Can you improve your company’s brand messaging with inbound marketing? Too often organizations think of the two as distinct and separate disciplines—even though they are both designed to pull prospects into your world. While it’s true that they have different functions within marketing, it is possible to inject brand building into your inbound marketing program through your buyer persona development, website design, blogging, video marketing and social media marketing.
A short refresher on terms:
- Brand marketing involves communicating your company’s identity to consumers, including who you are, what you do, what kind of quality you deliver, your reputation for trustworthiness and your values.
- Inbound marketing uses many forms of pull marketing—content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more—to create brand awareness and attract new prospects and nurture them throughout the buyers’ journey.
There are many ways to inject brand building into every aspect of your inbound marketing program. Here are several ideas.
1. Buyer Personas: Are You Bringing Them to Life?
Are you wondering why more people aren’t engaging with your content more often—especially since you went to the trouble of creating buyer personas? You understand that an effective inbound program begins with knowing your buyers, including their job function, where they spend their time online, their professional priorities and what decision criteria they use.
But what about your ideal buyers’ intent? Google says that intent can help you reach more of the right people. Intent means being there at the moment when your ideal customers are looking for solutions that match your products or service—and delivering a powerful message that resonates.
Ask yourself, “What is our customers’ intent?” as you execute the five key aspects of buyer persona development:
- Decision criteria
- Priority initiatives
- Success factors
- Perceived barriers
- Buyer’s journey
An example of the benefits of going deeper with your buyer personas to extract intent is a medical device manufacturer. If your company sells medical products to doctors and you learn that they care more about saving lives than the bottom line, how will that change your messaging? Probably, pretty significantly. You can then confidently weave your branding messaging into your inbound content.
2. Website Design: Did You Add Pleasure to Your Site?
When you created your website, did you consider offering your buyers customized experiences, clear paths to conversion and high-value design and content? If not, you’re not alone. Many companies’ websites are too siloed and too cookie-cutter. As a result, they aren’t delighting their potential customers and keeping them engaged from attraction through conversion.
The ideal approach to website design is bringing several disciplines into the process, including UX research and progressive enhancement-based mobile design. With that foundation, you’ll be better positioned to create a website that can engage prospects as well as communicate your brand message.
As you develop your website, keep these design goals in mind.
- Insight-driven: Uncover deep insights about your customers’ buying motivations and preferences.
- Responsive and scalable: Exceed customer expectations with a website that constantly adapts to user preferences and looks amazing on desktops, mobile devices and tablets.
- Optimized for business growth: Attract, nurture and convert customers with digital features optimized for profitability and growth.
- Delight your customers: Add pleasure to your website design.
Did “adding pleasure” throw you off-guard? In 2012, UX expert Aarron Walter reimagined Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of human needs for his “hierarchy for web design” to get a better understanding of the way web audiences work. His hierarchy has four sections, including (from bottom to top): functionality, reliability, usability and pleasurable. His diagram notes that the piece that’s often missing from most website design is pleasure.
According to Walter, “The piece we often overlook is the pleasure. It’s at the core of culinary arts, but we find it far too infrequently in the web apps and websites we use daily. … Personality is the platform for emotion. It’s the framework we use to crack jokes, empathize and connect with other humans. If we can bake emotion into the interfaces we design, we reap big benefits.”
One example of creating website designs that attract, retain and delight your customers is an email data company whose solution increases engagement and conversions. If the website immediately addresses customers’ top three email data concerns in a clear and user-friendly design, for example, they will be delighted and take their time on your site to explore the solution and likely contact your company.
3. Blogging: Are You Telling Powerful Stories?
Blogging is one of the cornerstones of inbound marketing. When done right, it can be a marketing powerhouse—telegraphing your brand message to the world. To succeed, you need an organized, consistent publishing process, the staff to support it and you need to tell powerful stories.
Here are great ways to find great stories to tell your audience:
- Monitor your industry for trending and timely topics, so you can talk about them
- Be on the lookout for the questions potential buyers in your industry are asking so you can answer them
- Conduct regular interviews with key experts at your company and customers, so you can share your knowledge
Then turn your research into engaging, high-quality blog posts using brand journalism and storytelling techniques. Storytelling is the heart of branding (think Apple, Nike and Chipotle). It involves a compelling combination of telling readers the “who, what, when, where and why” of traditional journalism along with telling them the hero, villain, story arc and denouement (final act) of a good story.
“In a study at Princeton University, scientists found that when you listen to a well-told story, the parts of your brain that respond are those that would if you were inside the story,” according to The Science of People. “So somebody talks about the smell of roasting coffee and your olfactory cortex lights up. They tell you about grabbing a pencil and your motor cortex responds—specifically, the part associated with hand movement.”
When you sit down to create a blog post keep these three storytelling pointers in mind:
- Describe what you’re writing about and get granular with the details.
- Use sensory information such as smell, touch, sound and feelings.
- Look for opportunities to employ emotion.
Imagine the memorable stories a hospital could tell if staff wrote a series of blog posts about cutting-edge, life-saving medical procedures its doctors prefer (think the television show House). Riveting!
4. Video Marketing: Are You Making Audio-Visual Gold?
Have you added video to your inbound marketing program yet? If not, you are missing out on one of the most powerful ways to attract, engage, nurture and close prospects—and build your brand. According to Demand Metric’s latest State of Video benchmark report, almost 70 percent of B2B marketers are using video in their marketing programs and 82 percent of B2B marketers reported success with video marketing initiatives.
Other compelling stats about video marketing:
- YouTube is the second largest search engine, larger than Yahoo!, Bing, AOL and Ask combined.
- According to Forbes, including video in an email leads to a whopping 200 to 300 percent increase in click-through rate.
- Over 25 percent of consumers watch more than two hours of video on their smartphone each week, according to Digital Content Next.
Convinced you need video to elevate your marketing goals? Don’t just grab your iPhone and start filming. Too often companies create videos without a clear plan. They end up with videos that are dry, fact-filled and virtual snooze fests. Here’s what you need to succeed at producing videos that help your brand marketing and inbound marketing.
- A smart video strategy. Strategize to create the most effective video content to meet your inbound marketing and branding goals.
- The entire video production process. The best videos are created from a clear concept, a script and a complete storyboard.
- Quality production. Anyone can create a good video with a smartphone these days, but videos that successfully engage audiences must align with your overall marketing strategy, goals and messaging.
Suppose your company sold safety technology to manufacturing companies that worked in dangerous environments. What could be more compelling than boosting your message with video? You could start on your website’s home page with a scene from a real-world worksite with real workers using your technology. Then you could boost your video storytelling engagement with a link to another video that continues telling your product’s story. C-suite executives who need to solve that very problem would watch with rapt attention.
5. Social Media Marketing: Do You Have a Strategic Plan?
After you’ve created buyer personas with intent, a website infused with pleasure, compelling stories from your blog and high-quality videos, it’s time to leverage the power of social media. Every one of the four previous steps will make your social media program that much more potent.
Sharing your valuable and useful content on social media channels—including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—is a powerful way to drive new traffic to your website and keep your current customers engaged with your brand on an ongoing basis.
Social media platforms are begging for companies to delight their customers and prospects. In the land of cat videos and political memes, you’ve got to think creatively to delight B2B audiences and build your brand on your social media platforms.
Critical elements of an effective social media strategy include:
- A monthly social media editorial calendar
- Fresh content to post consistently
- Custom-designed images tailored to the social media sites your audiences visit most often
- Daily monitoring of your social media channels
- A system to measure and report your results so you know just how much engagement your social strategy is garnering
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, where it always seems like there’s never enough time to do everything you need to do to market and promote your business, combining branding and inbound marketing gives you an incredible opportunity to gain a two-for-one marketing punch.