How Context Strengthens Your Entire Marketing Funnel

    by Jeffrey Russo

    Date

    February 19, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    broken chain

    When you think about your marketing funnel, how do you think about the work you do to optimize it? You may have never considered it, but a lot of what you probably do is work to minimize the number of breaks in your marketing chain.

    Ideally, you should be working to carry information and context about your leads throughout the different stages of your funnel -- minimizing as many breaks in your marketing chain as possible, and strengthening the impact of your marketing. And today, minimizing breaks in the chain means putting your data to use in as many ways as you can. In this post, we'll walk you through exactly what this means in a modern-day marketing world -- and how you can apply (and gain) context in your individual marketing channels to help you more effectively move leads further and further down the funnel.

    First, a Brief History of Data-Driven Online Marketing

    The Early Days of Online Marketing

    In the early days of online marketing, tools like Google Analytics helped us understand our audience in aggregate. Minimizing breaks in the chain meant figuring out what worked on a high level, and optimizing our marketing to make it more appealing to our audience as a whole. We saw which keywords drove traffic to our website, and we worked to rank higher for those keywords. We saw which pages our prospects were viewing, and we put calls-to-action on those pages. Web analytics fueled a revolution in marketing based on data, but it was marketing in aggregate. In other words, we didn’t have a way to connect the dots between the mass of traffic we were measuring and the real people it represented.

    The Middle Ages of Online Marketing

    In what I think of as the middle ages of online marketing, technology took us a step further. We used a lot of different marketing tools -- an analytics tool, a CRM system to tap into our sales team's data, an email marketing tool, a landing page tool, a blogging platform, a social media tool, etc. We could optimize each channel individually -- landing pages based on their conversion rates, emails based on their open and clickthrough rates -- but sharing data between these individual systems was difficult at best, and often impossible. Wanted to infuse your CRM system with data from your latest email marketing campaign? It was doable, but very manual. Wanted to give your sales team a digestible history of interactions with a lead across all of these tools? Let me know if you ever figured that one out.

    A Modern Marketing Era

    Luckily, we’ve entered a modern marketing era where these are solvable problems thanks to integration. With a modern marketing software platform (like HubSpot ), all of your marketing tools talk to one another, right out of the box. (And if you still use many different tools, today you might be able to glue them together with the help of a savvy developer.) Means aside, it’s possible to do things we never would have dreamed of doing just a few, short years ago. Rather than marketing to one audience with one message, we can now market to an audience of one, delivering a consistent, personalized message specific to each individual across every medium . The content you serve to each individual can be tailored based on the context you collect from every channel.

    There is an important paradigm to dig into here. Every time a lead or a potential lead comes into contact with your brand, you have two opportunities: 1) to learn more about them (acquire context), and 2) to leverage what you already know (apply context to your content). And as we mentioned up top, today, minimizing breaks in your marketing chain means putting your data to use in as many ways as possible. Collecting context, and applying it to your content.

    Modern Marketing: Context and Content

    The implications of applying context to your content are huge. Your marketing results improve when you deliver more relevant messages to your prospects based on what you already know about them; and your campaigns are supercharged when you can deliver the same consistent message across every medium your prospects see. You can even have a huge impact on your sales team’s performance. In the same way a snowball grows as it rolls down a hill, you accumulate more and more data about your leads with each and every marketing touch point as they move through your funnel. And when the time is right for your sales team to reach out, that data can be transformative to their processes.

    Lost on where to start delivering this kind of a personal marketing experience to your leads, prospects, and sales team? Let’s take a look at some real examples of opportunities to gain and apply context with every marketing tool in your arsenal, at every step in the funnel, and through every channel your leads touch. 

    Website/Blog Content & Calls-to-Action

    Context You Can Apply

    • Show Targeted Calls-to-Action (CTAs): It goes without saying that your website should have prominent CTAs on every page to encourage visitors to convert into leads -- and motivate leads to take the next step. But are those calls-to-action targeted to show your leads an offer they've never seen before? Showing your website visitors an offer to download an ebook or whitepaper that a lead has already converted on can be a missed opportunity. Use dynamic, Smart CTAs to show the right content to the right visitors.

     

    smart cta  lifecycle lead

     

     

    • Show Targeted Images: In some cases, it might even make sense to modify the imagery leads see on your landing pages and website pages. If you primarily sell to two different groups of people (architects and contractors, for example), and you know that a lead is a contractor from his or her past downloads or page views, why not show that lead relevant images of contractors using your product -- images that they can better identify with.

    Context You Can Gain :

    • Behavioral Data: As prospects move through your website (even on their first visit, before becoming a lead), you are probably collecting web analytics data on their interactions with your site. But is that data stored in aggregate, or is it tied to them as an individual? When they finally do turn into a lead, can their history of page views and important events be applied to their record in your CRM and marketing databases ? Can you use that data to determine their buyer persona and lifecycle stage
    • Lead Intelligence: The first time a lead comes to your website, it’s important to consider how they got there. Are you tracking the channel or campaign that first brought them to your website? If they came to you from a search engine, are you capturing the keyword that introduced them to your brand, as well as the first page they viewed? This can give you important context about their initial interest and what their intentions might be. 

    Forms & Landing Pages

    Context You Can Apply

    • Targeted Images and Messaging: Landing pages present a huge opportunity for applying context about a lead, and many of the same rules for applying context to website or blog pages apply to landing pages, too. Targeting images is a great starting point -- targeting all of the content on the landing page based on who is seeing it can be even more effective. (Note: This should be something your marketing platform can handle on the back end. In HubSpot, for example, Smart Calls-to-Action that are targeted based on the viewer can direct users to different, targeted variations of your landing pages.)

    Context You Can Gain

    • Ask More Detailed Questions Over Time: Forms are all about gaining context about your leads. When a prospect or lead is willing to fill out a form, it’s a special moment -- you have demonstrated enough value that the prospect is willing to give you some valuable information in return for what you're offering. But when that special moment occurs, are you taking full advantage of it? Dynamic forms that use a feature called progressive profiling can ensure you never squander that special moment by asking the same question twice. Instead, progressive profiling analyzes what you already know about a lead, and pulls from a queue of questions to ask for details you haven’t already collected. Using progressive profiling is a fantastic way to accumulate more valuable, deep information about your leads over time.

     

    progressive profiling resized 600

     

    Email & Marketing Automation 

    Context You Can Apply

    • Granular Segmentation: This is perhaps the biggest opportunity to leverage what you know about a lead to market to them more effectively. When you have a large volume of data about each lead, you can segment your database more granularly and send closely targeted messages to each segment that better match their interests and where they are in your funnel. Your segmentation might leverage implicit details like lead score, page views, key actions, or responses to specific types of content; it might also leverage explicit details like company size, job title, geography, or other characteristics. 
    • Personalized Message and Sender: You've all likely noticed this in the emails you receive -- a personalized subject line, and content within that addresses you by your first name, for example. But why stop there? There are plenty of other ways you can personalize the content of an email . For example, you might mention a detail like the lead's business vertical, geography, or something else that makes the email feel more personal and relevant. Or, if the lead is being worked by a specific sales rep, why not personalize the sender name to make the email appear to be coming directly from the rep the lead already has a relationship with?

    Context You Can Gain

    • Engagement With Your Messages: This one is fairly obvious. Over the course of an email campaign, tracking which messages (and which parts of each message) resonate with your leads can give you important insight into their interests and where they fall in the buying cycle . For example, if a lead clicks on a link in an email that's offering them a free consultation, you might infer that they're further along in the buying process than someone who converts on an offer to download a purely educational ebook about an industry topic. 

    Your CRM System & Your Sales Process

    Context You Can Apply

    • Lead Intelligence for Your Sales Team: Over the course of a lead’s journey -- from their first encounter with your brand until the point at which they're ready for sales intervention -- you’ve likely collected a lot of data about them that could be valuable to your sales team. Your sales team can likely infer details about a lead's interests, their level of urgency around a potential purchase, their level of fit for your product, and much more. Since most CRM systems aren’t natively designed to handle the volume and type of data that a marketing campaign is capable of generating, it's also important for you to consider how you can help surface relevant, interesting details for your sales team. HubSpot, for example, gives your sales team access to a chronologically ordered timeline of lead interactions , along with a way for you to quickly surface the most important details for your sales team.

     

    contacts gold 001

     

    Context You Can Gain

    • Details From Other Sources: Depending on your sales process and the origin of an individual lead, your CRM system may be full of details you can use to better target and personalize your marketing messages. Think about the context a sales rep could capture during a five-minute conversation with a lead who turns out to be a good fit for your business, but is not yet ready to make a purchase. If your sales team isn’t already capturing that data in a structured way, it may be worth considering if it’s possible to fit capturing these types of details into their workflow. 

    Social Media

    Social media is a channel that can’t be personalized in the same way email messages or your website can be personalized, but there are still ways in which you can apply context you have about your leads to the content you share in social media.

    Context You Can Apply

    • Context From Past Leads as a Whole: Looking at your leads database overall, or leads from past social media conversions , are there things you can infer about your best leads that can help guide your future content strategy? Do certain content offers resonate with more people -- or people who represent a best fit lead? Do certain types of offers seem to work best in social media as a channel?

    Context You Can Gain

    • Behavioral Data: Similar to email, social media presents an opportunity for you collect implicit details about your leads. What offers resonate with your leads? In general, your social media posts should be heavier on content, and lighter on direct pitches or landing pages, but are you able to track when a contact interacts with your content through social media, even if it’s just a click on a link to a blog post and not a conversion on a landing page?

    With the tools available to marketers today, there are a lot of different ways to optimize your funnel and improve your marketing -- from A/B testing button colors and experimenting with PPC bids, to website redesigns and testing different types of blog posts. All of these are important, but few can have the kind of impact across all of your channels in the same way as a concerted effort to share context between your marketing tools, and apply it to the content you create ( HubSpot's software can do all of the above ... wink wink).

    How big a role does context play in your marketing? In what ways can you improve?

    SUBSCRIBE TO HUBSPOT'S MARKETING BLOG

    Join 280,000+ fellow marketers! Get HubSpot's latest marketing articles in your inbox. Enter your email:

    Search Inbound Hub

    Subscribe to Marketing Articles by Email

    Subscribe by RSS

    Follow HubSpot

    Call Us: 1-888-HUBSPOT