Adding Context to Inbound Marketing: Trends and Implementation Steps
Creating valuable content and distributing it across targeted channels has long become one of the golden rules of SEO. Unsurprisingly, businesses both large and small have started taking content production more seriously, replacing generic link building practices with clever inbound marketing practices.
Looking at the current industry trends, the numbers definitely speak in favor of inbound marketing. The latest CMI report reveals that 93% of marketers employed a particular content marketing strategy in 2014, while HubSpot’s State of Inbound reports that more than three-quarters of companies practice inbound marketing in some form.
Therefore, if you’re trying to take advantage of inbound marketing, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling to make it work for your business, you’re even less so.
Companies struggle to put inbound marketing into practice
Despite their wish to provide visitors with accurate and engaging information, many companies fail to make inbound marketing work for them. This phenomenon can be regarded as a consequence of small businesses’ attempt to keep the pace with the ever-changing marketing trends. One of most common mistakes they make is trying to reach a wider audience by producing generalized content instead of customizing their topics to win a particular audience segment.
Considering that 8 out of 10 people identify themselves as blog readers, engaging online users with relevant posts is low hanging fruit companies are missing out on.
In order to employ emotional appeal to the information they distribute, marketers need to be familiar with the differences between the notions of content, context and inbound marketing. Namely, although often used interchangeably, content marketing and inbound marketing are said to differ in a single most important component – context. This implies that an effective inbound marketing strategy can be achieved only with the proper contextualization of content, which should rely on a research-based approach.
Contextualization of marketing
One of the key factors in planning an assertive content marketing strategy is its contextualization. However, in order to understand the importance of this method, you need to know what the difference between inbound and context marketing is.
While inbound marketing is a practice of creating meaningful content to attract visitors, context marketing can be defined as a philosophy that drives a compelling content strategy. It is a set of practices that help you to create presentable, relevant and readable information by using something you already know about your target audience. Even if it is pervasive, context defines your visitors and shapes the content they want to read.
For all these reasons, experienced marketers believe contextualization is paramount for a successful communication with prospects and customers. Back in 2013, HubSpot outlined several key areas where contextualization should be applied:
- Context across all the company departments. What happens when a potential customer communicates with you via social media, visits your website or contacts your sales team? They get the same, generic content over and over again. This issue can be explained by the lack of marketers’ experience in appeasing the emotional appeal with their content properly. Although most businesses have resorted to targeted emails as a less intrusive way of addressing their audience, sometimes this is not enough. Obviously, in order to make your external communications fully effective, you need to infuse context throughout the entire business.
- Contextualizing marketing. It is widely known that people are always drawn by content that is relevant to them. A current reference that supports this statement is the research done by Custom Content Council, which states that 69% of consumers liked customer marketing that targeted their interests. This is exactly why many B2B businesses have started creating content specifically tailored to address concerns of the target demographic.
- Contextualizing sales. Most marketers strongly believe that sales also need to be upgraded in order to deliver the same level of relevance. The abovementioned study done by Custom Content Council shows that 61% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers a custom content. The personalized way of checking in has already proved to be more subtle than a regular one. It enables companies to make calls to their potential customers timely and meaningful. Apart from using various marketing tools for integrating context in your sales, you need to be intentional and systematic as well.
- Contextualizing customer service and support. According to Biz Report, four out of five companies say that they do not involve context in their marketing campaign. However, context in your customer service means never asking your customers to repeat something they have already said. At the same time, it is based on providing them with relevant information only. Remember, the future of inbound marketing lies in extending consistent content and appealing to your customers’ attitudes.
Considering the perspectives of online users, it is clear why generic, one-post-to-fit-them-all content can hardly bring results. Instead, businesses should get to know their audience and organize content production in accordance with the interests of people they aim to cater to.
In relation to online marketing, audience segmentation is defined as a process of separating target demographic into smaller, more homogenous groups with similar traits and requirements. Based on this, some specific characteristics will affect the way in which people perceive and understand different messages. During the very process of audience segmentation, therefore, numerous aspects need to be taken into consideration. Some of the most important ones include background culture, attitudes, behavior, the use of media, as well as common needs and priorities.
This statement is proved by the recent research of Chief Marketing Officers, which shows that 35% of CMOs interviewed believe custom content marketing is the basis of any future marketing strategy, as opposed to 19% of them surveyed in 2006. Additionally, even customers are familiar with its importance. Namely, 77% of consumers are aware that the company’s goal for content creation is to sell something to them.
Therefore, it is more than obvious that companies need to know who they are reaching out to so that they can build relevant and informative content that resonates with their customers’ needs. In order to achieve such a goal, marketers tend to rely on 13 basic marketing strategies, including social media content, whitepapers, blogs, case studies and many more.
Increased content personalization
Quite expectedly, numerous studies have explained that content built for the general public was proven to be ineffective for any of the surveyed groups. On the other hand, contextualized marketing that addresses the needs of a particular social group is believed to automatically raise the success rate of the entire campaign.
This is the main reason why content personalization is gradually gaining ground as one of most fruitful inbound marketing strategies. According to the CMI’s 2014 B2B content marketing research, 95% of all B2B marketers resort to segmenting content based on their target demographic. When it comes to tailoring content to your customers, there are numerous aspects that need to be taken into consideration:
- – Who are they?
- – Where are they located?
- – When, why and how do they access the content?
- – What device do they use to access the online content?
Although content personalization is believed to be the future of inbound marketing, numerous marketers consider it time-consuming and unpredictable endeavor. It is even questioned whether the associated returns are really worth such an effort. For instance, Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group states that “content marketing tends to be both longer-form and much less automated than other types of personalized digital marketing, such as email and banner ads.”
Even though its efficiency might be seen as deceptive, the future will bring more personalized inbound marketing campaigns in both enterprise and small-scale businesses. Moreover, experts suggest they will become an inevitable part of any fully-established content marketing campaign.
Yet, in order to be more than just a needlessly redundant exercise, this issue needs to be properly approached. According to CMI’s Ann Gynn, there are several vital things you should always keep in mind:
- Focus on individuals, not persona groups. However, this process cannot be reliable without a systematic approach, content and adequate technology.
- Keep innovating in order to provide your customers with the data they are interested in.
- Don’t go overboard, which requires investing in quality content that includes the information about the product, answers to visitors’ question, tips on how to use your product, styling insights and customer ratings.
- Make baby steps at first because small-scale business personalization takes time. Namely, employing dynamic personalization is a lot to take on in the very beginning. Of course, over time, you can expand content personalization and move it to a higher level.
- Curate content, which means merging the information you already have from email digest and build content on a personal basis.
- Understand your audience. Only when you get to know your customers will you be able to contextualize your content successfully.
With the inevitable development in the field of digital marketing, we can safely claim that we are crossing the technological milestone. In order to make your inbound marketing strategy more effective, your goal should be to deliver highly relevant, original and readable content that will attract and engage your customers. However, this can be achieved only with its contextualization that heavily influences the way in which your audience thinks, acts and, most importantly, makes a purchase. This way, you’ll be able to deliver the right content to the right people exactly where and when they need it.