If you use content marketing, inbound marketing and marketing automation together and coordinate them, you can tap the new potential.
(Photo: © Zhuzhu, depositphotos.com)
Even if it seems to be in trend for some experts to call content marketing an old hat, nothing could be further from the truth. The discipline is experiencing growth, particularly in the B2B area, because the industry has noticed that traditional marketing tools no longer lead to the desired success. Valuable content with added value, which accompanies a potential customer on the much-cited customer journey, is a successful way of communicating brand messages and, above all, content in an authentic way and generating leads from them.
Inbound marketing and marketing automation are ideal for displaying this content in the form of text, image, video and audio contributions. In this article, I would like to take up how the individual components interact and why each is essential in its way for the success of action-based.
How does inbound marketing work?
The “inbound marketing” discipline can be understood as an online marketing tool to draw the attention of potential customers to products and services with content instead of advertising messages. Nothing against the “Mad Men” pioneers of modern advertising from the mid-20th century, but times have changed radically through online and social media. TV and radio advertising is spending less and less and even display advertising is declining. Probably also because the corresponding platforms and websites have given us a blind spot on our eyes. Do the rest ad blocker and the ability of the younger generation, scroll through social media pages at lightning speed.
Inbound marketing tackles these problems precisely and delivers content adapted to the individual channels and target groups instead of pursuing the exclusively advertising approach and rolling out the more or less the same messages and measures inexpensive and less targeted campaigns. While this still works in places for branded brands like Coca-Cola, the strategy for B2B companies has always been more content-driven and took place on a fact-based and personal level. The discipline has not changed, but the rules of the game are different today. While with consumer brands or B2C products, in general, the intention of marketing is always to generate a purchase impulse, with B2B customers are more likely to be accompanied in their purchase decision.
Marketing automation as a companion to the customer journey
This customer journey has become much more complex today than it has been in the past decades because that also applies to products in a fully digitized world. Today, companies have access to a range of software tools that range from cloud-based business software such as Salesforce to fully automated cooling solutions for their own offices. The choice and subsequent integration of all systems and services in a company can make one or the other smoke even with the best air-conditioning solution. At this point, the blessing of the information available to us is also a curse that companies counter with content marketing tools (see next section).
While inbound marketing describes the holistic marketing strategy, the tools and platforms in the field of marketing automation accompany the customer journey itself. These include the most famous ones such as HubSpot, Salesforce Pardot or the recently purchased Marketo from Adobe. Such tools relieve marketing professionals and sales staff of a lot of repetitive, manual tasks, automatically post on social media channels or send out mailings. The reviews of potential customers with purchase probabilities in the backend or the electronic display of useful content are somewhat more elaborate. Potential customers are gradually provided with information relevant to them to accompany the entire sales process.
Harmful content, bad leads
However, as is so often the case, all the tools and strategies alone are of course not enough, because even a book or perhaps an e-book today is only as good as its content and history. This is where the content marketing strategy comes in. If you ask five people to explain the term “content marketing”, you will often get seven different answers. Content marketing can be described as a method that offers the customer added value around their products and services. These are not advertising and deal with the industry, the personal challenges and requirements of the buyer rather than using the somewhat exaggerated approach: Here is our product. Please buy now!
Measures in content marketing can be company blogs, relevant studies, white papers, podcasts, video contributions on YouTube and ultimately any medium that offers potential customers and interested parties added value, which ideally turns a prospective customer into an enthusiastic customer.
While in content marketing, the focus is on the content that should be planned and created strategically and target group-specific, inbound marketing focuses in particular on the generation of leads and sales. When it comes to the definition, by the way, there are also arguments about whether content marketing is now part of inbound marketing or vice versa and whether a relationship with the customer or the already acquired user is maintained. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, since one is not useful without the other.
The customer journey as a central factor
It is essential here to design a customer-centred approach to both content and inbound marketing. It is not for nothing that the term has become so important in recent years, because today a diversified and globally available range gives buyers the power to determine the market. As a result, it is more important than ever to ask yourself “What does the customer want and need” and to accompany him in his decision-making process, which in turn has become more complicated due to the numerous options.
While this process works much faster at B2C, the time until the purchase decision in the B2B environment is significantly longer. Depending on the service, the customer journey can take several months or even years for millions of projects. That is like things because B2B is often about higher investments and liabilities. Many different managers from different disciplines are often involved in the buying process, which makes it more complicated and lengthy.
With helpful, useful content, interested parties can be accompanied during and after the purchase decision. This is called lead or content nurturing. In conjunction with a marketing automation tool, this can happen as follows: An IT decision-maker is interested in a product in the cloud but is not yet quite right about what to look for when choosing a suitable solution. He is also heavily involved in day-to-day business and therefore has little time to deal with page-by-page technical documentation. And he doesn’t feel like his sales staff at this point either. So he starts by searching for digital information himself. Via Google, he comes across a contribution (from a manufacturer) that offers him a guide to download as a selection guide. In this way, he can read into the topic and find out what needs to be checked and planned. It makes work easier. This is how useful content should work.
Marketing automation condenses information
This content does not have to be about the specific solution or the product itself, but it can certainly be a “manufacturer-neutral” article. In terms of content, the IT decision-maker either continues to research on the manufacturer’s blog under “Related Articles” or tries Google again. If the content from the first post that he came across was helpful for him, he may end up on this page back in the coming hours, days or weeks and read the next topic. This time a bit wiser than before and maybe even with an overview of possible solutions or providers. Maybe after reading the following article, he’ll sign up for our newsletter or download a white paper, that also shows the advantages of the cloud solution from a business perspective. In the best case, he picks up the phone and contacts the company and therefore, the sales representative, who then takes on personal advice.
Marketing automation tools already come into play here and before, because, to receive the white paper, the customer enters their contact details in a form and ends up in the company’s database. Did he previously called pages that are linked to the tool, and agreed to the placing of cookies, can be viewed in the backend, how likely is it that this customer is interested in the products or services, or at which point the customer journey he is. Marketing automation tools such as HubSpot can use various factors to determine an assessment that can be used as an indicator of the buying potential.
Valuable support for sales
These factors include industry, company size and sales. Besides, activities such as B. Downloads of specific specialist articles, webinar participation and also traditionally manually entered information by sales staff in the evaluation of a so-called “lead scoring” and “lead grading”. Clicks on content in e-mails that are sent to the prospect at certain times can also be an indication of the right time for contact. This is where the sales employee comes in.
In the case of a defined evaluation, this also receives a message – also automated here – to contact the interested party. In this case, professional sales staff are, of course, trained not to put IT, managers, on the spot immediately with an annoying sales talk, but to find out what the contact needs and to offer targeted advice. What’s new in the sales talk: on the one hand, the amount of information on the digital network means that the buyer is far more informed than before. On the other hand, the seller often knows a lot more about the potential customer today, as he has already virtually contacted and communicated with the company in one form or another in advance.
More business deals through automation
The purchase decision process is accompanied by real added value thanks to the provided and useful information. Besides, there is customer loyalty that can only be implemented extraordinarily time-consuming and resource-intensive with old marketing and sales approaches – if at all.
Another advantage over non-automated marketing: personal ties and friendly sales staff play a significant role and will continue to do so. However, if such an employee fails, changes the company or retires, his knowledge and contact with existing customers can dampen the business relationship or slow down new customer business. In terms of knowledge management, a marketing automation tool also offers advantages here, not to mention reactivating old, idle contacts.