You are a savvy inbound marketer. You’ve got a killer blog, search optimized content, and an active social media community. The top of your funnel is swelling. And that’s great. But the truth is, you may only have it half right.
Inbound marketing initially emerged as a response to the negative impact that traditional outbound marketing methods, like advertising and direct mail, had been having on prospective customers. Tired of being interrupted by irrelevant marketing messages, buyers began driving their own research – taking to search engines and social media sites to get the information they needed to make their purchasing decisions. By prioritizing useful, search-friendly content, inbound marketing provided a welcomed alternative.
But there’s a whole other part of inbound marketing that often gets overlooked. The process of initially getting found online and generating leads is critical, but so is understanding and adapting to the needs of your leads after they have expressed an interest in your company. In fact, Gleanster Research found that even when dealing with high-quality leads, only about 50% of them are ready to buy when they first convert. It takes time and tailored communications to bring them to a decision point.
Understanding Buyer Interests and Experiences (Lead Intelligence)
Sometimes marketers refer to this as prospect or lead intelligence. True inbound marketing should help you gain insight into what first brought prospects to your company and what their end goals are. It should also help you separate out the common experiences of people who end up buying versus general website traffic. To do so, you have to be data-driven. You have to understand not just general trends about your website, but also indicators of the individual customer experience – from the moment they first discovered you, all the way through to their most recent purchase, and beyond.
What It Takes:
Analytics that tell you which companies and prospects are visiting your site and why.
A leads database that includes a history of your leads' content interests and interactions.
Analytics that pull in relevant interactions from social media, email, third-party apps, and other lead-to-company interactions.
One of the major weaknesses of outbound marketing is that it pummels prospective customers with irrelevant messages they aren't ready for. The same can easily be true for email marketing campaigns, which is why email marketing campaigns that are part of an inbound marketing strategy should reflect the individual evolving needs of your leads. They should be relevant to the content that your leads have already consumed and where they are in the buying cycle. And while we're at it, they should sound like a real person wrote them -- no more "Greetings... Our records show that you registered..." That's rubbish. Communications from your company should feel as if they were written expressly for the recipient.
In fact, we've found that lead nurturing campaigns with emails that reflect individual interests have a significantly higher click-through rate (CTR) than more generic email blasts. Our research showed that lead nurturing emails generated an 8% CTR compared to the typical 3% CTR of general email sends.
What It Takes:
Email content designed to inform and engage over time.
Messages that are triggered based on lead behavior on your site and across other channels (marketing automation).
An email system intelligent enough to stop emailing or shift the communications once a lead has converted.
A team member who can write... and relate.
If inbound marketing starts with getting found and generating leads and continues as nurturing those leads, then the final stop is analyzing the effectiveness of your whole inbound marketing funnel. Understanding which channels and strategies are effectively achieving your marketing goals and which are underperforming will help you improve, iterate, and focus more of your time on what works rather than what doesn't. Analyzing your marketing also helps you prove your business' inbound marketing ROI.
What It Takes:
Website and marketing analytics tools to enable you to track which channels are effectively generating leads, and which aren't.
Closed-loop marketing analytics to understand which leads turn into your ideal customers.
Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot's co-founder, often talks about making marketing that people can actually love -- marketing that helps and adds value. That's the promise of inbound marketing. To achieve that vision, however, your company's marketing has to focus on the full customer experience, from helping them find you to supporting their unique decision-making process. Getting inbound right takes both.
Originally published Dec 19, 2011 3:15:00 PM, updated October 20 2016