Mapping Buyers Journey

How to Create An Inbound Marketing Strategy That Works

There is an exceeding amount of content out there, but it’s a noisy environment.  So how do you make your content compelling to your target audience? If you’re going to go through all the trouble of creating, deploying and promoting it, you want to make sure it stands out and gets seen by the right people. This requires more planning than people initially give it credit for.

Click here to read the full Hangout on Air transcription

Betsy Crozier: Thank you to everyone who is joining us on this Hangout. Today, we’re going to be discussing how to create an inbound marketing strategy that works. My name is Betsy Crozier, and I’m the content manager at PageLadder. On the hangout today with me is Rob Bailey. Rob is the cofounder and CEO of PageLadder, a San-Diego-based inbound marketing agency. Rob, thank you so much for your time today.

Rob Bailey:     You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Betsy Crozier: Rob, if it’s okay with you, I want to talk about the topic of how to create an inbound marketing strategy that works and use the perspective of what we get from some clients. One of the common questions we get when we’re talking to clients is their concerns over what type of content is working today and what type of inbound marketing content works. Would you be able to discuss that a little bit with use today?

Rob Bailey:     Yeah, definitely. Any time you say the word “content marketing,” it should go back to the plan, right?

Betsy Crozier: Yeah.

Rob Bailey:     One thing that we’re seeing increasingly is that there’s an exceeding amount of content out there, but it’s a noisy environment. How do you make your content stand out? If you’re going to go through all the trouble of creating it an deploying it and promoting and all that good stuff, you want to make sure it stands out at least and gets seen by the right people. That requires more planning than I think people initially give it credit for. That’s really how we create successful content-marketing campaigns for our clients and for ourselves is by starting with a plan. What was the other half of your question? I think it was two-fold.

Betsy Crozier: It’s kind of more like the content that’s working today. You got straight into the meat of the problem, is . . .

Rob Bailey:     Oh, I’m sorry.

Betsy Crozier: . . . it’s not clearly about the assets as much as it’s about it leads with having a plan.

Rob Bailey:     Yes, exactly. Let me answer that question real quick because that is a great question as well. What type of content is working today? That’s a great question. I think most people tend to focus on the medium. A few years ago, everyone was like, “Oh, video’s so hot, and it’s going to explode as a type of content,” and then infographics more recently. I think it’s less about the medium and way more importantly is the message because if you’re delivering content that’s relevant to your persona and you’re fulfilling their need for information, that is the best form of content that you can create. It’s not necessarily tied to one type of content versus another. In other words, whether it’s a blog post, a white paper, a video, an infographic, a MIME, all those things are secondary to what actually helps the person digesting the content solve. If they have a problem that’s being solved or a question that’s being answered by the content, or it’s helping them save time or educate themselves about saving money, . . . Those are all popular ways to help somebody. If it’s doing that first, the medium is secondary to that, if that makes sense.

Betsy Crozier: Yeah, absolutely. Could you go a little bit more for someone who’s slightly more novice when it comes to inbound marketing? You’re talking about the target persona? I think a lot of what you’re alluding at is content that is nearing the sales process when you’re saying “useful content.” Can you talk a little bit about your strategy or a strategy to make that content work today?

Rob Bailey:     Definitely. The content that we create for our clients actually heavily mirrors the sales process, and that’s sort of unique to PageLadder. I don’t know what every other agency out there is doing right now, but this is the plan and the strategy that we’ve had the most success with across the most verticals in industries.What someone who’s new to inbound marketing can take away from that is that you shouldn’t be afraid to mirror your sales process, and inbound marketing is a perfect style of marketing to mirror your sales process with. I know that people probably cringe, and they’re like, “Ooh, sales, really?” They think of a slimy sleazeball used car salesman guy, but if you really think about it, what does sales do for your organization? It delivers the information needed to make a buying decision by your team to your prospects, and that’s what people are looking for now. Nowadays, people [inaudible 00:04:45] just a ton of content. You’ve seen people — I do this all the time, by the way — you see people swiping their phone like this, and they’re just scrolling past all this stuff, looking for something that resonates with them. When somebody’s searching, the same time the behavior happens where they’re scrolling through massive amounts of information trying to get to the bottom of something that they needed help with initially, and then after that, they need help deciding on who to go to to get their solution, and then finally, they pick up the phone and contact your sales team or opt in on a web forum on your site or whatnot.

All these things are actions that we take, but the first two parts are happening online more and more and more, and that’s where content marketing or inbound marketing can really play a big part because when you structure the content on your site to mirror the sales process, then you’re being more helpful to your prospects as they’re self-digesting this content and then moving down the sales process online. Really, it gets back to that. It’s like how helpful is your website? The brochure websites that everyone had five years ago, ten years ago, they’re not helpful any more, and you almost may as well not have a website if it’s just five pages of information and contact us for more. That’s not very compelling to today’s consumer. Consumers are way self-educated. They expect the information to come to them, or at least if they’ve dug for the information, they expect for you to provide it in a way that they can get it really fast, and they expect you to understand that they’re busy and that they don’t have three hours to collate a bunch of information and write a frikin thesis paper on it. They want to give them the easy button with your content, honestly. Does that get to that?

Betsy Crozier: One point. It sounds like what you’re also saying is it’s kind of like a unified process. It’s not just about attracting the audience with your content. It’s using that content to attract them, kind of convert them into prospects, and close the lead, so it’s using that content throughout the entire process.

Rob Bailey:     Exactly. When we talk about the plan or the strategy, what we do with our clients is we ask them about what kind of questions their prospects ask them in person over the phone, what kind of questions they get submitted via email. The goal of asking all those questions is to [inaudible 00:07:15] content around answering those questions, and then figuring out the best place for them on the website and offering it based on the stage of where the buyer is at. I always use this analogy. Everybody who’s watching this has probably bought a car before, and almost everyone now, even people who are not heavy internet users, the first thing they do when they go to buy a new car is they search for information online.They might be Googling something like, “Which mid-sized compact sedan gets the best miles per gallon?” What’s the gas efficiency? That’s an information-qualified type question. They just need information. They’re not close to making a buying decision yet, but this is the very early stage of a buying decision. You’re trying to collect information so you’re better educated about what’s out there and what you might be interested in. The second stage is, “Okay, I’ve narrowed it down to these two cars. Let me go down to the lot and test drive both of them.” That’s when you’re starting to decide, “Okay, do I want a Honda or a Toyota?” You’re starting to compare the two, and you want to understand the points of difference. A lot of sales folks out there will understand this. Explaining the points of difference is a very powerful sales technique that sales professionals and salespeople use all the time because what it does is it empowers the person to make their own decision, and any time that person’s making their own decision, it’s a much easier sale. It’s a pull rather than a push. It’s like, “Hey, I’m just going to give you the data or the information, and hopefully if you’re more attracted to what I have, then it’s a good fit for you, but if not, that’s okay too. Let me just explain what the differences are.” That’s the second stage.

Then the third stage is the one that everyone knows. It’s picking up the phone and calling or submitting a Contact Us form on the website and saying, “Yeah, I’m ready to talk to a salesperson, wiping my hand.” Go back to the car analogy. Let’s sit down at the table and do the deal. Let’s talk about the deal.  Everyone can kind of relate to that, but those are the main three stages that everybody goes through in the sales process. The variance is for some businesses that’s a really slow process, and other businesses, that’s a really fast one. Understanding your customer and catering to those things and delivering the right content at the right stage of the buying process really really makes a compelling piece of marketing, almost a non-salesy piece of marketing, because it’s just helpful. The people who are on your website can digest that content on their own schedule and let you know when they’re ready to actually talk to someone to fill in a gap.

Betsy Crozier: Yeah. I think that analogy will really help people understand in less of an abstract way what the process really looks like. I think you were saying you’re delivering the content when they actually want it rather than giving the content on your schedule based on when you want to publish your blogs. It’s actually something that’s more reactive to the actual target persona.

Rob Bailey:     Exactly, and remember this. You might be saying, “Nobody’s looking online for my business,” and that’s just a ton of jargon because the [inaudible 00:10:42], especially if you’re in a B2B space, it can be up to 80% of the buyer’s decision making process happens online before they ever talk to someone who represents your company or your product or service. That’s staggering. They can pick up the phone, and they already have their mind made up for the most part sometimes. If you don’t good useful content on your site that’s being delivered to them when they’re ready to digest it at each stage of the process, they might come to your salesperson with your biggest competitors entire spiel and they’re like, “Hey man, I already know all this stuff. You don’t have to teach me about it. I just need to know it’s yours does this and not that.” If you play one to one there and you’re like, “I’m helping you with all the information so that by the time you talk with us you already understand what the points of differences are, and you’ll see why our product or service is better than or different,” sometimes it’s just different, “than the competition.” That leads to a much easier customer service/sales experience on the back end. What I always say to people is, “If you can’t educate your prospects or buyers on the front end while they’re on your site and on other people’s websites and social media and all these other places, someone else is going to educate them for you, and you’re never going to know about it because they might not even ever get to the point to where they raise their hand and say, “Yeah, I want to talk to someone from your organization.” It’s very very important nowadays to take that extra step and do that because people are moving their sales questions more and more to researching on the internet than they used to, say like five years ago, ten years ago.

Betsy Crozier: Not to drill too much into the technology side of it, but I think we’ve kind of teed up to this question. There’s multiple ways to do inbound marketing, but I know you have a specific strategy and tools that actually help with the sales assist to show the content that’s been digested by the client rather than them picking up the phone saying, “I’m interested,” raising their hand, so that your sales  team actually knows that they’re sales ready and what information they’ve digested. Can you touch on that a little bit just to give people an idea of the full circle that inbound marketing can take in addition to the content production?

Rob Bailey:     Absolutely. I won’t mention any of the tools here today because there are too many lists. We can do a whole webinar or Hangout just on that, but the tools that exist today are at a price point and an efficiency level that most businesses could probably afford it. I’m talking about marketing automation tools that help your organization deliver the timely content at the right stage of the buying process to these prospects on your website. There used to be software that did this stuff, but it was absolutely crazy expensive. It was super customized, so it would take you six months to a year to get it up on your site and everything. Now, for example, our clients, we do an onboarding project, including the discovery and content creation and everything. Within six weeks, we can have it up and running. It’s much faster, it’s much more affordable. For like a few hundred bucks a month, you can achieve some pretty nice marketing automation. Those tools that exist today allow your prospects to self-select the content that they digest based on where they’re at in the process. You mentioned the word “closed loop,” which is good. Closing the loop just means from day one when the prospect hits your website tracking all the interactions they have on your website and your content until they contact sales and pick up the phone and talk to your salesperson. The technology and the software exists now to where you can even see how many sales opportunities your sales team has had and how many closes they’ve had. You could track people way back to the blog post that they searched for and read in Google, the very first page they viewed on your website. You can really map the entire customer’s journey, the buyer’s journey, from start to finish, and start to get a really clear picture of what your online prospects are searching for. If there’s any bottlenecks there, it tells you, “Hey, our prospects are searching for some piece of content that we’re not delivering to them because they’re not taking the next step to their process for the most part, so we need to go back and adjust that and maybe survey some clients or get some folks to do some user testing on our site to see if they’re just not finding what we have on our site. That’s another common problem. It helps you fill in the gaps because the people who write us the checks and pull their credit cards out of their wallet should have the most control over our marketing because the happier we make them, the faster they become customers, the better customers they are, the longer they stay with use, the more brand advocates you get, the more referrals you get. It works out better for everybody. I try to take myself out of the situation and try to get the clients to take themselves out of the situation and make it all about the customer. That’s worked on every campaign we’ve ever had.

Betsy Crozier: I think that hits the heart of it really well. I think ultimately there’s a couple things that guide what’s making content work today, but it sounds like you’re saying first and foremost have some type of strategy. Don’t let it be a glorified blogging calendar, but have a true strategy. That strategy should really encompass useful content that your target persona wants. Ideally, invest in whatever resource that is to be able to know what they’ve digested to really have that be the sales assist for your sales team when they are sales ready.

Rob Bailey:     Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. The website should be used as a sales assist, meaning that your sales team should be on the phone with people saying, “Hey, have you seen this piece of content yet? It answers your exact question that you just asked me. I’m happy to answer it here on the phone for you today, but I’m also going to email those to you so that you can go back and review it with your team or your spouse or whatever.” Sometimes there’s more than one decision maker involved. It’s great for that purpose. It’s also great for establishing authority and things like that. The more you make your website a resource, the more one-on-one attraction you can get with people because the more customized it gets for the prospects, the better chance you have of building rapport with them very quickly. That’s what it boils down to. When your sales team is knowing when they pick up the phone, “Oh my gosh, this person downloaded this white paper, read these five blog posts, and looked at this service page,” as much as you’re going to strike up a conversation and not just be shooting in the dark, and just say, “Hey, I know you already have seen all this stuff, but basically the questions you could ask them, “You might really enjoy reading this other thing, and also, I’m here to help you in any way possible. Just let me know what else you need. I’ll take care of you.” That’s a much different conversation than trying to be pushy or close the sale right then and there or anything like that. It’s really important today. The other thing that you mentioned that I like too is the plans that we create for our clients. This is something I highly recommend to people is to map out your sales process based on the stages that people go through, and then try to answer all the questions that they have at each stage. To tie it all together, what you should do is use your blog not as something where you talk about your own products or service, but make your blog something where you talk about solving your customers’ problems. I think that’s a big problem that companies they have is it’s full of product information and all this stuff. It’s like yeah, that’s great and everything, but that’s more of a brochure type thing, and that has its place. The blog posts should be super super helpful, and the content created, you could almost start off saying this in your head. You could say, “My top sales rep just got off the phone today, and we get this question all the time. The question is this. I’m here today to answer it for you, and tell you why, I know a little more in depth about why is the case. Hopefully, this helps you make a little bit better of an informed consumer [inaudible 00:19:21] or something like that.” You don’t have to write all that. That’s what you should be thinking about, the topics and the ideation, and then you go out and create the content. That’s a great piece of content. It gets me excited just talking about it. [laughs]

Betsy Crozier: That sounds fantastic. I hope for everyone listening that this did really help. I think we did a good job of showing it at an introductory level as well as for someone who’s a little bit more advanced with the ideology behind it. Rob, is there anything you want to add before we wrap up?

Rob Bailey:     No. I just think that everyone should start paying attention to the way that their users interact on their website. There’s a lot of different tools out there that exist. Some are free, some are paid to do that, but I think the faster you get to the bottom of that and the faster you can custom road-map the buyer’s journey on your website to match what your sales process looks like and what your prospects are going through, the faster you could all have a better ROI from your website. Also, the tools are available to track everything, which is fantastic. You can literally see the numbers based on each stage, and your sales team and your marketing team should be working together. That’s the biggest thing I think that most of our clients are missing when they come to us. You can have an incredible product or service, but your marketing is not [inaudible 00:20:43] how you’re educating people on learning how great that product or service is. This is where content marketing gets used. It sort of marries those two together and makes it a little more seamless.

Betsy Crozier: Who doesn’t like that, right?

Rob Bailey:     Hopefully, yeah.

Betsy Crozier: Rob, thank you so much for your time today. For everyone listening, if you’re interested in learning more about Rob and the services PageLadders has, feel free to check out the rest of our content on the blog, pageladder.com/blog. Thanks so much, Rob.

Rob Bailey:     Thanks, Betsy. Appreciate it.

 

Why Your Content Might Not Be Working

Most people error in focusing on only the medium. A few years ago, everyone thought video was going to be the silver bullet of content marketing, and then infographics more recently. It’s not necessarily tied to one type of content versus another. In other words, whether it’s a blog post, a white paper, a video, an infographic, all those things are secondary to what actually helps the person digesting the content solve.

The medium doesn’t matter nearly as much as the message. You need to delivery content that is relevant to your persona and fulfills their need for information. If your customers have a problem that’s being solved or a question that’s being answered by the content, or it’s helping them save time or educate themselves about saving money, those are the elements that are going to make your content work today.

How to Fix Your Content -Mirror the Sales Process

Mapping Buyers Journey

The content that we create for our clients uses a plan that heavily mirrors the sales process. What someone who’s new to inbound marketing can take away from that is that you shouldn’t be afraid to mirror your sales process, and inbound marketing is a perfect style of marketing to mirror your sales process with.

I know that people probably cringe, and they’re like, “Ooh, sales, really?” They think of a slimy sleazeball used car salesman guy, but if you really think about it, what does sales do for your organization? It delivers the information needed to make a buying decision by your team to your prospects, and that’s what people are looking for now. Nowadays, people digest a ton of content. You’ve seen people swiping their phone, and they’re just scrolling past all this stuff, looking for something that resonates with them.

Content marketing or inbound marketing can really play a big part because when you structure the content on your site to mirror the sales process, then you’re being more helpful to your prospects as they’re self-digesting this content and then moving down the sales process online.

Defining the Stages of the Sales Process

Often times markers try to hit all three stages of the buyers journey in one shot.  This is a huge point of failure.  Content today needs to segregate the stages of the buyers journey by looking at where they are in the sales process. The most effective inbound strategies are ones that have multiple touch points over time and offer relevant information the customer is seeking out for the particular stage they are at in the buying process.

  1. Stage 1: Awareness Stage Becoming Information Qualified  – The first thing people do when they go to buy a new car is they search for information online. They might be Googling something like, “Which mid-sized compact sedan gets the best miles per gallon?” “What’s the gas efficiency?” That’s an information-qualified type question. They just need information. They’re not close to making a buying decision yet, but this is the very early stage of a buying decision. You’re trying to collect information so you’re better educated about what’s out there and what you might be interested in.
  2. Stage 2: Consideration Stage The Point of Difference – The second stage is, “Okay, I’ve narrowed it down to these two cars. Let me go down to the lot and test drive both of them.” That’s when you’re starting to decide, “Okay, do I want a Honda or a Toyota?” You’re starting to compare the two, and you want to understand the points of difference. A lot of sales folks out there will understand this. Explaining the points of difference is a very powerful sales technique that sales professionals and salespeople use all the time because what it does is it empowers the person to make their own decision, and any time that person’s making their own decision, it’s a much easier sale. It’s a pull rather than a push. It’s like, “Hey, I’m just going to give you the data or the information, and hopefully if you’re more attracted to what I have, then it’s a good fit for you, but if not, that’s okay too. Let me just explain what the differences are.” That’s the second stage.
  3. Stage 3: Decision Stage Ready for Sales Interaction – Then the third stage is the one that everyone knows. It’s picking up the phone and calling or submitting a Contact Us form on the website. Going back to the car analogy, it when you say “let’s sit down at the table and do the deal.”The variance in these stages is that is for some businesses, it’s a really slow process, and other businesses, it’s a really fast one. Understanding your customer and catering to those things and delivering the right content at the right stage of the buying process really makes a compelling piece of marketing, almost a non-salesy piece of marketing, because it’s just helpful. The people who are on your website can digest that content on their own schedule and let you know when they’re ready to actually talk to someone to fill in a gap.

HubSpot-Buyers-Journey

If You Aren’t Educating Your Buyers, Someone Else Is

In a B2B space, it can be up to 80% of the buyer’s decision making process happens online before they ever talk to someone who represents your company or your product or service.Tweet: 85% of companies using Inbound Marketing increase traffic within a 7 month period. @pageladder http://ctt.ec/_8e1c+

This means when they pick up the phone, they more often than not already have their mind made up. If you don’t good useful content on your site that’s being delivered to them when they’re ready to digest it at each stage of the process, they might come to your salesperson with your biggest competitors entire spiel and they’re like, “Hey man, I already know all this stuff. You don’t have to teach me about it. I just need to know if your product or service does this and not that.” If you play one to one there and you’re like, “I’m helping you with all the information so that by the time you talk with us you already understand what the points of differences are, and you’ll see why our product or service is better than or different,” sometimes it’s just different, “than the competition.” That leads to a much easier customer service/sales experience on the back end.

What I always say to people is,

“If you can’t educate your prospects or buyers on the front end while they’re on your site and on other people’s websites and social media and all these other places, someone else is going to educate them for you, and you’re never going to know about it because they might not even ever get to the point to in the process that they are interacting with your sales team.”

It’s very important nowadays to take that extra step and do that because people are moving their sales questions more and more to researching on the internet than they used to 5 or even just 2 years ago.

This useful Content Inventory Worksheet is designed to help track you get a better understanding of how your current and future content offers are relevant to your buyers journey.

Content Audit WorksheetContent Audit Worksheet

The Secret Sauce

  • Create Content That Answers Your Customers Questions
    To start your plan you should map out your sales process based on the stages that people go through, and then try to answer all the questions that they have at each stage. Use your blog not as something where you talk about your own products or service, but make your blog something where you talk about solving your customers’ problems. The blog posts should be super helpful, and the content created, you could almost start off saying this in your head; “My top sales rep just got off the phone today, and we get this question all the time. The question is this. I’m here today to answer it for you, and tell you why, I know a little more in depth about why is the case. Hopefully, this helps you make a little bit better of an informed consumer.” You don’t have to write all that but that’s what you should be thinking about, the topics and the ideation, and then you go out and create the content. That will be a great piece of content.
  • How Helpful Is Your Website?
    The brochure websites that everyone had five years ago, ten years ago, they’re not helpful any more. You almost may as well not have a website if it’s just five pages of information and contact us for more. That’s not very compelling to today’s consumer who is self-educated. Consumers expect the information to come to them, or at least if they’ve dug for the information, they expect for you to provide it in a way that they can get it really fast, and they expect you to understand that they’re busy and that they don’t have three hours to collate a bunch of information. They want to give them the easy button with your content.
  • Is Your Website Your Top Performing Sales Person?
    Your website should be used as a sales assist, meaning that your sales team should be on the phone with people saying, “Hey, have you seen this piece of content yet? It answers your exact question that you just asked me. I’m happy to answer it here on the phone for you today, but I’m also going to email those to you so that you can go back and review it with your team or your spouse or whatever.” Sometimes there’s more than one decision maker involved. It’s great for that purpose.The more you make your website a resource, the more one-on-one attraction you can get with people because the more customized it gets for the prospects, the better chance you have of building rapport with them very quickly. When your sales team is knowing when they pick up the phone, “Oh my gosh, this customer downloaded this white paper, read these five blog posts, and looked at this service page,” as much as you’re going to strike up a conversation and not just be shooting in the dark, and just say, “Hey, I know you already have seen all this stuff, but basically the questions you could ask them, “You might really enjoy reading this other thing, and also, I’m here to help you in any way possible. Just let me know what else you need. I’ll take care of you.” That’s a much different conversation than trying to be pushy or close the sale right then and there or anything like that. It’s really important today.

    Hubspot lead management software

Conclusion

Businesses and organizations need to start paying attention to the way that their users interact on their website. There are a lot of different tools out there that exist for this. Some are free, some are paid, but I think the faster you get to the bottom of that and the faster you can custom road-map the buyer’s journey on your website to match what your sales process looks like and what your prospects are going through, the faster you will see your content marketing efforts resonating with your customers and ultimately being successful by leading to increased sales.

If your content is trying to do too much or all in one shot, that’s a likely reason it’s failing.  Instead, consider a muti-step approach that mirrors your current sales processes. If the content you are providing is easily digestible and helpful, they will most likely move to the next step and towards the ultimate goal of purchasing.

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Robb Bailey

Co-Founder & CEO at PageLadder, Inc.
Robb enjoys growing a mean mustache every Movember and putting hot sauce on anything edible. You'll find him doing Content Marketing at his Inbound Marketing Agency in San Diego.
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