It’s a common misconception that the inbound approach is only suitable for business to business marketing. But in fact, inbound can be just as effective for businesses that sell to consumers. So when should you use inbound marketing for B2C?
When is inbound a good fit?
The innbound methodology produces the best ROI in circumstances where:
- The consumer is making a considered purchase decision
- The product or service is complex and there is a high need for buyer education and information in the buying process
- The transaction value and/or lifetime value of a customer is high enough to justify the investment
- There is a lengthy sales cycle and lead generation is a marketing priority.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of those criteria.
Considered purchase decision
A considered purchase decision is one that is important and entails a high degree of risk. This could be because it involves a large financial outlay or an on-going commitment such as a major home improvement or taking out a large life insurance policy; or because it affects more than one person – for example, buying a new home or family car.
In these circumstances the consequences of making a wrong decision could be disastrous, which means that a buying decision is only likely to be taken after extensive research and careful consideration of all the pros and cons of various options. (Contrast this with low involvement or impulse decisions like buying a box of paperclips or a new pair of shoes in the sales which require little thought or are taken on the spur of the moment.)
The inbound approach facilitates this process of self-education and evaluation by providing helpful content such as reviews, product comparisons, buyer guides that helps the prospect navigate their buyer’s journey and guides them towards an informed and safe purchase decision.
For an example of a B2C company that do this well check out replacement window company Everest. Their window buying guide covers everything you need to know about choosing the right replacement windows with useful information about materials, glass, design, frames and fittings and a comprehensive set of questions to ask.
Complex product or service
The more complex the product or service you offer and the greater the number of options to choose from, the more questions and potential objections your prospects are likely to have and the greater the difficulty they may have in grasping the benefits. An example might be advanced consumer electronics where the consumer is evaluating many different models, each offering different features and technical specifications.
In this scenario, inbound can play an important role in answering prospects’ questions, demonstrating how your product or service works and the benefits and highlighting advantages over competitors. Digital photography specialists Jessops pull off e-commerce content marketing admirably with a comprehensive advice centre that includes detailed buying guides, expert articles, recommendations, hints and tips. They also provide highly detailed product descriptions and explainer videos that highlight key features and benefits.
High transaction value
Since you’ll likely be investing somewhere upwards of £3,000 a month in your inbound programme you’ll need to sell an awful lot of your products or services if you only make a small profit on each transaction. The business case can stack up for subscription based services but ROI is easier to demonstrate and the payback period will be much shorter where the initial transaction value is medium to high (we use £500 or above as a general rule of thumb).
You have a lengthy sales cycle
If your business has a lengthy sales cycle then inbound marketing is probably going to be a great fit for you, regardless of whether you’re selling to businesses or consumers because it allows you to keep your prospects engaged, informed and actively moving forward during their extended and often complex buyer’s journey.
Most B2B campaigns recognise that prospects won’t be ready to buy straight away and therefore focus on capturing leads early (at the top of the marketing funnel) so they can be nurtured and progressively qualified until they are sales ready. Contrast this with most e-commerce sites where many first-time customers are moved directly to customers in a single visit, with their email address only being captured during the check-out process followed by email blasts to a largely un-segmented list until they unsubscribe – classic interruption marketing.
Can inbound still be effective for B2C businesses that don’t meet these criteria?
Is inbound marketing still appropriate for B2C businesses that don’t meet the above criteria? The answer to this is an unequivocal yes! As Mike Lieberman of Square2 Marketing puts it, at its core, inbound is human-to-human marketing. It’s about establishing trust and making your prospects feel safe; developing long-term relationships; connecting with your prospects’ pain points, fears and desires by telling powerful brand stories; and making them fall in love with your brand.
Whether you are marketing to businesses or consumers, have long or short sales cycle, are selling a simple or complex product with a small or large price tag inbound marketing is still a highly effective way of building brand awareness and engagement and guiding prospective customers on their buyer’s journey towards a safe, informed decision that solves their biggest problems and pains.
There is absolutely no reason why persona-based marketing campaigns designed to capture high quality leads by offering the right (gated) content at each stage of the buyer’s journey and then deliver personalised nurturing emails that move those prospects to the point of sales engagement can’t work just as well for businesses that market to consumers as businesses that market to other businesses. And as it becomes harder and more expensive to acquire and retain customers using traditional marketing approaches I think we are going to see a lot more B2C businesses going down the inbound route.
Find Out If Inbound Would Be A Good Fit For Your B2C Business
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