Inbound Marketing 101: How to Use Blogs to Create Customers
In our introductory blog post about Inbound Marketing 101, we talked about how inbound marketing starts with the questions that your customers are asking.
Your goal is to answer their questions and become a valuable resource for them. Then you enter into a conversation with your customers, which eventually leads to deeper engagement, a commercial relationship, and then you finally create advocates.
But you’ve got to get to the first step.
7 Steps for Answering your Customers Questions
Blogging can be either a big waste of time or the most effective marketing tactic on the planet. It all depends on how you approach it.
These seven steps are not a comprehensive list, but based on our experience we believe it can provide you with a pretty solid foundation to get your inbound marketing process started.
1. Find Out What Your Customers Are Asking
The internet has enabled us to search for the answers to our eternal questions. And we, you, your customers, always have questions. All the time.
- How can I become more successful?
- How can I lose 10 pounds?
- How can I make more money?
- How do I start dating again (after being married 15 years and then getting divorced)?
- How can I start my own company?
- How can I market myself on the internet?
You've probably identified at least one question you've asked yourself and Mr. Google in the last month or so. We all have similar questions.
If you've done your homework and created the personas that represent your ideal customers, this part will be a little easier. If you haven’t developed your personas yet, I would suggest you do that first, because each type of customers will have a different set of questions.
Brainstorm a list of the types of questions your personas have.
If one of your personas is a new mom, some of her questions would be:
- When can I start feeding my baby solid foods?
- When will my baby start focusing her eyes on my eyes?
- How can I cure her colic?
- Do I need to feed my baby anything else in addition to breast milk?
You can probably come up with a list of 100 questions for a new mom, or whoever your persona is. But how do you find out what questions they’re asking? Interview somebody who is representative of your ideal customer. Find out the answer to some of these questions:
- What are their fears?
- What are their secret hopes and dreams?
- What frustrates them?
- What keeps them up at night?
Take those words and feed them into a keyword tool, such as Google AdWords Keyword tool, (and there are other tools you can use as well). Keyword tools will let you know the terms that people are actually searching on Google.
These words are really important. Write them down to use in your blog posts.
2. Answer Your Customers’ Questions
The keywords you just researched are the words your customers use to ask the fundamental questions that are driving their activity on the internet right now.
Your challenge is to answer the questions they’re asking. Write blog posts that answer their questions.
Many bloggers make the mistake of writing articles that talk all about themselves, their products, their company, or their opinions about the world. That’s a mistake that can kill your chances of succeeding.
The most successful blogs focus on their customers, and in helping their customers solve the problems and challenges that are weighing them down every day.
Answer their questions without selling them your product or service as a solution. Your customers are not in the mood for a pitch at the moment. They’re in the mood for scratching an itch. Give them the scratch to calm that itch.
3. Write Really Valuable Blog Posts or Articles
But it’s more than just writing blog posts that answer your customers’ questions. Don’t dial it in. In other words, don’t just write a half-hearted article that looks like it should go on About.com.
Your goal is to write blog posts that answer your customers’ questions so thoroughly, so well, so entertainingly, that your customers will love you for it.
Your content should be fantastic. Your content should be epic. It should be remarkable.
I can hear your objection now: why should I give away such valuable content for free?
Answer: because the competition is already doing it. Your competitor is probably answering your customers’ questions with really well-written articles, eBooks, or a videos. You can’t skimp on this part. Trust me on that. Don’t dial it in.
4. Use Your Customers’ Keywords
The keyword research you did in step 1 will come in handy for this step too. Janice (Ginny) Redish, in her book Letting Go of the Words, says that when our customers are searching for answers to their questions, they’re like hound dogs searching for a scent.
Our customers are on auto-pilot. When they get to a page they’re in a hurry, looking around for evidence that their “scent” is taking them to the right place.
Their behavior is often not very logical. If they don’t quickly see the keywords that are on their mind they will leave quickly.
They need to see those keywords in your blog post:
- First paragraph of text
Even if they were to slow down and realize that your blog post really does answer their fundamental questions, they won’t do that. They’re on auto-pilot.
5. Use Your Customers’ Language
In addition to using your customers’ keywords, if you've done your persona research correctly, you also know the language your customers use.
What do I mean by language? Each industry, tribe or interest group has its own vocabulary. Gamers have their own particular vocabulary, as do software engineers, community managers, and hip-hop fans. They all have their own vocabulary.
Your challenge is to find out what that vocabulary is and use it in your blog posts.
Researching personas is one day to do this. It also helps if you’re in the same group as the tribe you’re writing for.
For example, if you’re writing for startup entrepreneurs, you want to become familiar with common terms such as “pivot,” “lean methodology,” “boostrapping,” and “seed round.”
But you also want to use the emotional words they use too – those words they use to show their frustrations, fears, dreams, desires.
Why is this important? Success with blogging comes not only by answering your customers’ questions, but by connecting with your customers on a deeper level. You want them to know that you understand them. When you use their language, they realize you get it. It’s emotional. It’s visceral.
Ultimately, you want them to see you as their friend and confidant. Using their language gains you entry into that inner sanctum.
6. Maintain a Schedule
Part of becoming your customers’ friend and confidant is being reliable. You've answered their questions, now you’re getting them involved in a conversation. Your next step is to keep the conversation going by becoming a habit for them.
Maintaining a schedule is the way to do that.
You can blog every day, or every other day, or you can blog twice a week, or even once a week. The frequency doesn't matter – the regularity does.
This is important as you start to build trust with your customers. Regularity builds trust, but the flip side is probably more important: irregularity destroys trust.
When you’re unreliable you damage the trust you’ve built.
7. Share Your Content Where Your Customers Are
If you think I’m going to talk about social media, you’re only partially true. Sharing your content on social media is a box you have to check off. You need to do it. It’s a minimum requirement these days.
But it’s not the secret to making your blog a raging success.
The best way to share your content and gain exposure to more potential customers than you could possibly do on your own is to contribute guest articles.
John Morrow talks about this on his blog Guest Blogging.
Take out and dust off the valuable persona research you did, and identify where your ideal customers hang out on the web. They usually have their favorite blogs, online publications, magazines, podcasts or video channels.
Who are the people they admire? Who are their heroes? Where do they write?
If your ideal customers are forward-thinking IT managers, their favorite publications might be GigaOm or TechCrunch.
If your target audience is mommy bloggers, DIY Inspired or Not Your Average Mom might be their preference.
If you’re absolutely confident you have high-quality content to share with these sites, approach them and offer to share valuable content their audience might like (no selling, and don’t dial it in).
I know I’m making it sound easier than it is, but if you can achieve this you can achieve with one guest article what it would have taken you one year to achieve by yourself.
Your Next Steps
To summarize, the basic steps to building your blog for the first part of the Inbound Marketing Process is:
- Conduct keyword research
- Answer your customers’ questions
- Made sure your content is really valuable
- Use your customers’ keywords in your blog posts
- Use your customers’ language in your blog posts
- Establish a regular blogging schedule, and
- Write a few guest blog posts
Your next step is to subscribe your customers to your email list.
And that’s the topic for our next edition in the series.
Till next time…happy blogging!