In our introduction to inbound marketing, we ran through the basics of an inbound approach. In the follow-up, we went over attraction, its first major step. Now we move to the next stage: engagement.Making contact and starting to build relationships is a natural continuation of the work put into gaining visibility and reach. That’s not to say it’s easy. It requires marketing savvy, creativity, a personal touch, and constant development. An inbound philosophy is no guarantee of success, you still need to do it well.
The Outbound Approach to Engagement
Outbound is interruption marketing, and outbound engagement is very much the same. It’s sales-oriented, it’s direct, it’s blunt. Consumers are targets, and a sale is a bullseye.
That’s not all bad. Selling something is still the point of doing business and if you can’t do that then you will be in trouble. But the heavy-handed sales engagement of old is impersonal, and for many businesses and organisations, there is a better way.
The Inbound Approach to Engagement
Inbound engagement is centred on inbound marketing’s core principles; being human, helpful, and holistic.
Your direct communication with potential customers should be personal. It should project that ideal organisational image, it should reflect and spread awareness of brand identity.
At the same time, it has to deal with the individual needs and wants of customers. It has to offer real value. It can’t be too strict or set, it shouldn’t try to shove people through too a rigid ‘funnel’ or ‘buyer journey’. Your organisation has to be able to engage with people in a flexible and dynamic way.
You want people to engage with you, so open a pathway. Invest in real-time interaction on social media channels and on your website, in the various forms that might take. Key contact points – email, phone, or even good old-fashioned physical post – are still relevant too.
A sleekly designed website can make a huge difference, especially if you can get basics like query forms and site-search right. It should be accessible to as many formats as possible. The more time someone spends on your site, the more comfortable they are there, the more opportunities there will be for interaction.
And, of course, your engagement will be better if you already have engaging content. Understanding your customers and little things like getting your tone right are very important. If your content uses open, inclusive language which draws people in and invites them to interact, they will be more likely to do so. This stretches all the way to things that are as simple as posing questions or asking for input and opinions.
The aim is to encourage engagement loops. Repeat visits to your website, recurring interaction on social media. This way you’re creating a circular flow of visibility into engagement and back again. Over time, the relationship develops and strengthens. You will hopefully find people are willing not just to come to you for products and services, but to vouch for you as well.
The Importance of Information
During these interactions, people are sharing information with you. This is data, and you can use it.
Data can seem vast, dehumanising. But a database used well can be the exact opposite. Outbound’s use of data can be as limited as addresses, phone numbers, payment information. For inbound, it’s vital. Being able to access information could be the difference between someone feeling like an individual or a walking wallet.
Engagement might be the best place to look at how your database can help with an inbound approach, but it’s relevant to every stage of the process. Data is useful in creating customer personas, in brand development, and content creation. Any new information can feed into adjustments to those and can help you to understand what’s going well and what isn’t.
But you should proceed with caution. Not only are there legal imperatives in data storage and usage, but ham-fisted data-grabs will alienate people.
There’s a lot more to cover in inbound marketing. Things like metrics, measurement, and analysis are relevant at every stage and would have been well at home in this part of our blog series. As we move into the latter stages of the inbound approach, we see more clearly the holistic side to it. That makes for less well-ordered blogs, but an excellent approach to marketing.
Next, we’ll be looking at conversion, what that can mean to an inbound business, and how you can do it well.