into a doctor’s office and they paid no attention to your symptoms and just gave you some sort of medicine immediately. Not a pleasant experience.
That’s what can often happen with website content. Rather than creating content that covers your buyer persona’s problems and potential solutions, we jump to explaining our products or our services and why they’re the best option.
Website visitors might come to your website for the first time in any of the different buyer’s journey stages, but you need to have content prepared for each and every stage.
When you’re creating content, specifically blog posts, keep it educational. Not educating them on who you are and what you do, but educating them on their problems and solutions. It’s the inbound way. A way to build trust.
Create Remarkable Content
Inbound marketing can’t exist without content, and that’s why the third best practice is to create remarkable, tailored content. Inbound Marketing is content plus context.
Your content is your marketing toolkit. Things like blogs, interactive tools, photos/infographics, videos, and eBooks/presentations work to attract, convert, close, and delight.
Context is who you’re creating it for: you can’t just write any blog posts, you have to write the right ones, tailored to who you’re trying to reach and what they’re interested in.
The best content – the stuff that’s really going to fuel your entire inbound strategy – has to be grounded in the correct context. It’s not enough to just write a blog post or send out an email. The content in that blog post and that email need to be tailored to who you’re trying to reach (your persona) and what they’re most interested in seeing (which depends on where they are in the buyer’s journey).
Leverage Your Content
The last best practice is to leverage your content. Make your content available for your buyer personas to find. Content distribution is what provides the context to your content.
It’s not enough to just have great content. You need to have a way to get that content out into the world. Distribution makes content relevant.
There are a few different tools you can use to leverage content by distribution. The right distribution technique gets the right content in front of the right person at the right time. You can use your website pages, business blog, social media, landing pages, calls-to-action, and marketing emails. Just make sure you’re using tactics that help your content reach your buyer personas where they’re spending their time.
And that brings us to the end of the inbound best practices. Remember: research, develop, and use your buyer personas. Then combine that new knowledge with the buyer’s journey to help you create and leverage remarkable content.