March 17

Connecting to Customers

Grow Your Business By Becoming an Inbound Organization

Is your busi­ness more or less compet­i­tive in 2017? Hah! Welcome to 2017. Is that even a ques­tion? If Amazon, Google or Facebook isn’t directly competing with you, just wait a few more months. We thought so.

The ques­tion is, how do you create a compet­i­tive advan­tage to hold onto your current customers and scale new customers in a predictable manner? Actually, the answer isn’t hard to find, but it is hard to achieve. What many compa­nies need is a stream­lined way to build rela­tion­ships.

The reality is: in the age of lots of compe­ti­tion, it is more about HOW YOU ENGAGE your target buyer than how you CLOSE them.

Many compa­nies think they can adopt a tactic like content marketing or social media, or buy an ad or list and imme­di­ately reverse slug­gish sales or lagging market adop­tion. And they can. But don’t partic­i­pate in those activ­i­ties and expect any mean­ingful change. Adopting a few new digital tactics for your marketing and sales efforts will not help you match the changes in buyer behavior that are the root cause of the problem.

The reason this piece­meal approach fails is that it doesn’t address the funda­mental problem — buyers and the buying process have changed consid­er­ably. They are constantly evolving. So not only must marketing and selling change, but entire orga­ni­za­tions must adapt.

Help Everyone Attitude — What Inbound Organizations Do

In a high-supply, high-competition world with flat demand for many prod­ucts and services, you better be the most helpful option in your market. Companies that take a proac­tive approach to solving people’s prob­lems shine. A helping company does not wait for someone to call and then ask them ‘what do you want?’

A helping company figures out the issues people have and figures out how to solve them using their prod­ucts, services, and support. A recent study showed that 74% of sales go to the first company that was helpful.

We just had an A/C unit die, so I asked some friends for a recom­men­da­tion of a good company to talk to about a new one. I took the best referral and gave them call. This small busi­ness owner gave me four options, and also supplied content that answered all of my ques­tions about them. He also sent links to the power company where I could get a rebate if I upgraded to a more effi­cient unit. He also showed me how the unit we had was not draining prop­erly, and used a video to show me how he would fix it. He then added in a UV light to kill any organic stuff that would get in the ducts, after­wards directing me to an article talking about why this was impor­tant, at no charge!

Do you think I even consid­ered asking anyone for a second quote? There was no reason to check anyplace else. The owner hit all my buttons. He started with being knowl­edge­able, then he listened, then he demon­strated compe­tency, then he HELPED me, then I bought. I could have gone to Amazon (yes they have A/C units on Amazon) but it wouldn’t be worth it.

Our inter­ac­tion was win (he made his company, even his entire profes­sion looks good) — win (he made the referrer look good) — win (I was super happy) — win (he was happy to have gained a life­long customer) — win (the world now has one more effi­cient A/C unit).

People 1st Mindset — How Inbound Organizations Think

People first is more than a cliché, and it is super hard to imple­ment at scale. Understanding that the orga­ni­za­tion must constantly change, and then supporting the team with people who can make smart deci­sions on their own, requires a process where you attract and train the right type of people. Smart orga­ni­za­tions realize that they must put people first. Buyers are not prey for the hunter. They are people that are over­worked, busy, stuck in their smart phones, doing more with less in a down­sized and outsourced world, and you need their consent to market to them. And you better be all about them, and not your features and prod­ucts.

Do not target marketing to them by thinking they care about outdated demo­graphic segmen­ta­tion. Target the social-media connected commu­ni­ties that share the common prob­lems you best solve, which they are waiting anxiously for you to solve.

In an age of tough compe­ti­tion, a broad-based marketing “shotgun” approach does not address the prob­lems people have. Putting people first aligns you with their outcomes and their results.

Online Engagement Drives the Buyer Journey — How Inbound Organizations Get Found

93% of all B2B purchases start with an Internet search.

84% of all buyers engage in online infor­ma­tion consump­tion and educa­tion.

This idea should not be shocking. Can the right people find you when they are looking for answers online? And if they do find you, what do they see? Perhaps a catalog of prod­ucts or answers to their ques­tions? Marketing fluff content? Or do they find answers to ques­tions about pricing, compe­ti­tion, compar­isons, ratings, reviews, how-to’s, what-to-do’s, and ROI calcu­la­tions?

If you are not building an online portal centered on your website you are missing the most-active, lowest-cost, highest-return marketing going. Your online pres­ence allows you to build a conver­sa­tion, drive engage­ment, and meet people where they want to be met, with the answers they want to find.

Once again, this isn’t contro­ver­sial as a stand-alone fact. Everyone wants a good website. But making your website the best sales­person in your company and putting time, effort, and money and making your digital strategy the foun­da­tion of your SMarketing is not insignif­i­cant, but it is the only way to scale.

Differentiation by Customer Experience — How Inbound Organizations Innovate

A help everyone atti­tude with a people first mindset enabled by online engage­ment allows compa­nies to deliver a truly outstanding customer expe­ri­ence and create lasting differ­en­ti­a­tion through marketing inno­va­tion. Customer success is driven by the align­ment of all customer-facing people with the helping strategy. Everyone must buy in.

And one bad expe­ri­ence for the customer ruins it for the entire orga­ni­za­tion when people buy your prod­ucts and services at Internet speed. Create an expe­ri­ence that puts them at the center. Self-service is good service. Let the customer choose the pace and the process. Your job is to give them the right info at the right time, and help them manage the convo­luted buying journey they are on.

In the past, an extra­or­di­nary customer expe­ri­ence was only for those that bought luxury items or went to the best places. People now expect this level of expe­ri­ence in every­thing. Part of this is driven by increased compe­ti­tion, part of this is driven by our short atten­tion span (prob­ably driven by our phones). Part of this is driven by the tech­nology that provides an easy way to deliver a better solu­tion.

Your Biggest Risk

Understanding the under­lying PACE of change in the 21st century creates a chal­lenge for busi­ness leaders. In the old days (1990’s), trying new tech­nolo­gies was frequently viewed as a risk. Today, standing pat is your biggest threat. Your compe­ti­tion pales in compar­ison to the threat of completely missing your audi­ence, losing the oppor­tu­nity to help, and delaying your entry into the new world. Are they moving, changing, asking new ques­tions, searching in new places, looking for new answers, and you don’t even know it? Probably. Will that change this year? Most defi­nitely. Will you be prepared? It depends.

I would chal­lenge you to ask these two ques­tions:

Is your industry more compet­i­tive over last 5 years, and do you think that will funda­men­tally change over the next 5 years?

Are Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, or another disrupter looking to enter your industry? And if the answer to this ques­tion right now is no, then the next ques­tion is — when will they be?

You may have heard of Inbound Marketing and maybe even Inbound Sales, but to succeed today and beyond, becoming an Inbound Organization will set you apart in the eyes that matter the most; the person that needs your help and will be buying from you.

In the next install­ment of the Inbound Organization, we will discuss the steps you can take to make your website an online portal for actively helping your target audi­ence.

Todd Hockenberry is the owner of Top Line Results, a marketing and sales consulting company special­izing in helping compa­nies answer the ques­tion "How do we grow our busi­ness in an age of changing buyer behavior, digital disrup­tion, and tough compe­ti­tion".

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