We are delighted to have Vanessa Howard who heads up Caboose Media as our guest writer for this blog. The synergies of skills and experience of Caboose Media and SME Strategies working together give our respective clients an even better range and depth of services.

Today, we’re living in a super exciting, albeit hugely transformed, age of marketing. The cold call is dead and buyers are usually over 70% of the way down the buying funnel BEFORE they want to speak to anyone from your sales team. The days of interruptive advertising are over. Inbound marketing is now the foreseeable future and this is further supported by GDPR, which all business to consumer companies will need to be compliant with by May 2018.

What is ‘inbound’ marketing?

Here is the Hubspot definition. “Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer’s buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for potential customers attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.”

It all began with Hubspot

Hubspot is an inbound marketing platform and back in 2006, when Hubspot was launched, the rather radical concept of inbound marketing was pretty alien to most people. Nevertheless, it’s an approach that is paying dividends nowadays. Rather than blasting customers and prospects with emails, cold calls and marketing brochures, companies began using targeted content to attract people to their websites. Once there, they can learn more about the products and services on offer at their own pace. By providing customers and prospects with real value through content, companies are able to create a stronger relationship between themselves and the customers and prospects who matter to them. Now, it’s all about delivering the right messages to the right people at the right moment in their buying process. Driving engagement with a two-way conversation, rather than a one-way sales pitch.

The customer lifecycle has changed and traditional sales tactics have taken a backseat. Today’s buyers are more connected, more confident and more informed. They don’t like being interrupted on their buying journey with unsolicited, poorly targeted marketing messages.

We’re living in the age of the customer

As mentioned earlier, over 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before they even consider reaching out to sales, this is a statistic from SiriusDecisions, the sales and marketing analyst company. But that doesn’t mean organisations are helpless and missing out on 70% of the buyer’s journey – far from it. It simply means that businesses need to appreciate that people are gathering information on their terms, in real time and via the channels they most prefer. It’s a reality that has led to the phrase the ‘age of the customer.’

The key now for marketers is to deeply understand their prospects and create campaigns that are centred on each specific part of the customer journey. This will ensure your business provides precisely the right information each buyer needs, at every stage of their research. This is the basis of content or inbound marketing. But do the rewards make the hard work associated with inbound marketing worth it? Yes they do, and you can’t afford to get left behind. Being customer focussed is critical.

According to DemandGen’s 2017 Content Preferences Survey Report, compared to just a year ago, 47% of B2B buyers now rely more on content to do their research and make buying decisions. A further 50% said their reliance on content for buying-decision research is about the same year over year. Only 3% indicated they rely on content less now than last year. Marketing departments must find ways to deliver personalised and valuable content to draw prospects towards the business. Sales teams must complement that work by helping prospects fill any knowledge gaps and by building win-win relationships at an individual level with buyers.

Why re-assess your marketing strategy?

Having a solid marketing strategy in place is now more important than ever to help you achieve your business goals. It will help you remain customer focussed and agile in responding to their needs. It is the document that describes your customers in detail, letting you personalise your outreach and attract them to your product or service. By truly understanding your customers pain points you will be able to deliver the right content at the right time and draw them to you rather than interrupt and potentially turn them away.

Many businesses I work with have a list of marketing tactics they are delivering, but no way of measuring customer engagement or revenue impact. Having a robust strategy allows you to ensure your day-to-day tactics are aligned to the business goals and delivering the results you need. It describes the data you need to collect and targets you need to hit. It allows your business to be nimble by quickly seeing what’s working and what’s not and responding accordingly. Organisations that haven’t re-assessed their marketing strategies are often still focussed on blasting out ill-targeted marketing materials and messaging that deliver much lower ROI than could be achieved using customer centric techniques, such as inbound as already described.

Underpin your strategy with market intelligence

In these times of fast and significant change you need market and competitor intelligence work to be undertaken before setting your marketing strategy. Without this groundwork, your plans will be more guesswork than solid foundation. Looking at past performance is good – but the need to look forward and understand where your markets and customers are heading and how these will impact your business is crucial. Ensuring you have done the right research and re-tuned your marketing strategy to align with what you now know will mean you can pursue new opportunities and revenue streams. You can put the weight of your marketing machine behind leveraging them to your full advantage.

Attract and retain profitable customers

Why should you do all this marketing re-assessment work? Undertaking market intelligence research and building a marketing strategy and plan is time consuming and needs the right knowledge and skills, but making this investment will ultimately yield a high return. Businesses that have a clear strategy, know their customer personas inside-out and are able to track and measure their marketing initiatives save money. They are also able to attract and retain more profitable customers, which generates greater income. By keeping pace with trends and changing markets and having a clear strategy, you will deliver more consistently for your customers. Having that deep customer knowledge and focus will provide you the best possible chance to offer the experience they expect in order to retain them more effectively.

Final thought

Perhaps the greatest re-assessment needed is in understanding the value marketing can now bring to your business. As you will have seen from the areas it covers, it’s not just about the dark art of SEO or sending a few tweets out each day. It is a strategic business function that underpins your ability to grow and generate revenue. Having the deep customer knowledge strategic marketing can provide and delivering the experience your customers want, will help you stay competitive and profitable.

By Vanessa Howard FCIM
Caboose Media CMO

About Caboose Media

Caboose Media works with start-up and SME business leaders who know they want to grow, are frustrated because their marketing is not effective enough, but don’t know how to fix it. We offer a suite of turnkey marketing services for lead generation, customer acquisition and client engagement that supercharge results to reach their business goals quickly and effectively. What makes us unique is our comprehensive industry knowledge and skills from having done this repeatedly, knowing the strategy and implementation steps to take, which we will share with you.

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