First step of inbound marketing is to attract potential prospect. This can be done through different way and techniques. Here I’m going to describe main ones as they are described by marketers: online. The goal is to help people find the company website as it is the only place it can be manage entirely (in opposition to search engines, social networks, or any third entity websites).
The most natural way to drive visitors to a website is to be found in results of a search engine. Search engines have powerful algorithms to scan all websites and pages of Internet and sort them. Then, when people search for such or such expression, the search engine present the most accurate pages. As algorithms are kept secret and evolve every single day, it is impossible to guarantee the rank of a page in search engine result page (SERP). Whatsoever, main criteria to be well ranked are known, and some professional can do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve the ranking of a page. Without going into details, there is two main fields in SEO: on-page SEO, and off-page SEO.
Through time, some people tried to find some leaks in algorithms and exploit them. But websites using these « borderlines » techniques usually get caught by search engines and suffer a penalty in ranking. Some « black hat » techniques (in opposition to « white hat » ones, and called like this after a recent update on Google algorithm) are: keywords stuffing, duplicate content, backlinks purchase…
The SEO is the technical way to be more visible on internet through search engines, but there is another way: the creation of content.
Think about a raffle. If your name is write only once, you have very few chance to be picked up. On the other hand, if your name is written a lot of time, your chances greatly increase.
Company blogs are one og the best way to increase its visibility. Each article written is a new page, and each new page is one more chance to appear in SERPs. As words are bricks of the internet, the more words the company website / blog have, the better the visibility will be.
Actually it can be compared to traditional advertising. The biggest advertise is more likely to be seen. Advertise that appear a multiple time are more likely to influence the audience.
The creation of content is called content marketing.
Social networks might also be a source of traffic.
Since few years, we hear that content is king. And this is not only for the reason told above (increase visibility). A message seen only once is ineffective. It is the multiplicity of the views of a message that might influence. This is why there is advertising campaigns instead of unique large ads. The same logic is true on internet. One of the most influent companies in term of SEO and inbound marketing is Moz. Their business is only based on inbound tactics. However, even considered as the state of the art, their leads went, on average, through seven piece of content before getting in touch with the company. Being found only once by a potential lead isn’t enough. The visitor have to land on the same website multiple times before starting to trust it.
Once a visitor found the company blog, the goal is not to promote the awesomeness of the firm or of its product. Why? Because visitor are not looking to buy something, but are seeking for answers to their question. Articles on the company blogs, and its content in general, have to answer question potential leads might have.
-I’m seeking information to find which variety a flower is more accurate for such or such event. Google redirect me to a specific article about this subject. If the article is irrelevant or not answer my question, I leave the website. But if it answer my question accurately, odds are good that I will stay to this website and order flower from this one instead of another one.
This is just the same reaction as if I would go in bricks and mortar shop: I’m more likely to buy from the seller who spend some time to advice me, instead of the one that let me chose by myself, or advice me poorly.
If it is better for SEO to have content presented as text (as explain in the previous part), content can be displayed in multiple format: video, picture, webinar, white paper, newsletter, podcast, infographics, report…
Texts are the easiest kind of content to create, publish and promote. But each format has its strengths and weaknesses. According to the message, the audience, the goal, the budget… An article on the company blog might not be the most accurate format.
Once the visitor consumed the company content and consider it (unconsciously) as a trustful source of information, the objective is to make him interact. Usually the first information to ask to potential leads is his email address.
Through targeted call-to-actions (CTAs), it is possible to drive visitors to a specific landing page.
A landing page is a web-page targeting one very specific buyer persona and specifically designed to make him do a defined action. The creation of successful landing pages is essential to leads generation. Important efforts have to be made to focus all the websites to drive visitors to these landing pages, and to reach high conversion rate though them.
Beyond UI/UX, the principle is to create an interesting offer the visitor can have in exchange of engagement (in the form of personal data). Most common offers are: a newsletter, a report, a white paper, a demo, a free trial, a discount rate… This is the bait featured in the permission marketing.
The more appealing the offer is, the more chance the visitor will give his personal information, his permission. The appeal of an offer can be measured by the value it have for the prospect, and by the engagement asked.
For a newsletter or to download a white-paper, asking more than just my name and my email address would be irrelevant. But to receive free sample of a product, I would be more disposed to give my gender, age, and address.
As the email address is an effective way to communicate in the future with the prospect, and as, for the visitor, giving it is not a big engagement; it is usually the first thing asked. This low level of engagement is the most easy way to stay in touch with the prospect, and it is the first step to build a stronger relationship with him.
However, tricking people to collect their email address is a waste of time, as the permission given worth nothing. The opt-in system have to be explicit to have a valuable permission from the prospect.
Once first information is collected about a visitor, he becomes a lead. The goal is to nurture him to reinforce the relationship with him, develop awareness about the brand, and build trust. This step is called lead nurturing. It is all about leveraging the permission granted in the previous step by following the principles of permission marketing: anticipated, personal, and relevant. This is mandatory, otherwise, and with the ease given by internet, the prospect can dismiss his permission in one click.
For the potential customers it is very easy to avoid the company communication if it doesn’t match his expectations: unsubscribe from the mailing list, sort emails as spams, unfollow the company on social networks…
Lead nurturing is actually like dating. It is all about building a stronger relationship little by little without trying to skip a steps or at the risk of break up the relationship. Exactly as dating, it might take more or less time and effort to convert the lead into a customer, and to make him trust the company enough to purchase from it. Physically, these steps are more and more engagement from the prospect in exchange of more and more value.
This also means that the company have to create relevant content for each steps. If the relationship is already well established, it would be a shame to offer to hot leads same content as new comers.
A theoretical path might look like this:
Of course, paths really have to be design according to characteristics of the product or service to sell. Lot of parameters might influence the complexity of the nurturing process, and not every prospect will be receptive to same incentives. That is why the nurturing process have to be customized at maximum with information gathered about the prospect.
While this can be handle manually in very small companies, it is quickly impossible to manage if there are hundreds of leads. In corporate with enough resources, a marketing automation software permit the automation of the leads nurturing. Hubspot, for instance, is one of them.
Once the lead becomes a customer, the inbound marketing process is not over. As well known, it is way much easier and cheaper to create customer loyalty, than prospecting new ones.
It means that the buying action is not the end of the relationship, but a step that can use as a leverage. With a successful relationship after the purchase, it can lead to multiple other purchases, feedbacks about the products, recommendations, or even creation of an ambassador of the brand.
Lead nurturing, as explain in the previous page, is still relevant. Providing extra information about the product purchased, or access to specific resources to enhance the customer experience. For example, it can be very effective ways to reinforce the relationship. By leveraging the permission given previously, before the buying act, the brand could ultimately turn customers into ambassadors.
Of course, the content provided to people who already purchased still have to follow the three rules of permission marketing: anticipated, personal, and relevant. While this was difficult to do before the internet era, nowadays it is very easy to stay in touch with the customers. Moreover, educating clients after their purchase might avoid some problems of misuse, or failure of products. It decreases the risk of unsatisfied customers and reduce the after sales service work.
2.3) Actual context
2.3.2) A BtoC pattern
2.3.3) BtoB specificities