You already use inbound marketing tactics to attract, engage, and delight customers. Now, learn how you can continue delighting them by enlisting them as allies.
Inbound marketing is a must-have for most modern organizations, but you might not realize it can have powerful benefits outside of lead generation. In this post, we’ll review the basic elements of inbound marketing – what it is, and why it’s superior to outbound marketing – as well as some ways you can leverage inbound in your customer programs.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Simply put, inbound marketing is a way to draw customers to your products and services using content, search engine optimization, social media, and branding.
Marketing solution provider Hubspot explains the three stages of inbound methodology as attract, engage, and delight – stages in which each part of the business has responsibility. Marketing, sales, and customer services might still be different divisions within an organization, but they are all responsible for building trust and credibility at each stage of the customer journey.
In other words, while marketing is primarily charged with activities at the “attract” stage, the inbound marketing journey doesn’t end there. Each part of the business works hard to continue attracting, engaging, and delighting to add value at each stage and build lasting customer relationships.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is what was traditionally just known as “marketing.”
You’ve experienced outbound marketing anytime you’ve heard an advertisement on your car radio or while watching television. These ads most likely have very little to do with your needs or interests – they’re designed to be heard or seen by a very large number of diverse people. Other examples of outbound marketing include telemarketing, banner and display ads, traditional static billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, cold calling, online pop-ups or pop-unders.
Ironically, outbound marketing created its own backlash: the sheer volume of it made it ubiquitous, and therefore easy to ignore. Outbound marketing has fallen out of favor in the last decade and is usually considered interruptive and intrusive. Consumers typically take steps to actively avoid it, using ad-blockers while online, digitally recording television shows so they can skip over all of the advertising, or choosing streaming services that don’t have any advertising at all.
Inbound marketing methodology avoids this type of backlash by starting a two-way conversation and creating value. Instead of creating intrusive noise that people want to avoid, inbound techniques ensure that the right customers are coming to you.
Beyond Lead Generation: Using Inbound for Customer Programs
Inbound marketing is attractive to businesses because using the methodology across the organization generates a better return on investment than outbound marketing tactics. Marketing, sales, and customer services can all participate in the attract, engage, and delight stages without overlapping or interfering with one another.
If well executed, business teams will attract prospects, effectively sell products and services, and provide good onboarding to customers. Continued great service keeps longstanding accounts healthy and happy. But once these loyal customers are happy, you can continue to delight them and integrate them into your inbound marketing efforts by recruiting them as your allies.
Customer advocacy programs, loyalty programs, relationship management, engagement initiatives, customer education and success beyond reactive servicing can all create more revenue for your business, but they do come at a price for you and your customer: time. Your customers are busy and have a limited number of hours in the day. And your success managers and marketing professionals need time to nurture these relationships with personal emails or phone calls.
Fortunately, you can leverage the same inbound marketing practices you are already using to build and maintain robust customer programs. This applies to marketing, sales, and customer services.
Attract Customer Advocates
Use content strategy, calls to action, and marketing automation to raise awareness about your customer programs, spark customer interest, and educate potential candidates.
Think of this in the same way you consider your overall approach to content – but instead of attracting new prospects to your products or services, you want to attract current customers to become customer advocates. Use images of customer speakers at industry events, promote customer testimonial videos and case studies, or feature blog posts written by customers that position them as subject matter experts or industry leaders.
Just as you use calls to action in your overall content strategy, you can also use them to recruit customer advocates. Invite customers who want to be featured in a video or to write a blog post to reach out to your customer program manager to get started. Once you’ve brought a new customer advocate on board, use marketing automation to nurture the relationship with personalized content and added value. Perhaps you can offer an additional discount on an upcoming user conference or invite them to take part in an advocacy day where you collect interviews and videos to build testimonials.
Engage Customer Advocates
Employ successful sales practices to engage customer advocates with conversation bots, conversation routing, and email sequences.
Live chat has become a must-have engagement channel – in fact, research shows that 90% of people expect to be able to reach a business through live chat. Chat is an easy, low-impact way to reach customers at the right time in their buying process. Chatbots – programs that help simulate interactions with customers based on a set of predetermined conditions or triggers – are also gaining in popularity as the technology becomes more user-friendly. These tools can be very effective in recruiting customer advocates because your customers already have a high level of trust and comfort with you, and you already know a lot about them.
Conversation routing is another tool that will help you refine your interactions with potential customer advocates. Use customer engagement, customer loyalty or customer success specialists that have expertise in your customers’ industry, product footprint or program to help direct customers to the advocacy program that’s right for them. Once potential customer advocates are in the pipeline, use email sequences to nurture and educate customers about your programs and create enthusiasm about participating.
Delight Customer Advocates
Leverage the same tools you use to provide great customer service to maintain excellent relationships with customer advocates, including a knowledge base, service automation, and health scoring.
A knowledge base or user community is an inexpensive way to keep customers happy. It’s available 24 hours a day, is largely self-service, and fosters a sense of belonging as customers meet and assist one another. You can set up a similar community for your customer advocates – an even more exclusive club where customer programs participants can network with each other and strengthen their relationship with you.
Customer service automation is a key component of your business that likely sits at the core of your customer service operation. It includes customer relationship management (CRM) and helpdesk software and is a critical tool for managing your customers. It can also be an important part of your customer advocacy operation by getting sales reps the right help with references, centralizing marketing requests for speakers, and matching product management with candidates for beta testing. It can also protect customer advocates from “overuse” or automatically involve new advocates in activities they want to join. You can use customer service automation tools to send emails and ensure customer satisfaction without overloading your advocacy team.
Health scoring is an indicator of customer happiness – in other words, a value that can give you clues about a customer’s potential to disengage or to become a repeat customer. Your customer advocacy team can use health scoring to recruit new advocates based on high scores, or to pay special attention to customers who seem less engaged. You can reinvigorate customers with falling scores by assigning them a mentor, sending case studies and best practices, or invite them to user events. The benefits of this are twofold: You get new customer advocates and potentially increase revenue through customer retention or even upselling.
Now that you understand how to apply inbound marketing to your customer advocacy programs, think about how you can start to integrate marketing, sales, and customer services into your efforts. You already have teams that are familiar with the methodology and tactics – now it’s time to leverage their expertise and propel your advocacy programs forward.