Welcome back to the Making an Impression ads series! 

As you learned in part 1 of this series, being an inbound business means you’re building relationships and having conversations with, not at, your target audience. If you want to get value out of prospects and customers, you need to give them an experience that they value.

To create this value, you need to provide the right information to right person at the right time, every single time. It’s about drawing people in — that’s why it’s called inbound, after all.

So how does this apply to ads? Let's explore.

Ads and the Inbound Methodology

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Inbound is in its third iteration. Visualized as a flywheel, this way of approaching marketing, sales, and services aims to move away from thinking about customers simply as an output. Rather, this new mental model recognizes the importance of putting people and their needs at the center of your business' efforts (especially those of your customer facing teams). 

By this new standard, the attract stage of the inbound methodology accounts for when a business focuses on "attracting" prospects and customers through relevant and helpful content. To showcase their expertise and ability to provide answers to questions, solutions for problems, and, perhaps, entertain along the way.

Ads fit naturally into this stage. They help you be present where your prospects want to spend their time online. At the same time, they draw attention and create awareness about something. That could be a resource, an offer, a product, a service, the list goes on.

Regardless of the exact content in your ads, they should relevant and timely enough that they are inspiring users to take the desired action — to click the ad. This then drives users into the engage stage of the methodology. Once there, they start interacting with your content and you start to gain their trust. 

Ads and the Importance of Understanding Your Buyer

Organic social reach is shrinking. Changes to algorithms on platforms like Facebook means that it's getting more and more difficult for marketers to surface their content to potential buyers. Supplementing your organic efforts with online advertising can help amplify your presence on these networks to ensure you're still getting in front of the people that matter most to your business.

Now you may think that effective online advertising starts with creating a compelling ad, but there's more to the story than flashy videos or graphics. You you also need to find and target the right audiences to show that ad to – the ones that are most likely to click on it and become leads and customers.

The question is: which audiences do you want to reach? And how do you reach them? 

After all, Facebook has over 2.27 billion monthly active users. By contract, Linkedin clocks over 500 million monthly active users, with Twitter following closely with around 336 million monthly active users.

As a result, the only way you’ll be able to advertise in a cost effective way is if you target people who are most likely to become customers down the road. That means you need to understand your buyer personas. 

Creating a buyer persona is a process that requires research and compiling real customer data and interviews. Learn more about buyer personas here.  

Part of establishing your buyer personas — and by extension, your target audience — is understanding where they spend most of their time online and in what context your offer might be most relevant to them. Depending on who your target audience is and how they use different online platforms, you’ll want to change which network you advertise on.

Similarly, by understanding your buyer persona, their preferred platforms, and goals and roadblocks, you can start to align with the content they value the most. This is where the buyer's journey comes in. 

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The buyer’s journey is defined as the active research process someone goes through leading up to a making purchase. New to the concept of the buyer's journey? Don't sweat it! Check out this lesson.  

Depending on where your audience is in their buying journey, you’ll want to provide your customers with different content, use different types of targeting strategies, and optimize your ads for different objectives, or bids. 

How?

Helpful content is contextual content. Your ads should follow the same guidelines. You want to ensure your ads are reaching potential buyers who are in different stages of the buyer's journey.  With ads in all three of these stages, you’ll be able to surface content that is always relevant to the targeted audience, whether they're in the awareness, consideration, or decision stage. 

With your buyer's journey in mind, your ads could follow this buyer's journey based advertising flow. 

Your awareness-stage ads explain the “why.” These ads help a customer identify a need, and realize that your business can potentially fulfill that need. When someone watches an “awareness” ad, they should understand what a problem they might have is, and how your product or services might help them solve it.

Your consideration-stage ads explain the “how.” These ads help that customer evaluate why your offer is best positioned to give them the solution they need. When someone watches an “consideration” ad, they ideally develop a logical and emotional preference for your solution over another one, which hopefully leads to a purchasing decision down the line.

Your decision-stage ads explain the “what”. They showcase that what your prospect needs to solve their problem is your product or service. These ads help that customer actually buy from you, whether through your site or, if possible, directly from the platform you're advertising on (such as Facebook). When someone watches a "decision" ad, they should have a direct line to purchase.

Remember, like other types of content, as you start implementing the ads that align with the buyer's journey, you'll want to ensure you're testing and optimizing along the way. Try new images, video, tweaking your message, and the experience of ad, until you start to hone in on the type of ad that delivers the best results for you and your business.

Let's Have a Conversation

Here's how you can get involved and share your inbound advertising story: 

  • Twitter: Tweet us @HubSpotAcademy or through the #makinganimpression hashtag.
  • SoundCloud: Coming soon!   
  • HubSpot Community: Connect about the series here

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Originally published Nov 26, 2018 9:00:00 AM, updated January 07 2019