Nurturing behaviour change with Inbound Marketing

Westco Commission panel member Vaughn Armstrong of Toast Design offers a different way of communicating your message in an effective, targeted manner. This article originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle, available here.

Right now I have around 250 messages in my email inbox, plus another few thousand hidden away in folders. 

As a result, I can only see about 10% of my messages all together at once. The other 90% are ones that I might do something with at some point, because they might contain something that’s relevant.  But they aren’t right now.

In this article, I want to suggest an alternative way to communicate with me (and for me read residents, businesses, international investors or your other audiences) other than being the 251st email in my inbox.  It’s called Inbound Marketing.

To explain, let’s go back to those emails for a moment… 

Those who have sent me those emails want me to be interested in what they have to say right now. Yet the vast majority know little about me. They may know some statistics, but I don’t suppose that they know the mental list of ‘things to do’ that I woke up with this morning. 

As a result, much of the communication that I receive is opportunist and interruptive in nature. The senders are trying to steal a quick micro-thought in the vague hope that today I will engage with whatever it is they want to talk about. 

So who does know what I’m thinking about?

Internet search engines know exactly what I’m thinking about today. I constantly ask them for information on subjects that I’m interested in.  They know if I’m looking for a new job, house or dog.  And they know if I’m reading up on digital marketing, flowers or technology. 

We’re now getting so good at asking search engines our questions, that over 25% of daily questions on Google, have never been seen in that exact form before. That’s 25% of billions. We ask Google before we ask our friends. 

So how does my organisation become the number one answer to the questions that my customers, residents, businesses, service users are asking?

Inbound Marketing Principles

Content is the answer – really great content that seeks to educate the reader well, before trying to influence them into an activity.  We are talking about a content creation strategy that takes people from being strangers, to being engaged in your subject, to signing up to it and keeping those people informed in a way they want and at a time they want. 

Let’s apply this to an example in Local Government. Councils may have a shortage in employees like Care Workers for example. So what do they do? They advertise where they can, they post on job boards, hold recruitment events and invite people they already know to attend it.

Once that communication programme has been run, the only option is to do it all over again. 

But what if we can run the same communications programme thousands of times – once for each person who shows an interest?  This is Inbound Marketing.

So what would an Inbound campaign entail in the care worker example?

1- Attract

First, create attractive, informative, and downloadable content that poses the question “Might you be interested in working in [Your Location Here] as a Care Worker?” It’s not a sales document. It just shares the important bits of information about that work. The hours, benefits, emotional return, flexibility etc. 

You then start to write about it online (in blogs, on web pages, on social media) and point it all towards the download. A three-field form (first name, last name, email) is all you ask for in return for the download. 

2- Engage

You now have a list of people who you know have some interest in your job proposition. Now concentrate your efforts on further marketing to people who are interested right now, rather than just to anyone in the whole world.

The next step is to create a second set of content that offers proof that everything you said in the educational material is real and is open to them.  Examples would be case studies of people moving into care working or care operations that have benefited from new recruits. Send those who filled in the initial form a polite email thanking them for downloading your content, and invite them to look at further information. 

Finally, prepare and offer content that invites some response. It could be an application form, a request for someone to call or a meeting for interested workers. The key thing is that it’s always delivered at the right point in the ‘behaviour change’ process. 

3- Relevant, timely, actionable, everlasting communications

A widely accepted rule of thumb in life, is that you don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date (unless you’re in Hollywood that is.) 

So why would you demand an instant response from your audience at the very first interaction, as many of those emails in my inbox do?

The beauty of the Inbound Marketing approach is that I create content for the whole buyer journey and use digital marketing tools to make the content available, and deliver follow-ups with a gentle timetable of great content. 

It’s time to stop interrupting with short bursts of communication! Start creating content that influences those with a genuine interest, and get some serious success with Inbound Marketing.