Before I even knew what the term “inbound” meant or understood how the concept worked, I was on the receiving end of an inbound marketing campaign. Yep, I was someone’s target persona.
As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to hone my craft, and when I finally gave myself a deadline to finish a book manuscript I had been working on for an embarrassingly long time, I decided I needed some motivation to make it happen. I knew there were writing workshops and clinics held across the country and determined it was just what I needed to give me a virtual kick-in-the-behind, but I had no idea where to start or which one would best serve my needs.
So Began My Search…
On Google, of course. My research led me to consider two viable options. For each, I read helpful blog posts along with information on courses and seminars offered. Like any good target persona, I dutifully filled out a form to receive notifications of new content and opportunities to keep learning.
After signing up with option #1, I was quickly inundated with multiple emails, sometimes several times a day. There was the occasional link to an educational blog post, but most of them were trying to get me to purchase an online course... Sign up now! Don’t wait! Register before midnight for your discount! Only four hours left! Only two hours left! We’ve extended the deadline...
In my personal buyer’s journey, I had barely crossed over the border from the awareness phase and entered a new land—the consideration phase. I was still getting the lay of the land, exploring the terrain, learning and trying to determine which route was best for me. Instead of being guided on my buyer’s journey and nurtured with information that would help me navigate a new and unfamiliar path, I was constantly being told what to do and where to go. It felt like I had been lured into a back alley to be shown fake watches sewn to the inside lining of some guy’s trench coat, where every interaction was a sleazy and empty promise-filled sales pitch. I was annoyed. Actually, I felt accosted, and it didn’t take me long to lose trust and back-track to safer ground. I unsubscribed.
The Result of Poorly Executed Inbound Marketing
It’s this type of approach to inbound marketing (and marketing in general) that’s resulted in marketers being among the least trusted people on the planet, ranking lower than politicians and used car salesmen according to Sam Mallikarjunan, Harvard professor and Principal Marketing Strategist at Hubspot.
I’m not alone in my negative feelings toward marketers, and the data backs it up:
- 86% of people skip TV ads
- 91% unsubscribe to email
- 44% of direct mail is never opened
- 200 million are on the do not call list
My experience showed that option #1 had clearly not mapped out their buyer’s journey, and it resulted in me following the lead of many of those in the list above and getting off that particular inbound bus.
Build Trust with Your Potential Buyer
Inbound marketing has incredible potential to engage customers in ways that traditional advertising tactics of the past could not. A strategic online campaign can attract prospects, guide them on a buyer’s journey and convert them into sales qualified leads.
I mentioned that I considered two options to learn more. What was my experience with option #2?
After signing up for emails, I was sent a non-threatening welcome email along with occasional free and insightful content. I watched videos, downloaded eBooks and absorbed the content like a sponge. After clicking on a link in my inbox and reading an article, I received another email a couple days later asking me what I thought about it, along with a link to another relevant topic that built upon the previous content. I truly was getting valuable information. More importantly, I felt I was cared for and that their main goal was to help me reach mine.
They earned my trust, motivated me, got me excited about the possibilities and helped me feel confident that I really could do this—I really could write a book. So, when the gentle email arrived in my inbox telling me about a conference in Chicago where I could hear from best-selling authors, get inspired and receive tools I needed to accomplish my dream, I couldn’t wait to go. And I did.
The difference? I was nurtured, not nagged.
The Bottom Line
Just as easily as it can engage an audience, a poorly executed inbound strategy can repel them. Sales and engagement are no longer the result of who can yell the loudest through your TV screen. The same is true in inbound marketing. Stop annoying your customer by yelling at them and telling them what to do. Instead, guide them along their natural path and show some good old-fashioned courtesy. Provide substance and value, and put all that shameless promotion to the wayside.
You might be wondering… did the conference work? Did I ever reach my goal of writing and publishing that book? Well, lets just say that I’m glad I didn’t let the experience with option #1 discourage me. Since then, Amazon and I have become good friends.