One of the many advantages of digital or inbound marketing is the capability to attract customers who specifically need or want your product or service. The best way to achieve this is to use content to help customers identify themselves this way. This self-selection process is much more efficient than using outbound marketing to promote your products and services to a general audience in the hope that someone needs something you offer.
Does outbound marketing still have a place in the marketing mix? The answer is yes. Outbound marketing can be used effectively for brand building, for new product introductions to an existing customer base, and in instances where you can identify a broad audience, but don’t have an established base.
The bar has been raised — it is no longer enough to simply attract an audience. You must engage them with relevant, personalized content which not only meets a need but also makes people feel good about the experience. Taking into consideration the variability of an audience, this looks like an impossible task, but the fact is that content can be personalized based on search patterns that can be tracked in your marketing automation system. Understand the pattern, and you can deliver content that resonates with specific buyers.
We live in a do-it-yourself (DIY) self-serve economy enabled by technology and messages that promote the idea that you can become an expert overnight with the right tools and training (content).
This is as true for business-to-business (B2B) as business-to-consumer (B2C) markets. Because the DIY mindset relies on providing content that gives consumers confidence, customer self-selection becomes driven by that content.
Self-selection is a process by which a person or company with a specific problem or need is directed to you or your business because you have posted useful content in the public domain. This content enables your customer to identify you as a viable solution to their needs. Once your customer finds the information they need to self-educate, they reach out to you to make a purchase.
Below are some examples of industries with self-service makeovers and their impact:
|Service||Past Paradigm||New Paradigm|
In the past, an attendant would pump your gas.
|Self serve is faster and cheaper (but no one washes their car windows).|
|Travel||In the past, travel was more easily booked through a travel agent.||Online travel booking has enabled global growth and gave anybody the freedom to travel.|
|Shopping||In the past, you had to go to a store to buy things.||Now we order online. Physical storefronts are irrelevant. Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest man.|
|Advertising||In the past, brands were limited to print, TV, and radio that anyone can consume.||Thanks to search engines and social media, advertising is targeted precisely to the person who most wants or needs your product.|
Content to Address Needs or Problems
You might take exception to the fact that the headline above doesn’t include the word entertain, but entertainment is a need. The method, the mode, and the medium of delivery are up to you (and content should be evaluated for engagement potential). Self-help and how-to dominate our problem-solving searches because of the way humans think and learn. There is a YouTube video for everything, and the videos are very effective because they solve problems and address needs quickly.
Pick the Right Medium
This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, the media for B2B content usually includes:
- Video. This is perhaps the best medium for getting your message across. Care must be taken to be professional. Poor execution will diminish the effectiveness of your efforts and can detract from your brand.
- Graphics. In general, graphics and photos attract attention; the key is to make them complementary and relevant to your message. Infographics are great to get a message across because they engage and provide information in a consolidated format.
- Social Media. The channel should match your business. For most B2B marketing, LinkedIn is preferred. However, some market segments may be more suited to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Where does your audience go for information?
- Websites. Blogs and content marketing offer sustained engagement if your content resonates with your audience.
- Podcasts. A podcast is an effective medium and channel to market and amplify a message. The most effective use is with experts or reference customers.
Third-party references still hold greater credibility than self-promotion, whether the information is something gleaned from talking to your neighbor over the backyard fence, or from reading a review, or from calling a reference customer. Anyone who has used your product and likes it is an important selling reference and should be evaluated for use in your marketing materials.
It’s important to have a communications plan which incorporates your messaging, content, delivery, channel, and frequency. Content has to be engaging and relevant in order to attract an audience and maintain your customer relationships. Primary considerations should include addressing audience needs while taking into account your buyer’s journey and personas. Above all, content should be professionally executed to reflect the quality of your brand.
If you need help with content strategy, development, or delivery, contact us for a 30-minute consultation.