How can digital marketing increase sales? If you’re a marketer, business owner or entrepreneur you’ve probably wrestled with this question.
It’s a completely understandable problem. With all the internet noise about digital marketing tactics, trends and tools out there, it’s very easy to see how anyone can get lost and confused over what strategies to implement for their unique needs.
I personally believe it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Hopefully, I can inspire you and shed some light on a few basic principles through the practical example I’ll be outlining in this article.
But first, let's take a look at how marketing has fundamentally changed in the digital age.
Historically, marketing has been done the following way: Establish your target audience demographics and tell as many of them as you can about how great your product or service is through cold selling.
Well, back in the day, it kind of worked, provided you had a nice fat marketing budget to pour into unidirectional, outbound channels like TV, radio, and newspapers.
The more money you had, the more people you could tell. And unless your competitors were shouting louder than you, your audience had no choice but to believe you.
Today's customer is very different.
Since the internet came along and broke all the rules, customers have all the power. They can easily ask their own questions, compare you to your competitors and read the reviews of their friends or other customers.
They don't care about your business or offering. They care about what's best for them and who they can trust.
And therein lies the key.
Trust is the currency of the internet.
In his book, "They Ask You Answer", Marcus Sheridan explains how studies have shown that 70% of a buying decision is made before a prospect contacts the business.
That stat includes B2B and B2C companies.
This means that only once your audience has decided that they trust you enough, will they contact you with any real intent to buy anything from you.
As marketers, our role needs to change from telling our customers how wonderful our offering is to one of earning their trust as they embark on their journey of making a purchasing decision.
This approach to digital marketing is called inbound marketing.
It's a conversation between an organization and the customer rather than one-way marketing communication.
The customer has challenges and goals followed by various questions, while the company adopts genuine empathy to help customers get the answers they seek at every stage of the buyer journey.
So how do we practically go about understanding what questions our customers have? And how do we answer them in a way that builds trust through digital marketing?
Although the approach I'm about to discuss can be used in most industries, let's pretend we're a real estate business wanting to market to home buyers.
We'll begin by creating customer personas or avatars for the various 'types' of home buyers we may have.
This will really help us zone in on specific buyers that have different goals and challenges when buying a home. For example, we could have first time home buyers, growing families who need to upscale or elderly people needing to downscale.
These avatars will be where we document all the demographic and psychographic info for each type of home buyer.
Let's focus on first time home buyers for simplicity's sake.
Although demographics will become super handy for targeting our audience in our digital marketing campaigns, psychographics, like our chosen persona's challenges and goals, will offer the most value for now.
But where do we get this information?
A great way to get started is to chat with our sales team. Salespeople are on the front lines of customer engagement. Their unique insight into the pains and goals of our customers will be invaluable.
Other data like customer surveys, live-chat records and questions your audience are asking you or your competitors on social media channels is exceptionally useful. While digital tools like Ubersuggest or AnswerThePublic provide great insight into questions asked by customers in search engines.
For example, submitting the keyword "buying a house" in Ubersuggest reveals a great list of commonly asked questions prospective home buyers are typing into search engines around this topic.
Submitting the same keyword into AnswerThePublic generates a rich treasure trove of the customer psyche.
For simplicity's sake let's isolate three goals or challenges faced by first time home buyers.
I selected these three for a very specific reason.
Remember we discussed the fact that the buyer journey begins way before the prospect contacts a company or in this case, real estate agent? Well, each of these fit into one of the first three stages of the buyer journey.
The buyer journey can be broken up into 4 stages: Awareness, consideration, decision and loyalty.
In the awareness stage, the buyer first becomes aware of their need to buy a home. Being a first-time home buyer they would probably do some research on the process of buying a house.
In the consideration stage, the buyer is researching the options available to reach their goal. They may want to figure out if they can afford a bond (mortgage).
In the decision stage, the buyer is armed with all the information they need and it's time to decide which real estate agent they should go with.
I’ll discuss the loyalty stage a little later.
As you can see, each of the goals and challenges of our persona falls onto one of the first 3 stages of the buyer journey. It provides the insight and opportunity we need to begin building their trust.
And this leads us to the next step: content marketing.
Content marketing is about creating content our audience will gain high value from.
In other words, it's precisely the kind of content they need to satisfy their questions based on their goals and challenges, assisting them on their journey to buying a home.
This content is given to our persona - completely free.
Two very powerful things happen as a result:
As humans, we're wired to like and trust somebody who's given us something of value for free, no strings attached.
Secondly, we'll become an expert or authority on our chosen content topic in the mind of the consumer.
Based on our persona's desire to understand the process of buying a house in the awareness stage, we could create an ebook titled "Buying a House in South Africa: The Ultimate Guide".
The ebook could cover everything a potential buyer needs to know about buying a home and how to avoid common pitfalls. This is valuable content for anyone who may be a first-time home buyer.
Alternatively, we can create video content or write a blog post on the same topic. It all depends on our persona's favourite way to consume content. Something else that needs to be documented in our avatars.
This brings us to the next step. Content promotion.
We now have an awesome content piece in place and it's time to get it in front of our audience in the awareness stage.
A great idea is to add it to our website as part of your overall SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy, especially since the keyword phrase, "process to buying a house," was prominent in our keyword research earlier.
Although we should do this, ranking for this content may take a little time and traffic won't necessarily start pouring in right away.
This is where social media and advertising platforms like Google Ads or YouTube shine. They help to get your content in front of the right people quickly.
It really helps to have your buyer personas at the ready for this.
Demographics are a great guide for targeting on digital marketing platforms. And your personas should also document where your market is. It doesn't help to target Facebook if your market is on LinkedIn.
With Google search ads you'll be targeting searcher intent which is highly targeted by default.
Great, so now you have the right people consuming content that's of value to them. Our trust-building efforts with our audience are well on their way.
What do we do next?
The straightforward answer is: Keep driving value.
It may take a little while before our prospect actually decides to buy a house. Wouldn't it be a shame if they simply left our site after consuming the content we worked so hard to produce and that's where the conversation ended?
We'd hope that our content was memorable enough for them to reach out to us when they're ready to buy a home. But there are no guarantees.
So, we'd need to package our awareness content a little more smartly.
What if instead of giving prospects immediate access to the content - we gated it? This strategy is called a lead magnet in marketing circles.
We'd still make it available for free but for the small price of the prospect's email address. We can then set up an automated email that delivers the ebook.
To do this we set up a landing page on our website.
According to Unbounce, a landing page is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign.
There are various excellent free or paid tools we can use to set up the functionality we require. Unbounce itself, along with Hubspot, Leadpages and Mailchimp are all great options but a quick Google search will reveal a whole host of other quality tools.
The landing page we create should communicate the benefits our prospect will receive from the content and provide the form to sign up for it.
Something important just happened.
We now have the ability to continue the conversation with our prospect because we have their email address.
And this brings us to the next stage of the buyer journey, the consideration stage.
In the consideration stage, our buyers are exploring the options available for buying a house after educating themselves on what that process looks like in the awareness stage.
One of our psychographic findings for the consideration stage was our persona's need to find out if they could afford bond (mortgage) repayments.
True to our inbound approach to digital marketing, we're going to resist the temptation to blast off sales emails to our prospects right away. Instead, we'll send them exactly what they need.
A few days after the buyer signed up to receive our original ebook, we’ll send another automated email containing a helpful link to a bond (mortgage) calculator on our website.
In fact, we can drip feed a whole series of emails in an automated workflow over time, continuing to address more pain points in the consideration stage, driving value and taking the conversation forward with the prospect.
This process of continuing to add value is called lead nurturing. We gain the lead in the awareness stage and we continue to be the helpful hero, guiding the buyer on their journey, building trust and increasing the likelihood that they will use our real estate business when they're ready to buy.
The next stage in the buyer journey is the decision stage.
This is when the buyer is deciding on their real estate agency of choice. By now we should have built up some trust with the prospect. But just to make sure, we need to add some social proof to our site.
Social proof is content aimed at addressing concerns or questions buyers have in the decision stage.
Here we could create a real-life case study along with the testimonial of a former happy customer. This could also form part of our automated email workflow.
Hopefully, it's plain to understand how this customer-focused, value-driven, inbound approach to digital marketing is the smarter way to market, build trust and increase sales. A quick Google search for inbound vs outbound sales statistics reveals several sources that back up this strategy.
Here are just a few stats I found on Spotio:
"46% of marketers reported that inbound marketing gave a higher ROI, while only 12% reported outbound did.
When asked which marketing tactic provides higher quality leads for the sales team, 59% of marketers responded inbound, and 16% reported outbound.
47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of the company’s content before talking with a sales representative."
Before I end off, I mentioned that there’s another stage in the buyer journey, the loyalty stage. In our example, this would be when the buyer has been through the process of buying a house and then hopefully, they become an advocate for your brand.
If a positive experience on their digital journey is backed up by a helpful and efficient sales process, brand advocacy is something that should happen naturally.
You also can leverage that positive experience by asking happy customers to place a review on your website or social platforms.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, I’d love to answer any questions you may have in the comments below. I hope this was valuable and all the best in increasing your sales through digital marketing.