6 Ways to Power your Inbound Marketing with Customer Service


Inbound marketing has supplanted both traditional and outbound marketing as the preferred methodology of marketers. It is more efficient; the cost of running an inbound campaign is comparatively lower but it covers more ground. It is more effective; designed properly it will create several avenues of inbound traffic to your website.

Inbound marketing is more consistent; it operates from the platform of building strong relationships with your target market. Thus, using inbound marketing is a more productive strategy in developing businesses.

But what is inbound marketing? Put simply these are marketing activities or processes that bring visitors “in” and patronize your business. The objective of an inbound marketing campaign is for your business to be found. By contrast, traditional, and outbound marketing are processes or activities that require the marketer to go “out” and find your market.

The sales funnel analogy applies to inbound marketing but the process and the stages are much different. Generally, inbound marketing follows these stages:

  • Attract. The initial goal of marketing is acquisition; the larger the acquired market, the wider the opening of the funnel.

      Traditional marketing applies a random approach in market acquisition. An example would be the act of distributing flyers in a mall or setting up billboards along the highway. Are you sure your efforts are targeting the ideal audience?

        With inbound marketing, its activities are intended to encourage the audience to discover the proponent. Content marketing is part of a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.

          The centerpiece of content marketing is blogging. Have you read a blog about a blog on a service provider that appears to have the abilities to meet your need? For sure you have as have most of us. Your next step would be to visit the service provider’s website to learn more about his business.

            Thus, with inbound marketing the initial focus is to build a wider opening in the sales funnel for “strangers” to come in. From acquisition, the “strangers” transition inside the funnel to “site visitors”.

          • Convert. Once you have a site visitor, inbound marketing moves to the conversion stage. The focus now shifts to extract information from the visitor.

              When you visit a website, you will come across several “calls-to-action” or CTAs; these are activities the business wants you to undertake. Some of these CTA’s include:

                • Free subscription to a newsletter
                • Free e-book
                • Free trial on a limited period
                • Free whitepapers
                • Free tip sheets

              You can avail of these free items only if you voluntarily give up information. For inbound marketers, the most important piece of information is your e-mail address.

                If you decide to complete the transaction, you transition from “site visitor” to “qualified lead”.

              • Close. With e-mail address in tow, the inbound marketer will shift to the process of closing a sale. Keep in mind that the information was “voluntarily” surrendered. By accepting the terms of the CTA, the site visitor has agreed to receive marketing and promotional materials.

                  This is a very important distinction to make because what makes inbound marketing acceptable versus either traditional or outbound marketing is that the process is not intrusive. Instead it is voluntary.

                    In this stage, the goal is to move the “qualified lead” into a “paying customer”.

                  • Feedback. Let us assume that the “sales lead” did convert to a “paying customer”. Do you think the relationship will end once the customer has issued you payment? No!

                      As mentioned earlier, inbound marketing operates from the platform of building relationships. The inbound marketer will continue to build on the relationship by maintaining the original strategies. He will endeavor to create more compelling content that are relevant to the audience.

                        The idea is to retain markets by building or enhancing the relationship. The goal of the inbound marketer is to move the person from “paying customer” to “business promoters”.

                      Digital technology and the Internet have created a paradigm shift in how business is conducted. The Internet has allowed us to explore unfamiliar regions and bridge the gaps between cultural and societal differences. Digital technology has made the process faster and more efficient.

                      Inbound marketing was the response to this paradigm shift. The growth and popularity of the Internet has led to the proliferation of social media networks. In the early 2000, websites were primarily regarded as nothing more than online marketing brochures. Today, the website is a critical component of a business development plan. It is the termination point of an inbound campaign.

                      Evolution is the reason why inbound marketing is successful. An effective inbound marketing strategy is one that can identify changes in market behavior and implement changes so it can adapt. It is easy to implement changes in an inbound marketing strategy because unlike traditional marketing, its progress can be tracked down and evaluated by online analytics.

                      Online analytics helps businesses understand the online behavioral patterns of its market. Having these tools available makes it easy to stay updated on market demand, tastes, and preferences which form the bases for any revision on strategy.

                      The final stage in the inbound marketing process, “Feedback” becomes the crucial point in the cycle because it continues the relationship with the customer after the sale.

                      Thus, even if you win several battles with your competitors the war for market supremacy remains.

                      The differentiator is Customer Service.

                      Customer service has been a constant in the business agenda of most corporations. Top management has recognized the paradigm shift and has acknowledged the value of the customer as social media has become a game changer. If your customer fails to have a great experience, trust that the entire community will know about it.

                      Building businesses is no longer just about market creation. Perhaps even more crucial is market retention. Social media defined in simpler terms is “word-of-mouth” advertising that has been digitized. It will reach more people faster than traditional word-of-mouth especially if content reaches viral proportions.

                      Market retention is the objective of customer service. In order to sustain sales you must retain your customer base. Conversion does not end with the paying customer. Business must work to convert the paying customer to a business promoter. And the key lies in effective customer service.

                      Related: 5 Tips on How to Generate Leads for your Home-Based Business

                      In my six (6) years in outsourcing, I have grown to question how little customer service has evolved despite the Internet and digital technology.

                      Why you ask? Please find below a “short-list” of observations on how customer service is conducted in outsourcing. These observations apply to local and foreign clients:

                      1. Agents are reduced to being script readers; everyone follows the same script regardless of who handles your inquiry.
                      1. Agents use fake names and aliases.
                      1. Agents use fake accents.
                      1. A significant number of agents are not proficient in English.
                      1. Issues are hardly resolved on the first call.

                      Collectively, these lead to the following consequences:

                      1. Several irate customers.
                      1. Slow turnaround time.
                      1. Lack of emotional connectivity.
                      1. Disengaged work force.
                      1. Damaged branding.

                      In my discussions with a few high-level associates in outsourcing, I have consistently asked these questions and have yet to receive any satisfactory response:

                      • A person who works in a bank’s customer service department would use their real name but why does a call center agent have to use a fake name and a fake accent?
                      • Why do call centers automate customer service with so many default scripts and spiels when customer service involves human interaction?
                      • Why are agents not allowed to resolve issues on the first call when in the first place there is call recording and QA protocols?
                      • Why are customers asked to follow up? Why can’t customer service be more pro-active?
                      • What’s the purpose of the question, “May I know why you weren’t able to pay on time?” If the call center knew the reason why, would it extend special consideration?
                      • Why do customer service agents always say, “I know where you are coming from” when all they do is read scripts and are not allowed to engage?

                      The answer can be summed up in one word: FEAR.

                      Companies are fearful of their own people making mistakes and taking responsibility that they want to assert control over the entire customer service process.

                      At the heart of customer service is building relationships with your customers. And at the heart of every relationship is trust; and trust takes a long time to build.

                      How can you trust someone who goes by a fake name and speaks with a fake accent?

                      How can you trust someone who just read the same script as the five (5) previous agents who handled your same query?

                      How can you trust a company who does not take the necessary measures to have your issue or concern resolved right away?

                      The answer is: You can’t, you won’t and you shouldn’t.

                      Here is my Golden Rule in customer service:

                      “If you cannot be true to yourself, how can you be true to your customers?”

                      Customer service managed in this manner will be effective. You cannot build relationships without truth and a measure of transparency.

                      My question to call centers is this:

                      “Why did you hire this agent? There must be something special in him/ her. If so, why is he/ she reduced to reading scripts?”

                      Issues will not be resolved unless you allow your people to use their talent and skills to find resolution. A bigger crime is that constraining agents with scripts prevents you from developing their true potential.

                      A customer service program that is anchored on people is a powerful tool. More so, when it is applied to the mechanisms of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing plus humanized customer service is market connectivity that can never be broken.

                      How can we apply customer service to inbound marketing’s “Feedback” stage?

                      1. Reach out via e-mail marketing

                      Once a customer has paid for your product or service, send an e-mail message within 24 hours.

                      The purpose of the e-mail is to solicit feedback. Find out from the customer if he is satisfied with how his transaction went and if the product or service met his expectations.

                      Orient the client on warranty provisions and assure him that his concerns will be immediately addressed.

                      2. Create multi-channels for accessibility

                      In your website, make sure to have at least three (3) contact points. Your e-mail address should be a default contact point. Perhaps include an inbound number, your Skype ID, mailing address or social media customer support page.

                      Having multi-points of contact shows concern for your customers and your intent to have all issues resolved right away.

                      You should have these multi-points of contact featured in your social media accounts and e-mail signature.

                      3. Moderate social media accounts

                      One of the worst oversights companies make is to create only one (1) company page in social media.

                      A company in the Philippines that makes one billion US Dollars a year has only one Facebook page and it is for marketing and promotional purposes. The page features the company’s latest promotional offers and packages.

                      But the page is inundated only by customer service complaints, unresolved issues, slow deliverables, and lack of response time. There is not one single comment that shows interest on any of the promotional packages. Thus, the purpose of promotion is defeated. In fact, the negative comments have high-lighted the flaws of the company.

                      Customer service must have its own dedicated page and customers should be directed to this. The customer service page must be linked to the website for immediate action.

                      Related: Parts and Premises: Building a Social Media Marketing Strategy

                      4. Using engagement as a tool for content creation

                      Social media gives people a sense of entitlement; real or imagined. They tend to be less guarded and become more expressive with their thoughts and opinions.

                      This leads to active engagement within a thread. Engagement is treasure for an inbound marketer. It provides information on how the audience thinks, what issues concern them the most and how they plan to seek resolution.

                      This information is valuable in updating your current inbound marketing strategy. The information can be used as reference for crafting the content marketing process. You will have reference points in creating new content.

                      5. Respond within 24 hours

                      When you receive issues through e-mail, social media, and other channels, customer service must move to have it resolved within an appreciable time-frame.

                      In customer service, the gold standard is 24 hours. From my experience managing customer service in different industries, the delays in resolution are due to four (4) factors:

                      • Lack of synergy within the system. In most service-driven businesses, 90% of the issues are related to accounts reconciliation. Customers are following up on their rebates, confirmation of payments, accumulated loyalty points, discounts, and account updates.

                          Delays happen because customer service has no direct access to customers’ account records. These are handled by the Accounting group. In some instances, Accounting has been outsourced to another country where time zone differentials exist.

                        • CRM was not updated. Look back into your experience with ANY service provider in your country. Your account has been deactivated because the records show you have not updated payments even when you have receipts that prove otherwise.

                            A common problem here is that customer service providers get sloppy and negligent in updating the CRM which details all client information.

                          • Poor communication channels. And even after you’ve e-mailed proof of payment and the agent assures your record has been updated, your service gets disconnected again after a month. Why?

                              Because the CRM was not updated and/or there was no proper endorsement to the chain of command.

                            • Personnel are not trained properly. I’m sure many can relate with this. I’ve had several run-ins with customer service through chat support, social media, inbound calls where the agent just reads or notes the same script over and over again.

                            Unless improvements in customer service are undertaken, it will be difficult to resolve issues within 24 hours.

                            6. Implement pro-active customer service strategies

                            The most effective customer service program for an inbound marketing strategy would be to integrate elements of outbound marketing.

                            • E-mail surveys to customers every few months to get feedback on your product and service.
                            • E-mail the latest promotions and present loyal customers or subscribers with special discount offers.
                            • Give customers a call and just touch base. Find out how they are doing, if the service has been effective and if they have suggestions how to make it better.

                            In my experience, 99% of customers appreciate it when their opinions are sought out. These strategies remain no-intrusive and pro-customer oriented.

                            The final question is: “How do I pull these all together?”

                            Leave it to the professionals.

                            As a business owner, your time is best spent on running the enterprise. And when running the enterprise, productivity is gained when focusing on core functions. Inbound marketing takes time and effort. Most of all, it requires expertise and experience. Having three (3) social media accounts does not qualify anyone to become an expert.

                            Contract an inbound marketing company with the track record to run your campaign. Meet with them and make sure their values are aligned with yours and they openly subscribe to your purpose and vision. The job of the inbound marketer is to transpose your values, purpose, and vision into content.

                            Outsource customer service to a company that feels as passionate as you do about your customers. You have to speak the same language and share the same interests.

                            You need the right people to manage engagement. Think of engagement as the introductory “Handshake” but in the virtual world.

                            But engagements may be unpleasant. Opinions will differ. Some customers would be more passionate than others. Regardless of the tone, always keep in mind that relationships start with engagement.

                            What the customer says should matter less to you than the fact that he expressed it. The customer took the time to engage which means he cares about the product or service.

                            Then arrange to meet with the inbound marketing and customer service groups. Sit down and develop a plan that identifies and seeks to protect common interests. Collectively, you, the inbound marketer, the customer service provider and the target market form the important links of the value chain.

                            For the arrangement to work, everyone must follow the course that has been charted. As with most group ventures, the start could be shaky but as the proposition gains traction the end result will be long term success and sustainable growth.

                            You Might Also Like