Old as an 80’s Party
The term “customer focused” came into vogue around the time of “total quality management” and “top of mind”. In other words, the 80s. It was puffy language, just like the puffy hair, dark wayfarers and velvet suits of the times.
Yes. I get that you’re probably too young to know “80’s cool”, like how when pairing off with a friend to yell “I know you are, but what am I?” was actually funny.
Old people did dumb things back then. You’ll do dumb things too. It’s karma.
“Customer Focused” Returns
“Customer Focused” wasn’t actually dumb. It was actually a way to redirect a business back to why it was in business in the first place: to serve customers.
And like karma, it’s an idea that’s come back in vogue. Instead of “customer focused” though, it’s now called “inbound”.
Being an “inbound” business is all about ensuring customers have a positive customer experience before, during and after the sale. It means helping to educate them on your products and services and letting them decide if they want a conversation.
It’s also about recognizing the reality that customers research brands online well before they interact with a salesperson.
According to HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report, over 75% of the 6,200 companies they surveyed in 2018 consider themselves to be inbound companies. That’s up from 50% of surveyed companies in 2015.
Those companies reach customers by knowing their buyer’s journey, creating content customers can search within that journey and then selling to customers who have preselected themselves.
“Customer Focused” is Content
If you want to sell inbound, one of the first things you do is understand your ideal buyers and the journey those buyers make to decide a purchase.
The acronym for the buyer’s journey is AED for Awareness, Education and Decision.
Buyers first become aware of their problem and then try to educate themselves on the best solutions to solve that problem. Only after going through those two steps do they consider a decision that might involve sales.
Different buyer types do their “AED” process differently.
For instance, consider two buyers interested in email marketing.
“Mary Marketer” might become aware of the weaknesses in her current email strategy at a trade show and then educate herself on solutions by reading blogs by industry luminaries. “Technical Tom”, instead, goes right to Google Search, reads reviews and then jumps to a series of product demos.
Both ideal buyers came to their decision phase in different ways, so content created for each buyer type is critical. You have to educate buyers with the right content before they enter their decision phase because they’re online already doing their research and making up their minds.
Search Term Research is Key for Content
Search Term research remains at the heart of any good inbound strategy.
As noted, it’s the content that educates customers and proves the value of your brand. However, it’s your Search Term choices that align content to a specific buyer and to a specific point in their buyer’s journey.
Let’s go back to “Mary Marketer” and “Technical Tom”.
Mary is a VP level marketing strategist who knows email is still important for marketing, but may not be current on the state of email marketing. So, she talks to people she trusts face to face and then reads what leaders in her field say.
She’s all about strategy and big picture. She’s not implementing a solution. She’s choosing a tactic.
To reach her, your research found that the best content vehicle might be a blog and the best content might be to explain the high level concepts of modern email marketing.
Search Term s that would work for her might be big picture concept keywords, like “email marketing trends this year”, “modern mass email” or “email marketing advances”.
Content is then built around those keywords.
“Technical Tom” is different. He is tasked with delivering an email solution, so he may already understand those big picture concepts, or may not even care. So, reaching him during his education phase is best served marketing copy that’s centered on keywords like “email api” or “responsive template for all email client”.
He needs technical related terms that help educate him to reach a buying “decision”.
Different buyer’s journey. Different buyers. Same goal.
It’s Really All About Value
In previous periods, the salesperson was the gateway for any product. They held the knowledge.
The internet flipped that upside down. Buyers can now do their own research well before a salesperson ever gets involved. Inbound just confirms that fact as reality and forces companies to give value upfront.
Your upfront value is your content. By knowing your target audience and providing the right content for each phase in their buyer’s journey, your salespeople will be well positioned to lead them to a decision.
And why wouldn’t they? The buyer will want to be led. They’ve preselected themselves.
Inbound Marketing is Really “Customer Focused”
The old adage about keeping “customer focused” is still alive and well in 2019.
Inbound just acknowledges that sales people are no longer the information gatekeeper to your products and services. The internet is the gatekeeper, so customers early in the buying process go there first.
Acknowledge the internet as fact by providing high value content to prospective customers and getting them interested in you by providing value well before the sale.
You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll be glad you went inbound.