Let’s face it. Buyers have changed how they shop. Never has there been a time like today where people can get online and do their own research on a company, business, product or service. According to HubSpot, 90% of the buyer's journey is complete by the time a person engages with your sales team, so increasing your visibility is key to remaining top of mind on the platform. A new type of customer or client is out there: an informed one. Are you prepared?
The question you have to ask yourself is: what information are you providing to consumers so they select your business instead of your competitors? What makes you different? Since consumers are doing research on you and your business, you must have a lead acquisition and lead nurturing strategy. One way to do that is through inbound marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a form of lead generation. It is the marketing process of engaging and capturing consumers interested in products or services for the purpose of developing a sales pipeline – and ultimately get new customers!
This type of marketing helps your company increase brand awareness, builds authority, allows you to solidify trust with potential clients/customers and will (hopefully) drive more qualified leads into your sales funnel so you can close more deals and get more customers.
Some of the top inbound marketing platforms include HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo and Infusionsoft. For the most part they all work the same general way – some with more bells and whistles. In a quick nutshell they allow you to connect to most sales CRMs so your sales reps are kept in the loop, set up a content calendar, add SEO-optimized content, create a workflow, triggers and setup parameters to “grade” leads based on their interaction with your content.
Inbound success is all about assessing your opportunities, creating a plan of action to achieve your desired outcome and prioritizing DAILY efforts to meet those goals. Another crucial part is marketing and sales synching up and agreeing to actually follow through on inbound marketing efforts and results.
Have you ever heard of a sales pipeline? A sales funnel is very similar. Creating a sales funnel is crucial for inbound marketing success. A sales funnel is a visual representation of the various offers that a potential customer is presented with during the sales process (think of an actual funnel here). The sales funnel shows you where that potential client is in the funnel. Are they at the top of the funnel (TOF), middle of the funnel (MOF) or bottom of the funnel (BOF)? BOF is where you want to be at – at that stage of the sales cycle you should be ready and close to actually closing the deal.
A well-constructed sales funnel is a powerful tool that can help you improve how you sell and how you pitch what you sell.
In order to grow your business, you need to reach your customers and gain their trust through a variety of marketing channels – social media, search engines, your website, training, demonstrations, trade shows, events, etc. By tapping into all of these media venues, you can grow your business by generating more leads for your sales team to call on. Inbound marketing can push all of these mediums into maximum overdrive.
HubSpot does an excellent job of showing the ideal inbound marketing flow. You first attract strangers by providing quality and informative content that gets found online (through PPC, Social Media, SEO, etc.). If the potential client likes the information you’re providing, they’ll come back for more!
The goal is to create content that walks the potential buyer down the buying process – but in a subtle way. The content you provide cannot be self-promoting. People go online to search for information (not to be sold to) and are looking for content that solves a problem that they’re experiencing. If you can provide them with content that leads them down your yellow brick sales road, you can turn a stranger into a visitor, next into a lead, then a customer and finally a promoter who will evangelize your brand.
Source: HubSpot - used with permission.
Nurturing Leads Through Content
Think about it: what are your customers looking for? What keeps them up at night? (By the way, I hate that saying, but it’s true.) What problems are they trying to solve? Once you figure out what type of information your potential buyers are looking for, you get your creative and content marketing team to work. Content can include ebooks, whitepapers, blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts, webinars, training, etc.
Just make sure that whatever you do: the purpose of the content is not to be self-serving or self-promoting. It’s about your customers. Not you. Be impartial, unbiased and provide valuable content that will keep ‘em coming back for more. Also, make sure that every one of your pieces of content has a strong Call to Action (CTA): what do you want the visitor to do next? Download a whitepaper? Enter their information to receive a free SEO report? Strong calls to action are key to conversion. Your CTA has to state what’s in it for them.
One of the sweet things about inbound marketing is you create a contact form that the visitor has to fill out in order to receive the content. What does that do? It enters that visitor into the inbound marketing platform and allows you to collect information about your future customers – and helps to validate if the information you’re providing is something they’re looking for. They’re now in your funnel.
However, watch out. Trying to gather too much information from an initial visitor for a TOF offer can be self-defeating. Check out all the information this company is asking for at the very first touch-point of their inbound marketing campaign:
Typically for a first interaction people will only want to give out very basic info. (Very few people at the early buying stage are going to want to give away their address, phone number, etc.) Since this is a top of the funnel (TOF) offer I would recommend that they only ask for name, company name and email address. They will then get added to the funnel and the next time they come back for more information from your site they will go further down the funnel and you can then ask for more info in exchange for the next whitepapers, videos, case studies, etc. Be cautious, though, never ask for too much information or you’ll get visitors saying “To heck with this!” and leave your site.
After the form is filled out, you’ll create a Thank You page. Ideally on Thank You pages you want to, obviously, thank them, but you also want to make sure that the content is available for download on the Thank You page as well as an email that gets sent to the visitor with the download link. (That’s just one more touch point!) The Thank You page is also a great opportunity to put another CTA for an offer that complements what that visitor is looking for. That might move them deeper down your funnel faster.
When you’re creating inbound marketing emails, make sure that you format and brand the emails. They have to look credible, professional, provide your contact information and a subtle sales pitch. This is example of a bad email that I received after filling out an inbound marketing form:
Wow! When I received the email from the company, it wasn’t formatted or branded and didn’t even have a person’s name, title, phone number, email address or URL. Even if I was interested in what this company had to offer, I had no contact information to even call or email them. Even the subject line was drab. Missed opportunity!
Just the Basics, Folks
When it comes to inbound marketing, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could write a whole book on Inbound Marketing, but luckily others have done that for me! If you want to learn more, I would highly recommend Lead Generation for Dummies, Trust Funnel and the classic by HubSpot founders, Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online.