Great Inbound Marketing Tells a Story

Matt Fenn ,

Great inbound marketing tells your story over time and over interactions, it builds your brand’s personality in thoughtful and engaging ways.

Easier said than done? Maybe, but if you start by developing a strong persona for your buyer it gets much easier to think beyond a basic ‘bait and trap’ gated content approach and instead develop empathy with your buyers and explore and resolve their problems in ways that build trust.

In the short term you can resolve their problems by supplying useful information to help them research, you can also demonstrate how you have solved the problems of others through testimonials.

Don't forget that what we are aiming to do is engineer an effective nurture process that builds trust and that can come in many forms. Education is important, giving access to your products and services in the form of trials, demonstrations and consultations also works well because it’s hands on and builds familiarity and preference.

Understanding your audience

Most importantly the things you offer need to be the right things for your buyers, an inappropriate offer will make people question whether the product is really right for them or is it aimed at someone else? Getting your content and marketing mechanisms tuned to a well understood persona gives customers reassurance that they ‘are in the right place’ and increases the material’s effectiveness.

There’s an interesting pattern that has emerged in the field of software (more specifically web application development) where a web agency finds they have a specific problem that they face over and over again and so they build software to solve their own problem and then go on to sell their solution to others.

This is famously the case for 37 Signals who developed Basecamp and Highrise to solve their own project management and CRM frustrations. The success of 37 Signals through their web applications is interesting because it highlights the importance of being aligned to your buyers.

They were their buyers.

They understood implicitly the frustrations, bottlenecks and duplication involved with traditional project management and set about fixing it.

In solving their own problems they solved them for others. Which aligns them perfectly with their buyers, but perhaps more importantly it gives them a story to tell.

“Hey, I’m trying out Basecamp to manage my projects, it’s from these guys in Chicago who built it themselves to simplify and improve how projects are managed”


“I use Office.”

Having a story around what you do makes it interesting and easier to pass on.

Understanding your story

Having a strong and appropriate story you can communicate with your buyers has 2 main parts and understanding these can help you to create and enrich marketing messages at each step of your buyers journey.

1. Shared goals

Ultimately, as long as you can solve the problems your buyers are experiencing you’re in the ball park. Demonstrating a strong shared viewpoint with your buyers will encourage trust because they know that you share their pain and can help.

Marketing communication about what a company is doing, where it is doing it and how much money and success is being generated is of little-to-no interest to most buyers, it’s important not to be the party bore who’s most interested in talking only about themselves. You’ll find all of the interesting people talk about you rather than themselves. Go figure.

Everyone likes to feel understood, to know that there are others who share their problems and can help when needed.

Think about the marketing materials you are creating right now and ask yourself whether you are really demonstrating how you focus on your customer’s needs and how you have improved experiences and solved their problems.

Then think about their buying process, the steps each person goes through from initial research to closing a sale, how do you identify the stage each person is at and engage with them using meaningful content or process?

2. Why do we do it? Money or meaning?

Taking your story beyond resolving needs can make a massive difference to the value and strength of your brand.

Do you have a company culture or history that will enrich and add depth to the way you communicate? Apple champions clear simple design, Rolls-Royce became an embodiment of engineering excellence. These traits become apparent through all of their interactions, and help us to understand and trust them.

Personality is important as it humanises your interactions and gives context to the activity you undertake.

We are all used to interacting with other people and we tend to use the same weights and measures we apply to people when thinking about companies, the challenge from the company’s side of this conversation as how we remain attentive, helpful and nurturing when dealing with potential customers on a large scale.

The irony is that it’s only through the use of marketing automation technology that we can really tell our stories and humanise our relationships.

Images courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg, Basecamp, Apple.

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