The last time I bought something after watching a TV commercial was in 1991: I was so mesmerized by the new “Cyndi Roller-Derby”, with her cute dress, tiny rollerblades, and shiny blonde locks, that I raced upstairs, raided my piggy bank and rushed out to the nearest toystore.
The last time I bought something after searching online and reading several reviews, articles, and FAQs was last week: I needed new pillows and, after a Google search for “the best pillows for stiff necks”, I found the perfect company who supplied me with the perfect pillows.
Traditional, intrusive outbound marketing tactics such as TV commercials, cold calls, paid ads, junk mail and billboards no longer work in this noisy, crowded marketplace we live in. Self-education and softer inbound marketing techniques such as FAQs, blogs, videos and customer reviews do work: Over 70% of consumers will make a decision to buy a product or service based on the content they’ve found, watched or read.
So, outbound is OUT and inbound is IN: But what type of inbound marketing content should you create? Where should you put it? And how do you get shoppers to see it?
An inbound marketing agency will give you the answers to all these questions, and more. But with over 5,523 inbound marketing agencies out there, some charging between $4K-15K per month for their services, is it worth hiring one?
Let’s find out as we work our way through this Wordsmiths, Inc. post and cover the following topics:
- What is an inbound marketing agency?
- What does an inbound marketing agency do?
- 4 reasons to hire an inbound marketing agency
Ready for some self-education?
What is an inbound marketing agency?
An inbound marketing agency hires experts in all jurisdictions of inbound marketing and offers this expertise out to companies who need help and support with their inbound marketing activities.
But, before we get deep into what an inbound marketing agency is and what they can do for you, let’s quickly recap on what inbound marketing is.
Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing
The days of telemarketing, unsolicited blanket email campaigns and expensive print ads are gone. In fact, only 18% of marketers feel like this type of bold, in-your-face marketing generates the high-quality leads that they need.
Outbound marketers spend time and money chasing customers down and trying to push them into a sale with loud, intrusive marketing tactics such as TV commercials, billboards, cold calling and print ad campaigns.
By contrast, inbound marketers simply create and supply the relevant information to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.
This unintrusive marketing approach appeals to shoppers because the informative content offers them value. It doesn’t rush or push them into making a decision and it places the ball firmly in their court: Which is empowering, right?
Plus, if your content is right, your customers will come to you. And, because they’ve made the decision to choose you, it hasn’t been thrust upon them, they’ll be a better, higher-quality lead.
Now we’re clear on what inbound marketing is, we need to know how and where an inbound marketing agency fits into the picture.
What does an inbound marketing agency do?
As we’ve established, nowadays, customers prefer to self-educate themselves before they make a purchase. They want to find the information they need themselves and be in control of what, when, how and where they get their marketing messages.
So, inbound marketers need to create the right types of high-quality content and place it in exactly the right places so that their target audiences can find it, engage with it and act upon it.
I mean, how hard can that be?
Well, let’s see:
- Can you create, update and maintain an effective content strategy?
- Can you write informative, interesting and topical blog posts and publish them at least once a week?
- Do you know how to create and continually optimize web page copy?
- How about building engaging landing pages that generate interest and click-throughs?
- Have you got time to conduct interviews with customers and write them up into case studies?
- What about video production, do you have the skills and expertise to record, edit and publish top-class video content?
- Do you know how to get the maximum amount of engagement from your social media posts?
- Do you have the tools to report on key metrics and assess performance against objectives?
Let’s be honest, you could probably do most, if not all of these things. But have you got the skills, experience and time to make sure that the content you create and publish gets results? How do you know if something is working or not? That the work you do is effective at attracting, engaging and delighting prospects?
This is where hiring an inbound marketing agency will pay for itself three times over.
An inbound marketing agency is jam-packed full of experts in every inbound marketing discipline. From writing informative blog posts and creating engaging social content, to developing a long-term content strategy and reporting on key performance metrics.
They know exactly what content to create, how to get it in front of your prospects, how to engage them in the content they’ve created, and how to test, analyse and optimize it to make sure it performs against key metrics.
An inbound marketing agency can help its clients develop an effective content strategy that will increase visitors, prospects, leads and ultimately sales.
Take WordSmiths, Inc. for example. Specializing in SEO, guest posting, PR management, content marketing development and strategy and reporting analysis, they’re an inbound marketing agency that works with a variety of top brands such as Nissan, Sumo and Oracle to attract, retain and grow their customer base.
They spend time getting to know you, your business and your target market. They conduct research into how your prospects behave online, what their goals are, and what content they like and don’t like. They then build-out a strategy that’s aligned with your wider business goals and start creating effective content that will attract, engage and delight new customers.
If you’d like to find out a little more about Wordsmiths, Inc. and what they could do for you, why not drop them a line here?
In the meantime, let’s look closer at the capabilities that an inbound marketing agency like Wordsmith, Inc. can offer…
4 reasons to hire an inbound marketing agency
Imagine a storm took out the power in your apartment block. To fix it, would you go into the communal fuse box and fumble about with the wires yourself, or would you call in an expert who knows what they’re doing?
The same approach applies to hiring an inbound marketing agency to help you generate red-hot leads.
Reason to hire an inbound marketing agency #1: They are experienced, skilful experts
As we’ve established, inbound marketing is an umbrella term that covers a myriad of different types of marketing disciplines. And, an inbound marketing agency has specialists in every single one of these disciplines: From writers, videographers and web designers to UX, social media and SEO experts.
Whether it’s writing or web design, these specialists have been hired because they’re the best at what they do. They have a ton of experience and are highly skilled in their specialist areas.
Agencies can be cut-throat and competitive. They’re known for hiring only the best and cutting the deadwood out, in a flash. If they hire below-par people that can’t produce results for their clients, this reflects badly on the agency. There are no second chances in the marketing agency game, it’s too competitive. So, if you hire an inbound marketing agency, you can be sure that you’ll be getting the creme de la creme.
Reason to hire an inbound marketing agency #2: They meticulously track performance
The only way to tell if something is working or not is to set a benchmark and carefully monitor progress, right? But this continuous monitoring can be time-consuming, and it can also be difficult to tell if a piece of content is struggling or if it simply needs more time. And, how do you know if the content you’re creating is helping to develop and grow your business?
An inbound marketing agency has the tools, knowledge and time to be able to track every single piece of content that’s been created, analyse its performance and establish ways to continuously optimise it to make it as effective as possible.
They can also tie these performance metrics in with your own company-wide goals so you can clearly see how their work is affecting your wider business.
Reason to hire an inbound marketing agency #3: They are cost-effective
So, inbound marketing is a no-brainer: it gives you a higher ROI and leaves you with more budget to invest in a new website, a paid acquisition strategy or…an inbound marketing agency!
Hiring an inbound marketing agency takes the cost benefits of inbound marketing to another level.
When you consider that the average company spends around $4,000 to hire a new employee, and it takes an average of 24 days before a position is filled, it’s actually cheaper to employ an inbound marketing agency than it is to hire a whole new in-house marketing team.
“A full marketing team requires several professionals. You’re looking at roughly five or six positions to fill, which means five or six extra employees to add to your payroll (salary plus benefits). You’ll also need to fund the supplies and resources they need to perform their roles — i.e. computers, programs, applications, modules, cameras and other video production equipment, etc...” – Medium, 5 Benefits of Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency
Plus, with an in-house team, you have to spend time and money trying to recruit specialists in each area of inbound marketing. And, once you’ve got your team, to keep their skillsets relevant and effective, you’ll have to invest in regular training, seminars and conferences, and also pay for updates to the programs and applications they’re using. Also, to prevent them from jumping ship, you’ll have to work hard to retain them with perks, bonuses and salary increases.
With an inbound marketing agency, it’s just one monthly cost to pay for. You’ll get instant access to the best of the best, and you’ll be able to rely on the agency to keep their knowledge, skills and equipment up-to-date.
Reason to hire an inbound marketing agency #4: They free up your time
As a business owner or marketing professional, you want to focus on the tasks that will grow, expand, and improve the business. But if you want to execute a successful inbound marketing strategy you’ll also need to be all over tasks such as copywriting, graphic design, content management, SEO, data analysis, and social media management.
That’s a lot.
Inbound marketing agencies take the pressure, stress and responsibility out of creating effective content that generates leads. They spend time planning, creating, implementing, analyzing, tracking and optimising your inbound marketing content. And they are under immense pressure to deliver results that push your business forwards.
With all that off your plate, you have more time to focus on those higher ROI tasks that will drive you and your business forwards.
So there we have it: That’s what an inbound marketing agency can do that you, unfortunately, can’t!
Have you worked with an inbound marketing agency before? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
I’ve just spent $18,199 on a Kawasaki ULTRA 310LX jet ski. And I live nowhere near the sea.
Well. It started with a Facebook post advertising jet skis for sale.
Interest piqued (I’ve always wanted a jet ski), I then watched a video. Liking what I saw, I visited the Kawasaki website. Over the course of about two weeks, I consumed six blog posts, watched another three videos, read every single review I could find, and devoured the FAQ section.
Then, I bought it.
Ok, I might be slightly mad, but Kawasaki definitely isn’t.
It’s a well-known fact that content generates over three times as many leads as any other form of marketing – and I can completely understand why.
Throughout my entire jet ski journey with Kawasaki, I was provided with the right content at the right time, in the right format. This led me to purchase the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought (apart from my house).
How did they know what content to show me? How did they know when to show it? And how did they know how to serve it?
With a content map.
Which, coincidentally, is what this WordSmiths post is all about. So, join me as we find our way through the following topics:
- What a content map is & how it works
- How to create a content map in 5 simple steps
- Every content teams need a content map
Grab your compass and let’s get started.
What a content map is & how it works
A content map is like a road map. It lays out your customers’ journey, it highlights the places they’re likely to stop, and it tells you what content they need to see, to help them move forwards and continue their journey with you.
It’s a tool that helps you understand your audience better, and allows you to determine what content you need to produce to reach and engage them in the best way.
“It connects every piece of content to a stage of the customer journey and visualizes opportunities to better meet the needs of your audience.”Alexa Blog, How to Use Content Mapping to Create Effective Content
How does it do that?
How do content maps work?
Let’s imagine that content marketing is like driving a taxi. To pick up customers, you need two basic things: Headlights and fuel.
The headlights are your content map, guiding you forwards and enabling you to see which roads you need to take to reach your customers. And the fuel is the content you produce to help you get to the customers you want to pick up.
But, you can’t switch your headlights on and put fuel in your taxi without first knowing who you’re picking up and where they are.
Once you understand who your customer is and where they are in their journey with you, you can then work out the best way to reach them with the content you produce.
That’s what a content map is and how it works, but how do you create one?
How to create a content map in 5 simple steps
As we’ve established, a content map helps you understand what content you need to create to keep your customers moving through each stage of their journey with you.
And you can create one in five simple steps.
Creating a content map step #1: Develop buyer personas
“Buyer personas are frameworks that represent segments of your target audience.”Content Mapping: Save Time, Money & Dominate Your Competition, Strategy Beacon
To create content that meets your customer’s needs at every stage of their journey, you need to have an in-depth understanding of who your customers are.
Look at their demographics: How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do?
But don’t stop there.
Establish what their pain points, pet-hates, and problems are. Discover what they like, what they’re interested in, and what their opinions are. Find out how they act as consumers and what they’re looking to achieve.
Comb through Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. Read reviews and blog comments. Use social listening tools and start to build up detailed pictures of who your customers are.
These pictures will allow you to create targeted content that suits them, specifically.
Creating a content map step #2: Map out their buyer’s journey
Once you’ve got your buyer personas drawn up, you then need to map out the journey these buyers are likely to take with you. Work out what they’ll be thinking and how they’ll be behaving at each stage.
A customer will usually go through the following five stages on their buyer’s journey:
Stage 1. Awareness: This is the moment you catch the attention of your prospective customer.
Stage 2. Engagement: They’re now engaged with you and what you’re offering, but they’re not fully committed. They’re still shopping around and keeping their options open.
Stage 3. Evaluation: When they reach this stage it means they’re preparing to make their final decision and are evaluating their options: Do they or don’t they choose you?
Stage 4. Purchase: They’ve carefully made their choice and they’re now ready to make the transaction.
Stage 5. Post-purchase: They’ve made their purchase but they’re now looking for some added reassurance that they’ve made the right choice.
Your main aim is to keep your customers moving through these five stages of the buyer’s journey – which is where your content comes in…
Creating a content map step #3: Establish content for each stage of the buyer’s journey
“When the customer journey is laid out, it’s more clear what content you should create to attract, nurture, and guide customers during their journey.”Alexa Blog, How to Use Content Mapping to Create Effective Content
Now you know what your customers are likely to go through on their journey with you, it’s time to look at what content you need to produce to keep them moving through each stage of their journey.
Your content needs to achieve several different things at several different points. It needs to capture their attention, keep them engaged, provide clarity to aid decision-making, make it easy for them to purchase, and offer them reassurance.
So, unfortunately, a couple of blog posts and a video or two won’t cut it.
Let’s revisit the customer’s buyer journey and establish what types of content you should offer, to keep them moving onto the next stage.
Content for stage 1: Awareness
At this stage, your customer knows little about you. They’re likely to be curious and have a lot of questions that need answering.
To satisfy their curiosity, create a range of informative content, like the following for example:
- Buying guides
- How-to guides
- Industry reports
- How-to videos
- Social media posts
Give your customers the information they’re looking for in a digestible, easy-to-find way.
Content for stage 2: Engagement
This is where you need to work hard to keep your customer interested. They need to stay engaged with you and your product otherwise you’ll lose them to the competition.
Make sure you have plenty of interactive, engaging content like short, snappy videos with valuable messages or interactive newsletters with strong CTA’s. Social media campaigns driving traffic to your website could work too.
Anything to keep your customers engaged.
Content for stage 3: Evaluation
Did you know that 65% of consumers spend over 16 minutes comparison shopping before making a purchase?
To stand any sort of chance against your competitors, you need to cover the basics. Make sure your offering is understandable, your benefits are clear, your USP is strong, and your price is competitive.
Customers at this stage of their journey will be looking for details. They’ll be on the hunt for further information. They’ll want to know why you’re better than the rest and how you can help them, specifically.
Targeted content in these formats works well for customers in this stage:
- Reviews and testimonials
- Landing pages
- Case studies
- Demo videos
- Free samples
Prove to your customer that you’re the best option. Help them to see why you’re the answer to their problems by giving them enough information to help them through to the next stage.
Content for stage 4: Purchase
Your customer has carefully considered their options and they’ve chosen you. But, it’s not a done deal yet. There’s still time for your customer to get cold feet and back out of the purchase.
Content at this stage needs to make your customers feel even more confident about their decision to choose you. Make sure targeted ‘How-to guides’ and FAQs are visible for last-minute questions and customer reviews and testimonials are on hand for last-minute worries.
Content for stage 5: Post-purchase
Congratulations! Your customer has made it through their buyer’s journey. But it doesn’t end here. This is where their next journey with you starts: Their customer success journey (that’s another story for another time).
Despite what you might think, this stage is the most important part of the buyer’s journey.
“Because it’s far easier and roughly 5 times cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one”Power, How to Deliver Value at Every Stage of the Customer Journey
This is where you need to maintain the trust you’ve worked so hard to build up. After they’ve made a purchase, you need to follow it up with them. Show them that you care by checking that they’re happy and asking for their feedback.
Content like this would be a good idea to create for this stage:
- Testimonial requests
- Discounts for future purchases
Show your customers that they’re worth more to you than a simple sale.
Creating a content map step #4: Catalog your existing content
You now know what content you need to produce for each stage of the buyer’s journey. But, what content have you already got?
This step is all about auditing your existing content and assigning each piece of content to the appropriate stage of the buyer’s journey. You need to do this so that you don’t a) duplicate any content, and b) waste time recreating unnecessary content.
This is a great example of how you can catalog your existing content and map it to the right phase of the buyer’s journey:
Creating a content map: Step #5: Fill the gaps & create targeted content
Now for the fun bit!
Once you’ve mapped the content you have to the various stages of the buyer’s journey, you’ll be able to see where the gaps in your content are and what you need to create to fill them.
Creating new content can take up a lot of time and resources, but you don’t need to create brand new content assets to fill every gap in your content map.
Look for ways to repurpose what you have and use it in other stages of the buyer’s journey. Or, use a tool to centralize your content assets and sync them to your content calendar so you can schedule and distribute the right content to the right channels, at the right time.
So, that’s what a content map is, that’s how it works, and that’s how to create one. But, we still need to establish why…
Every content team needs a content map
“Leads nurtured with targeted content produce an increase in sales opportunities of more than 20%.”Power, How to Deliver Value at Every Stage of the Customer Journey
As we’ve established you can create a content map easily, in five simple steps.
But why? Why do it?
A content map gives you an overview of all the content you have, it helps you identify pot-holes in your content strategy, and it makes sure that every single piece of content you produce is created with a purpose and is optimized to serve that purpose.
It takes the guesswork out of content creation. You won’t waste time writing ineffective blog posts or unnecessary landing pages because you’ll know exactly how to reach your audience with the right content, at the right time, and in the right way.
Content mapping provides you with a deep insight into your customers and offers you the opportunity to improve interactions with them.
“With the customer in power, marketing doesn’t work without a target. You need to align your content to the buyer’s journey.”Conductor, What Is a Content Map? The Definitive Guide
And there we have it. That’s what a content map is, that’s how you can use it to reach your customers in a powerful and effective way, and that’s why I bought a jet ski when I live nowhere near the sea!
Have you ever made a content map? Let us know how you manage your content in the comments below! 👇
1937 Hemp Store is an eCommerce store that provides hemp products and botanically derived items to discerning health and beauty consumers.
As an eCommerce business traffic is valuable, but keeping that traffic around is even more so. 1937 Hemp Store needs to drive traffic to its website in a consistent stream and convert it when it arrives into sales.
Our job at WordSmiths, Inc. is to find ways to boost sales, starting with content.
What are the goals of the campaign?
The goals are simple enough:
- Increase traffic and domain authority for the site.
- Increase sales in a consistent and repeatable manner.
- Increase retention signals to build the store’s returning audience.
Each of these goals leads onto the next.
Our first task was to build the website up and get it to a point where it could compete in an increasingly competitive area of digital real estate.
Once in a position where the website had a degree of recognized authority within its niche, we were able to focus much more heavily on driving sales and assessing our successes through monthly recurring revenue rather than unique visits.
After seeing that uptick in sales it became important to not just continue the system which brings sales in, but to look to how further optimization can be achieved. One area of super importance to any ecommerce business is returning customers.
Therefore we wanted to see signals of retention start to tick upwards before we could sign off on hitting our first set of goals. Examples of some of the retention signals we reviewed:
- Increasing return rate as tracked through analytics
- Subscribers to the blog’s email list
- Increasing follow and engagement rates on social
How did we achieve the goals?
There have been lots of techniques and approaches used with 1937 Hemp Store and they’ve proven incredibly successful. However, two key areas stand out:
- Know your customer
- Trusted storytelling
With a consumer facing ecommerce company it is vital to know who you’re selling to, where they are, and why they’re buying. Only then can you input the “what” and “how much”.
Know your customer
For 1937 Hemp Store, there were a number of audiences who were known to be interested in hemp products. Some of these audience groups overlapped and some of them didn’t.
There is also global appeal for these products and an ecommerce store is in a good position to service that – so we had to consider overlapping geographies, and whether to universalize marketing efforts or tailor them.
After an assessment of available sales data and long conversations with the 1937 Hemp Store senior leadership we felt confident that the core audience could be quite defined, while not being homogenous.
This led to targeting a discerning customer profile who was interested in health and beauty and based in the US. The gender balance leans towards female, but not exclusively. The language balance skews towards English, but bilingualism (especially Spanish) is prevalent.
This audience knowledge helped us not only in amping up the rustic Americana aesthetic but also in selecting our topics, keywords, and approaches.
All content marketing is storytelling whether we like it or not. The key is to both like it and embrace it.
For 1937 Hemp Store the opportunity is to tell the right story to the right people. The obvious story every ecommerce store tries to tell is that their product is good and will make you happy – there or thereabouts.
The problem with that approach is it won’t work on all audiences. Some audiences need fast-talking and even slicker writing. Others need to be scared into a purchase. The audience of 1937 Hemp Store are typically coming to the content and to the store as practically subject-matter-experts compared to many other consumer products.
Certain consumer products gain genuine interest and strong feelings from their audience. The audience for 1937 Hemp Store know if they’re being oversold or mis-sold.
We chose instead to give them quality advice as if it comes from a highly informed friend. We chose to use a tone that didn’t patronize or talk down to the audience. We chose to source claims from reputable scientific sources.
This article on botanicals for health and wellness illustrates this through a deep dive into the subject area with continual sourcing of academic papers. Yet despite the high-brow sourcing, the content remains light and friendly – taking the reader on a journey through the world of botanicals and ultimately ending up at the store.
The end results: Increased traffic and a higher proportion of sales
Through knowing the customer better, we were able to increase not only traffic but the proportion of traffic which turned into a sale.
This dual benefit meant that sales were increasing at a far faster rate than before, while the stability of content marketing meant that the product team were able to make more efficient buying decisions thanks to having greater predictive sales analytics.
On top of this, repeat customers are on the rise and our next campaign will focus on increasing this engagement further while driving that traffic higher and higher.
Our work with 1937 Hemp Store has been a strong success so far and we’re excited to continue our relationship with them now the growth potential has been proven out.
“We would not be in business if it wasn’t for content marketing. The content marketing strategy that Wordsmiths, Inc. has put together and implemented for our ecommerce business is our primary source of sales.”Liliana Cisneros, CEO, 1937 Hemp Store