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The Inbound Culture Affect on Customer Engagement

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/14/13 8:21 PM

The past few months I have talked to a lot of non-profit associations, advocacy groups, Chamber of Commerce and even read the 60 page "2013 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report" at least three times now (ok, skimmed it slowly). And even though it is a survey for membership organizations, the goals that 74% of all types of associations share with 21st century businesses seem the same.

  • increase member (or customer, client, patient, subscriber, or partner) engagement
  • increase member (or customer, client, patient, subscriber, or partner) acquisition or retention

Inbound customer engagement

How someone is referred to you, finds you, or is found by you influences the rest of the engagement process. One of the fallacies (IMO) that some have about inbound is that when they find you, they are more likely to buy. Some spend a lot of time figuring out just the right work flow formula to guide people down until they score enough points to be worthy of being called by a sales person. Yet they don't have enough leads.

And when the sales person does email, or heaven forbid- call, it's a pitch to get them into a demo. They aren't really interested in learning more about them, their work, the reason they do it, they want to know when they can show them what they are selling and move onto the next one.

I've seen in some associations well, it's called the top-down approach. A decision comes from the board, on behalf of the members, but none of them have talked to members about what they think the decision or message should be and why. They have turned education in a mandated script to send to lawmakers. Maybe they figure that people don't want to be bothered, just tell them what to say and make it easier for everyone. Is that the kind of experience that engages members? And what does it matter? According to the report:

customer engagement experience successBut engagement is sinking and with it acquisition and retention. And at the same time they recognize that the old model is dying and they struggle to deal with how to integrate digital (or the internet, or inbound).

Inbound customer retention and acquisition

Do you separate acquisition and retention? Are they two different parts of your growth goals? At last year's Inbound conference in Boston, Gary V said in his keynote that the companies who care the most will win, will grow. Care the most about what? Their costs, cash flow, or competition? No, the customer (or member, client, patient, subscriber or partner).

What does that mean? How do you do that? The Membership Marketing Benchmark report stated this as one of it's findings:

membership marketing and retention

What does this have to do with inbound? Simply put, if the person your organization exists to serve doesn't value you and stick around, you won't be able to grow and you won't be around for long. This has always been true, word of mouth is certainly not new. But before the internet and inbound, there were barriers to your customers spreading the word about you. It was slower and sometimes forgotten. Now there are no barriers (when was the last time you saw someone who didn't own a cell phone that accessed the internet) and everything is much faster, wider and stays around a lot longer.

Plus, now with things like social search- people won't find you at all if someone else isn't helping to spread the word.

Inbound company culture

I was reminded of this at the July HUGME. One of the biggest challenges that people report to have with getting inbound to work for them is the amount of content marketing that needs to happen.

Corey Eridon of Hubspot talked about a content culture. Culture? She explained that content is seen as an asset to the company by the leadership, and they not only encourage (require) it- they participate in it themselves. I had started this post in April and her comment is what made me pull it out of draft and bump the regularly scheduled programming for the blog.

An inbound culture, or a content culture, is the difference between a culture where it's one person's job to produce all of the relevant content to speak to all of the potential customers and prospects versus the collaborative learning environment where is everybody's job to talk to customers and prospects. 

The opposite of integration is segregation, or silos. To merge various cultures together, you have to find what it is that they have in common. And let's just face facts, it starts at the top. There will be those that want things to stay status quo. But if you have the boss behind it, status quo can be overthrown for innovation. How do you build a company culture that scales? Nurture your culture according to what delights your customers. Hire for attitude, teach for skills.

Is this why some nonprofit organizations and businesses still don't get social media ROI? 

My parting thought for the weekend is something I told a coaching client this morning. To get inbound results, it's a lot of work to keep dumping traffic into a funnel full of holes. By focusing on the value to the customer first (what they find valuable, not what you think they should find valuable) and the holes as you go, both in the conversions on your website and the service to the customers you get and keep, you can grow your business through inbound.

Topics: inbound, customer retention, customer acquistion, customer engagement