Most companies need to rethink their approach to customers in terms of marketing. The world has gone digital, and so have the people. Today we experience constant change, and we see how well (or badly) companies adapt to it.

The term ‘inbound marketing’, developed by HubSpot in 2006, is based on the observation that many companies still use questionable techniques from outbound marketing (such as cold calling, spam e-mail or pop-up adverts) to boost their sales. Yet, as consumers, how many would like to be targeted in that way, and is it really that efficient?

A convincing argument

An Adobe study found out than about 200 million people now use an ad blocker while browsing, which represents a 41% increase compared to 2014 meaning that people are more aware of their data being used as a marketing tool. Does this mean that consumers are fed up with advertisements and that they don’t want to buy any more? I don’t think so.

People have become more demanding: if a company wants their customers to buy a particular product, they really have to convince them to do so. Indeed, consumers have so many ways of comparing products and services, with online reviews, price comparators and other ratings so easily accessible.

To be convinced, people want to be seduced by the originality, the freshness and the exclusivity of the product. Yet how can companies reinvent the way they sell?

One of the key factors is that consumers now want content.  They want to be told a story around the product, a story that makes them emotionally connected to the brand or the product, which will ultimately lead them to buy it in the end. It certainly takes more time and effort than placing some online ads, but it is worth it.

British watch brand Shore Projects – who have been using Instagram since their conception – exhibit great content on their account in order to both showcase their products and to tell their story through inspiring imagery and videos. In addition, they actively encourage their online fan base to tell their own stories through an online photography competition, #GoodTimes.

By creating content, a business can really get their customers to be interested and turn them into real makers in the buying process. It also enhances the image of the company itself, as people develop a special connection to it, and don’t get the impression of being ‘tracked’ for their purchasing power.

For example, developing a blog with relevant and engaging content makes a real difference, especially when consumers always struggle to focus on too many messages.

The London based real estate agent Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward has regained customer engagement by publishing a high-end magazine which showcases their properties, informs people about the market and works to establish the company as an authority in the industry. This content was enhanced and in 2012 The Completely London was named one of the top 10 brands in the UK.

The art of persuasion

Inbound marketing is also about persuasion or the art of changing a person’s mind through emotions and feelings. It means that the companies have to be attractive before, during and after the purchase. A company that provides a real dialogue with its customers seems more approachable and caring, hence increasing the probability of the customer buying again.

Putting customers at the centre of the company’s attention is essential so that customers feel that they are treated differently (and for the best). For example, in 2009 Ford chose 100 people to try out its new Fiesta model for six months, free of charge.

The customers just had to post reviews and pictures on different social media sites during the six month period. At the end of the campaign, Ford counted 6,000 pre-orders, more than six million YouTube views and 40 million Twitter impressions.

Do you know your customers?

This cannot be done, however, without having a multi-channel approach. Nowadays, customers that are interested in a company will use their preferred channel to get in touch, so the company has to be active on a lot of them.

For example, Oasis is an online clothing retail brand, but also has stores across the UK. Staff members working in the shops are all equipped with tablets, acting as a checkout as well as a database of information about products and stock information. Some other staff is also responding on social media in order to try to keep the customers engaged even when they are out of the shop.

As with everything, inbound marketing cannot be the only answer to increase sales and increase engagement. It can definitively be used to enhance customer experience, but is even more efficient when smartly combined with other outbound marketing techniques.