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Today’s consumers are no longer responding to the hard sell the way they have in the past. They now look to brands to be educated about products and services that make their lives easier when making buying decisions. They seek out informative content, and Inbound marketing is made to meet this modern buyer’s behavior. The more content you create and make easily available to potential customers, the more leads you’ll generate for your brand and business.

When developing content, resist the impulse to talk about your business. Typically, companies like to boast about themselves, making statements like: “we’re the biggest,” ” the best in the region,” and customers really don’t want to hear it. Anyone can say they’re the best, the modern consumer wants you to show them you are through your knowledge and expertise.

Think of it this way. If you’re looking for a car–the fact that a dealership has been around for decades speaks to the idea that they may do business honestly and fairly. Supporting that perception with relevant expert content solidifies trust from the consumer.

Inbound marketing addresses consumer needs and interests.

The first step is to develop a marketing plan and strategies that support your business plan. Once you have identified your target audience, research the channels these customers frequent, and review the technology that aids your goals. By understanding the capabilities of the tools available, you can make effective plans for prospect cultivation. Here are channels with potential to deliver high return on inbound CRM investments:

  • Website: By featuring useful content on your site, you help prospects and customers make informed decisions. It also positions you as an expert in your field. Content can be provided through white papers, research, instructional videos, e-books, live and stored webinars, and infographics. Deliver content that explores solutions to the problems your products solve. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and see what information can make their lives easier. In developing and offering information, recognize that customers reviewing your content are in different stages of the Customer Buying Journey. Make sure your content appeals to people across the decision-making spectrum.
  • Social CRM: In recent months, social media has caught up to organic search in driving new website visitors. This makes social selling a key aspect of inbound marketing sales. A recent report predicts the social CRM market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 38.1% through 2019.1 The focus should be to create social sites that provide educational (and maybe even entertaining) content to attract prospects, and get them to talk about your products and business. Use your expertise to direct and support these conversations, and share information and stories that will bring prospects to your site.

The more active you can become, the better. If you support a blog, share that on social media. Beyond the usual social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Linkedin, encourage your teams to share the story or report with every one of their business contacts on Linkedin. On your part, push your blog content into Linkedin groups where your prospects are members. If your content is educational in nature, most group moderators will publish it. Becoming a regular contributor increases the likelihood that your articles will quickly be distributed to the group.

One more suggestion—replace your static corporate profile in social media with content links from your website. Offering content here will drive more visitors to your site.

  • Mobile CRM Tools: In the not-so-distant past, the further customers traveled from home, the harder it was for them to find the information and values they wanted. Now, mobile customers can find offers wherever they go using their cell phones. No matter where your customer goes with a mobile device in hand, your business can speak to them and do so in a relevant and timely manner. The same customer who was in the suburbs last night, could be downtown today, and across the country tomorrow, crossing time-zones and climates. If you understand their needs as they move, your brand can benefit.
  • Apps & Add-Ons: CRM providers and their partners continue to expand the targeted tools they offer to meet unique sales and marketing objectives. The Salesforce AppExchange already has thousands of apps and add-ons customers can integrate with their Salesforce CRM. “10 simple & useful reports to know your customer better,” provides customer locations, segmentation capabilities, and location-based offer generation, among other features. The right apps and add-ons can help you get to know your best clients and access that information at the palm of your hand.
  • DM/Content: Send prospects and customers the information you know they need—when they need it. Rather than deliver a catalog they didn’t ask for, send them a handbook/booklet with content designed to surprise and delight that features your products and services in highly relevant ways. A good example of this is Sur La Table’s summer recipe book. Customers were provided 12 free recipes that used seasonal foods and the best Sur La Table products for each. As a result, Sur La Table stayed top of mind through the summer and beyond. When strategically developing these efforts, consider if the journey behind creating your product or company, how unique is it? Does it warrant telling the story? If your product has interesting and ground-breaking capabilities, or simplifies the customer’s life, show it in action. If you’re working with a celebrity (even a celebrity within your business niche), let that person tell their story with your brand. That makes it newsworthy and engaging for your audience. For example, Keanu Reeves is the cofounder of Arch Motorcycles. His Youtube videos about how the motorcycles are made get millions of views. Video content like this drives web traffic.

To make inbound marketing truly effective, your sales force and marketing teams must embrace this educational and nurturing strategy and work cohesively together. They must be also be empowered to work with prospect information gathered through marketing automation software. Utilizing the insights gained can help you build profitable relationships for life.