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125. Understanding Inbound Commerce and the Buyer’s Journey

(Episode 2 of 2 with Sam Mallikarjunan)

125. Understanding Inbound Commerce and the Buyer’s Journey

Welcome back to another episode of Monetization Nation with Sam Mallikarjunan. In the previous episode, we discussed how to market ourselves and how to get a job with our dream company. Sam shared a creative strategy he used to get a  recruiter from his dream company to contact him within 3 hours and 26 minutes.  

Sam is the co-author of the book, Inbound Commerce: How to Sell Better Than Amazon, which is ironically the number one bestseller in its category on Amazon. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss inbound commerce and the buyer’s journey. 

Inbound Commerce

In Sam’s book, he explores e-commerce applications of inbound marketing and emphasizes the importance of using content and engagement to create likable marketing. 

Inbound marketing is a business system that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences targeted to them (Source: HubSpot). Inbound marketing attracts customers while outbound marketing interrupts them through methods such as sales calls or ads on social media. 

“What if instead of being as obnoxious as possible, marketers actually tried to create experiences that people wanted to have? Instead of interrupting people, could you create something that drew them to you instead of cold calling? For example, could you create content that educated them?” Sam said. 

Sam first discovered HubSpot because he was drawn to their educational content. A great way to get customers is through the methods of inbound commerce. We should be creating value our customers will naturally want instead of imposing products or services on them they aren’t really interested in. Our content, services, and products should bring our customers to us, not the other way around. 

“If you just cold call people, you’re not going to be nearly as effective as if you’re really good at educating them and creating that inbound experience to bring them to you,” Sam said.

Sam saw a survey in which marketers were rated as less trustworthy than car salesmen, politicians, and lobbyists. This is the exact opposite of what we want to see. Customers should feel they can trust us. Inbound marketing forces us to create products or services our customers will actually value. This will build trust and strengthen customer relations.

Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon said, 

“One thing I learned within the first couple of years of starting a company is that inventing and pioneering involve a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time. One of the early examples of this is customer reviews. Someone wrote to me and said, ‘You don’t understand your business. You make money when you sell things. Why do you allow these negative customer reviews?’ And when I read that letter, I thought, we don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”

This is a core goal of inbound marketing. We need to create an experience that our customers like and that provides them value. We need to create an experience that builds trust. The goal needs to be about helping our customers make a decision on their stages of the buyer’s journey, and then continue to drive their repurchase cycle. 

we don't make_Blog

The Buyer’s Journey

When I asked Sam to share one of his monetization strategies, he said it is to understand the marketing funnel and the buyer’s journey. 

We have to solve problems for each of the different stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and the decision stage. We can’t only focus on building awareness and staying dialed in on website traffic and leads. We also can’t only focus on the final purchase decision. We need to have the entire buyer’s journey in mind if we want to optimize conversions and gain lifetime customers. One of the biggest mistakes Sam sees is people getting too focused on only one part of the marketing funnel. 

To really understand what our customers’ needs are at each stage of their journey, we need to do research. We have to take the time to look at the data and combine that with analysis to get an accurate understanding of who our customers are. 

The first stage of the marketing funnel or the buyer’s journey is awareness. Building awareness should be focused on inbound marketing, not outbound. To raise awareness, we shouldn’t be cold calling or constantly using targeted ads necessarily. We want our customers to come to us because they are interested in what we have to offer. We should be doing research and getting good at providing valuable education for our consumers. Throughout the consideration stage and decision stage, we should educate our customers—it should be a continuous cycle of education.

“Once [customers] buy from you, it means they have purchased one thing from you, but they are back in the awareness and research [stage of] a buyer’s journey for whatever they’re going to buy next,” Sam said. 

Once [customers] _Blog

If we want to gain customer retention, we need to remember that a one-time buyer is not a customer. They should go back to the first stage of the buyer’s journey, and we need to treat them as if they are a first-time buyer again. We need to educate them all over again. 

Sam explained that if we make the incentive for our products about price, Amazon is going to “kick our butt.” But, if we make it about a continuous cycle of education and awareness, we’ll win customer lifetime value. 

A Challenger’s Mindset

Part of focusing on the buyer’s journey includes having a challenger’s mindset. If we don’t adapt to tectonic shifts, we’re not going to make it, and so it is essential we constantly challenge our methods and systems to make sure we are doing things in the best way possible. Sam advises we challenge our core principles frequently.

“I can be a $100 billion company today, but it is not guaranteed that I’m a company at all five years from now,” Sam said. “Create that challenger mindset inside your own organization. . . . [Ask yourself,] is there anything I don’t know about my customer that somebody could create value for them in a way that I wasn’t expecting and kill [my] company really, really fast?”

We need to make sure we are always providing value for our customers because if someone else solves a problem for our customers that we didn’t know about, we’ll have lost a portion of our audience. 

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We need to make sure we are researching every part of the buyer’s journey all the time. We need to be looking at the data, analyzing it, pulling insights out of it, and then making a change where necessary. If we can adapt to the changes in our market and the changes in our customers’ needs, we’ll be much more likely to survive in the business world. 

Millennials make up about 30% of the American population and they are the most diverse generational cohort in US history (Source: Deloitte Insights). Not only are they diverse, but they have constant, changing needs. They are constantly looking for new, fast, and easy ways to solve their problems, and if someone solves their needs before we do, we’ll lose their loyalty. One-third of adults aged 23-38 are quick to drop a brand that doesn’t meet expectations (Source: Brightpearl). We need to make sure we are quick to meet their changing needs. 

If we have a challenger’s mindset, we will be more likely to solve a potential problem, before an actual problem arises. This will help our businesses stay ahead of the game and increase our customer lifetime value. 

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Sam for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Instead of interrupting our customers through methods such as sales calls or ads on social media, we should attract them by creating valuable content and experiences targeted to them.

2. We need to have the entire buyer’s journey in mind if we want to gain a lifetime customer. 

3. Our buyer’s journey should be a continuous cycle of providing education and value. 

4. A one-time buyer is not a customer. They go back to the first stage of the buyer’s journey after they have made a single purchase. 

5. We need to have a challenger’s mindset. If we don’t adapt to tectonic shifts, we’re not going to make it. It is essential we frequently challenge our business methods and systems. 

Connect with Sam

If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Sam or connect with him, you can find him on his LinkedIn or visit his website, www.onescreen.ai

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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