Onboard your ideal customers with inbound marketing and technology
President John F. Kennedy is often credited for popularizing the phrase, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s a notion that was largely true during the postwar economy of the 50s and 60s. But staying afloat and making headway in the age of light speed information – much less returning to port with a boatload of fish – has become far more sophisticated than simply awaiting the tide.
For the purposes of our discussion, think of your company’s website as the boat, and your marketing staff as the salty mariners they really are – navigating currents of data, swells of popular trends, and the submerged reefs of public opinion. Just having a boat and crew ready to go doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll begin reeling in customers. Successful fishing requires planning and a deep and granular understanding of where the fish are, and what will attract them to your boat.
To understand this analogy, imagine fishing on a chartered fishing boat. On a charter, the crew will select the appropriate bait, and cast a number of lines in the water. Some baits are on the surface, some just beneath it, and some down deep. The captain of the boat knows best how to organize operations so the fish can be boated. The average mainlander, on the other hand, has no idea what to expect. Fortunately, the captain is able to discuss at length the types of fish he expects to encounter, where to find them and how long they’ll be available in the area. His expertise comes from years of experience and know-how.
Your website and inbound strategy operate the same way. The site must be configured for bringing in your customers. Your company must appear sound and competent – seaworthy, if you will. And your inbound marketing comprises the baits. And, assuming you’re in charge of marketing, you must captain the effort. It’s incumbent upon you to know where your customers spend money and how they get to you. You must know what types of information, or bait, they are consuming. You must know whether the call to action’s hook is effective in reeling in those ideal buyers.
At this point, you may have found yourself wondering where to start to make yourself the best captain possible. With that in mind, let’s begin with your audience.
In the world of inbound marketing, we think about audience personas and customer journey strategies. Working through these concepts via planning exercises help you define a set of archetypal individuals within your target audience and their behavior patterns as potential customers. Your overall goal in this effort is to lead prospective customers down an intentional and guided path to purchase. In order to accomplish this goal you have to know the fish and be able to identify the baits that will work as well as what it will take to boat them.
An audience or customer persona is a documented profile for your ideal customer. What do they look like on paper in terms of demographics and behavior? Once you have that target in place, you can begin to create customer journeys. These are the actual paths, or migration patterns, that your customers take on a regular basis to select the specific companies they want to do business with. In other words, how are they finding your business, your products or services, and what strategies or communication methods will have a direct impact on their purchasing decisions?
We will begin by looking at each of these elements separately. Let’s start with a few questions an audience persona profile is designed to answer:
- Who are the people you are targeting?
- What are their goals?
- What problems are they looking to solve?
- What types of people are we considering in terms of demographics?
- How old are they?
- Where are they located?
- What is their education level?
- What job titles or occupations do they hold?
- What types of messages resonate with them?
- What social media platforms do they prefer?
- What news sources do they prefer?
- What types of entertainment do they prefer?
- How do they consume media?
You will discover that the ocean of potential customers is an incredibly diverse ecosystem. It’s wild out there. While it would be time consuming to attempt to profile every type of customer available across the breadth of the Internet, we recommend focusing your effort on profiling the buyers you know would make excellent customers. This isn’t to say that, once the campaign launches, you discover a very different sort of customer coming into the boat, but the important thing is to start with a plan from the outset. You will be adjusting and fine-tuning your plan as you go anyway. Bottom line: When you go fishing, you cannot reasonably take every kind of bait for every kind of customer. After all, there are only a few fish we are really interested in.
A customer journey is a snapshot of someone’s path to purchase before they decide to spend money with your business. How did they wind up on your website, in your store or on the phone with a sales rep? What advertising or marketing messages influenced their decision making process along the way? Were there channels or ads that were more effective than others? In the same way that ship captains maintain charts, graphs, and maps for migration patterns and seasonal hunting grounds, your marketing department will create documentation for how customers are finding you.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What problems are your customers looking to solve?
- What is their process for finding solutions?
- How and where did they find your company?
- Did they see a billboard?
- Did they Google a competitor?
- Did they see an ad on TV?
- What actions did they take as they moved toward making a purchasing decision?
- Have they interacted with a brand on social media?
- Did they fill out a form online?
- Have they viewed specific product or service pages on your site?
- Did they request a price quote?
- Did they sign up for your monthly newsletter?
- What ultimately led them to choose your company over your competitors?
- Are they price sensitive?
- Were they looking for the best quality?
- Was your team more responsive?
- Are they more likely to encounter your advertising on their morning commute or at dinner while relaxing with family?
- Are there things your company could do differently to influence these patterns?
You may find that your customers are as predictable as migratory game fish. The charter fisherman, for example, knows that cobia are found in the Gulf’s coastal waters during spring, and is familiar with the specialized lures and methods needed to catch them.
Shouldn’t you have the same insight into how packs of your customers operate? You don’t want to navigate miles out into the ocean with the right lures, yet come back empty-handed because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time of year. Bait by itself isn’t enough to guarantee success, hence, understanding your customer’s journey.
Finally, it’s time to consider all the manufactured and processed items involved in physically bringing your haul aboard. In the same way that a fishing boat will contain a seat where an angler can position themselves to manipulate the various tools of their trade, your business needs to have a base element upon which you can build an effective infrastructure. The fisherman will have a host of tackle and equipment at his disposal such as rods, reels, hooks, line, leaders, lures, floats, clippers, nets, buckets, pliers and coolers, among other things. Ideally, these items are not just strewn about randomly on the deck as potential jetsam. Each tool is stowed properly when not in use or stationed strategically in order to facilitate the catch when the time comes. The boat has built in rod holders, organized tackle boxes and insulated live wells positioned in such a way that the veteran seaman could net a speckled trout while blindfolded. In the same sense, your website and assorted tools need to work together efficiently in a way that benefits your potential customers, a streamlined sales funnel and your established business goals. This integration of technology and software is called a technology stack.
Technology stack is a term that once lived only in dark server closets or cluttered IT offices. It dealt with back-end databases or coding frameworks used to create a single product for end-users. In those days, engineers and technology experts joked that marketing was simply a matter of finding the right combination of liquor and guesswork. However, as corporate campaigns have evolved over time, this attitude has changed drastically. Marketers are required to master a plethora of complex tracking, publishing, and segmenting platforms. And that’s just scratching the surface. To effectively utilize a technology stack in a marketing department is to understand that there is a basic level of tech required to be able to accomplish anything at all, and additional integrated, or stacked, layers that create a more sophisticated, integrated, comprehensive experience both for internal and external users.
A Customer Relationship Management platform, or CRM, is, arguably, a critical component to that basic level of tech, but the tools just begin there. Landing pages, customer service databases, email automation, audience segmentation, trade show lead capture scanners, social listening platforms, business analytics providers, creative suite software, video hosting services, content management systems, customer service chat, and search engine optimization are just a few examples of the systems that might be found in a modern marketer’s tacklebox.
Below are some general questions you should ask yourself when considering marketing software:
- How long is your sales cycle?
- What are the consistent stages or milestones?
- How are each of those elements currently measured?
- How comfortable is our sales team with adopting new technology?
- How large is our database of prospects and where is it being stored?
- How about existing customers?
- How are estimates, quotes, contracts, invoices, or service tickets currently generated and stored?
- How does social media affect our incoming sales?
- How is inventory tracked?
- Are we currently spending money on a handful of separate tools that could be packaged together with enterprise software?
- Are there critical software platforms that would need to integrate with any marketing programs?
The scope of this blog may be a lot to take in at once, and hopefully this isn’t your first exposure to some of the concepts herein. If it is, however, that’s ok, too. In fact, most people prefer to hire a fishing charter with a qualified crew, rather than take on a new hobby with a steep and expensive learning curve. There are many different ways to accomplish your business goals. Have questions about how some of these tactics, concepts or platforms may help? Contact us today and let us help plan your next fishing trip!