Inbound marketing – not just about convenience – but timing, content, and context


Inbound marketing was coined nearly a decade ago and as opposed to traditional outbound – or intrusive marketing if you may – inbound marketing seeks to eliminate disturbance in the buying process, allowing the potential customer to ‘design’ a truly personalized experience, delivering the right offer in the right channel at the right time.

Today more than ever, customers expect a personalized experience based on their individual needs and behavior regardless of touch point and channel of preference. Inbound marketing supersede traditional outbound marketing by far when talking about conversion rates and revenue derived.

10 times higher response rates
5 years ago, Peppers and Rogers argued that 50% of the customer decision-making process happens in real time, meaning that the ability to capture customer behavior and adjust offers and messages accordingly is a critical capability and competitive advantage for any company dealing with customers in inbound channels.

Based on the richness of your existing customer insight used in combination with customer behavior and response, you are able to recalibrate your ‘next-best offers’ to reflect actual preference. The ability to provision the right offer at the right time in the right channel – to the right person – is a strong competitive advantage, and response rates are traditionally up to 10 times higher than in standard outbound activities. What difference would it make for your company – and you – if you were able to predict customer behavior and propensity to buy?

  • Imagine that you were able to predict what each one of your customers would be most likely to purchase the second they started browsing your website – or even sooner, typing a search on Google. Would that increase the likelihood of selling something to that particular customer?
  • What if you were able to predict across all your inbound channels, be it websites, call centers, or other channels?
  • Imagine that you were able to link customer behavior in inbound channels with your existing knowledge of your customers. In real time.
  • Imagine the impact it would have on your online sales or revenues in all your inbound channels.

Ziggo, one of the largest providers of media and communications services in the Netherlands, has selected SAS® Real-Time Decision Manager to provide its contact center agents with relevant, real-time recommendations to meet customers’ needs and the ability to tailor experiences for each and every customer to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, and – obviously – it increases conversions and subsequently revenue per customer.

Customer experience based on insight
Customers expect tailored experiences whether they interact with you through a call center, web, in store, or even an ATM for banks. Customers – or even prospects – will allow you to get to know them so you can treat them as individuals instead of ‘just another customer’.

In a recent blogpost by one of my colleagues, Peter Hedberg, referred to a recent client meeting with a large Danish retailer that came up with a somewhat provoking statement during the meeting. “It should be against the law not to use customer data.” The first thought may very well be: “Sorry, what?”. But there is some truth in it. First, do not collect customer data and information if you do not plan to use it. That is the equivalent of doing customer satisfaction surveys and then using the findings for … nothing. It is a waste of your customers’ time, and they will quickly switch to a competitor that listens and leverages the insights to deliver superior customer experiences.

Of course, you need to balance the line to comply with both ethical and legal issues, but integrating your existing customer knowledge with inbound interactions is a great example of utilizing insights to deliver a superior customer experience. It is, however, also a great challenge – if not the greatest.

In nearly every customer meeting or professional discussion I have participated in regarding marketing challenges, the issue of data comes up. Integration across platforms, integration between data sources, or just something as seemingly simple as finding the data are major issues for many organizations, and that is where the cookie crumbles for a lot of new adventures into ‘customer journeys’. If you are then required to integrate in real time or near real time, it is an even more tricky challenge that requires insight, experience, and the right tools to overcome the challenge.

Some of the challenges we often experience at client meetings are mentioned below and should be considered before endeavoring into any inbound adventure:

  • Integrating outbound and inbound activities – in real time – to offer an updated and relevant experience across a multitude of channels
  • Social media as a challenge and enabler; it’s in control, but out of reach
  • Internal silofication in any organization – what is best for the customer may not necessarily be ‘best’ for the individual department (and how is e.g. sales compensated?)

Prioritizing inbound channels
We do – not surprisingly – believe that the vast majority of companies can benefit from including and prioritizing inbound channels in their marketing efforts. Some overall considerations:

  • Consider the customer journey and determine what the customer is most likely to need supported by analytical tools
  • Record and track every offer made to individual customers regardless of channels
  • Deliver personalized offers – in real-time dialog – so you get the latest ‘version’ of the truth

If you are curious about inbound marketing, please visit this site to hear another of my colleagues, Jonas Munk, discuss how inbound marketing will help you boost your marketing performance. Another recommended read would be Intelligence Quarterly from Q3, 2013. It dives into the entire space of ‘The who, what, and how of real-time marketing’ in a digital age. You are, of course, also very welcome to comment on the above or contact me directly.


About Author

Bjarni Ernst

Business Advisor in the Nordic Center of Excellence for Integrated Marketing Management

I work with customer processes in larger Nordic companies – typically spanning marketing, customer service, sales and IT departments. I have worked within the field of marketing and communication my entire career, and it has never been more interesting – and challenging at the same time. In my current role I have the privilege of working with highly professional and passionate colleagues, cutting-edge technologies and very interesting customers.

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