At the beginning of the Inbound process, our strategy attracts “marketing-qualified leads.” These are people who trade their contact details for an extremely authoritative piece of content and grant you implicit permission to continue a conversation with them from that point forward.
The goal is to transform these early-stage leads into “sales-qualified” leads that your salespeople can contact directly and convert to closed sales.
Are you paying for sales leads directly through paid advertising channels? If so, you probably see those costs continually creeping up over time, and you probably wonder about the scalability and long term viability of this approach.
The beauty of Inbound marketing is its scalability. It delivers lower costs-per-lead than any other method, and over time it becomes cheaper. Finally, you can reduce your dependency on expensive paid leads and start generating them organically through a process that puts you in full control.
You may be familiar with the notion of the marketing funnel. At the top of the funnel sit cold leads who are not ready to buy. At the bottom sit warm leads who are almost ready to open their wallets for your product or service.
Leads get progressively warmer as they move down the funnel, increasing the chances that you will win them as customers someday.
Inbound marketing is a holistic and systematic marketing method for pulling targeted prospects into the top of the funnel (using content marketing) and deliberately guiding them down the funnel so that they don’t fall out.
When they make it to the bottom, you've then got a steady flow of sales-ready leads that you have a ton of information about.
It works. When done well, it’s hands-down the best ROI in all of marketing.
On the surface, Inbound marketing can appear complicated, since it involves virtually all marketing channels working in harmony.
We make Inbound marketing simple. Our process involves a few major phases, each with a clear process and measurable goals:
Customer personas are actual personifications of your customer. We go as far as giving your customer persons real names and labelling them with pictures. We document their demographic and socioeconomic statuses, their interests, goals and challenges -- both professional and personal.
We go to these lengths so that we can know these personas as real people, understand their motivations and their problems intimately, and therefore solve those problems with our content.
Any successful Inbound marketing strategy begins with persona definition. The more deeply we know your persona, the more precisely we can target him/her online.
In order to get permission from strangers to talk to them through email, you need to give away amazing content with no strings attached… yes, it’s a level of sharing industry knowledge and insights that marketers of past generations would never have dreamed of offering for free.
And in order to get those people to continue the conversation with you, you must keep offering them more free content that materially helps them in their careers and lives.
The first step in Inbound marketing is to create the amazing content. We call those “premium content assets.” They take a long time to produce, but great things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
These content assets typically come in one of the following formats:
Producing premium content upfront is the hardest and longest step. After this, the real fun starts.
In order to trade a content asset for the contact details of someone interested in consuming it, that content should be “gated” behind forms that ask for the necessary lead information (e.g., name, company, email, etc.).
Those forms should sit within dedicated “landing pages” (i.e. pages that stand alone from your main website) whose singular goal is to convince visitors to complete the form and get the content. The actual getting part is triggered by so-called “calls-to-action” (CTAs).
Here’s an example of a common CTA: “Download our free guide to Inbound Marketing!”
And here’s a complete example of one of Hop Online’s landing pages, promoting a free guide for education marketers: http://seo.hop-online.com/linkedin-for-universities/. You’ll see all the elements here.
With content assets, landing pages, forms and CTAs in place -- it’s time to get strategic. It’s time to create “lead nurturing workflows” that will move the marketing-qualified leads you acquire down the conversion funnel, progressively scoring each of their actions and gathering more information about them all along the way.
Lead nurturing workflow design is a fancy way of describing the process of transforming leads who are not necessarily interesting in buying into those who are.
Lead nurturing has 2 primary goals:
Designing a lead nurturing workflow entails creating a specific order or sequence whereby your premium content assets are “dripped” to your prospects over time, most often through email marketing campaigns.
Workflows that are most successful in moving leads closer to sales-readiness contain both a logical ordering of content and appropriate time gaps separating each email outreach campaign.
Also, every new premium content asset presents a chance to ask your leads more questions and get more info from them via forms. This “progressive profiling” builds more information on each lead that can help your salesperson be better prepared when they speak to that person at a later stage.
A simplistic workflow could look something like this:
In the very simplistic example above, we would score people’s actions as they travelled through each step of the workflow.
The most common actions scored are things like:
Once leads complete a workflow, we can observe the behavior of each lead and segment them based on their post-workflow lead score, which should indicate the relative quality of those leads.
Leads can also interact with your site content outside of a workflow. They may, for example, visit your website or blog without being prompted by a workflow-driven event. These interactions are also scored.
Over time, workflows, lead scoring and progressive lead profiling separate non-serious leads from serious leads, which will spare your salespeople lots of time chasing leads that are not interested in buying.
Now your lead generation machine is built, but there are no actual leads flowing through it yet. It’s time to launch campaigns that will attract qualified visitors to your “top-of-the-funnel” landing pages and initiate your workflows.
We use a multi-channel campaign approach to fill the top of the conversion funnel with a lead-off batch of fresh prospects.
Most often, we promote the landing page via:
Blogging is the fuel that keeps the Inbound Marketing machine humming.
Blog posts attract targeted traffic that naturally funnels readers into your premium content landing pages. It will guarantee a steady inflow of marketing-qualified leads at the top of the funnel. And if the workflows do their job, this means a steady flow of sales qualified leads coming out of the bottom of the funnel.
Inbound marketing can never be perfect, yet it should never stop getting better. We are driven by this fundamental principle. We never stop optimizing at every level of the strategy. As we constantly test and optimize, your ROI keeps going up.
You sales team will rejoice!