The story is almost always the same.
A company realizes that they need to step-up their online marketing game. They dip their toes in paid search. They design banner ads. They dive headfirst into social media. They buy expensive marketing automation software, attracted to the promise of magnificent exposure and increased sales. These are the new tactics needed to succeed in the new marketing war, right?
Well, yes and no. While these tactics all have their merits when viewed as standalone methods, failing to integrate diverse efforts into a single, comprehensive strategy means that they are not being effectively leveraged. They lack structure, a framework for success that can be measured, tracked, modified and improved.
But a framework like this does already exist: it's called inbound marketing. It involves managing your online marketing efforts systematically as a consumer goes through the buying process, throughout 4 key phases. In each of these phases, different tactics and types of content are used to turn prospects into clients.
This 2-part blog series will go over all 4 stages of the inbound marketing framework - Attract, Capture, Close, Delight – and how they work within the overall inbound marketing process. We'll also give some insight into what kinds of content you should be releasing within each of the stages, and how you should be seeding or gating it in order to maximize its effectiveness.
Phase 1: Attract
The goal of the first phase of inbound marketing is to attract more visitors to your website. However, you want the traffic to your website to consist of the right visitors. High web traffic is great, but it's not very useful to your bottom line if your visitors have no chance of converting into sales. Since sales – not traffic – is the end goal, the more site visitors who are within your target demographic, the better.
So how do you attract traffic to your website? The first thing to understand is that attracting is a different beast than interrupting. Traditional interruptive media is getting less and less effective – PVRs let us fast forward through commercials, satellite radio doesn't have commercials at all – and is losing its appeal.
In order to attract people to your website, you need to provide high-quality content, plain and simple. It makes perfect sense when you think about it: powerful, relevant content ranks well in search engines, which is a strong source of traffic. It also tends to get shared more frequently via social media, which again attracts traffic to your site. A steady stream of blogs, ebooks, whitepapers and checklists, as well as website content such as service and location pages, will work wonders for your web traffic. And the more relevant and useful it is to your target demographic, the more you will attract the right kind of traffic - visitors who are likely to one day become customers.
Some of the most important tactics to attract qualified prospects to your company website are:
Phase 2: Convert
You've got some stellar content circulating and you've attracted a steady stream of traffic to your website. What now? Remember, traffic is not the end game. What you are able to do with the traffic you have attracted to your website is what's really important. Say a visitor comes to your website, reads a single blog post, and then bounces away. This is a lost opportunity. You want the visitor to complete some sort of action that allows you to capture information about them, whether that's an email address, a connection on social media or another form of data that you can leverage in the future.
How do you entice a site visitor to give you this information? Again, it comes down to content. Offer a valuable piece of content in exchange for an email subscription, a phone number or a social profile. This is called gating – you provide a remarkable, premium piece of content in exchange for information. And the more remarkable the offer is, the more prospects it will entice to subscribe. For example, provide an eBook that can be accessed by submitting a form. From this transaction, the visitor receives a useful piece of content, and you receive vital information that can be used to help you target your marketing efforts. It's a win-win. But keep in mind, visitors must see value and utility in the content you are offering - otherwise, they will have little incentive to convert.
To this end, you should make use of:
Calls-to-Action: These little guys are essential in encouraging web visitors to take action. Whether it's to download an "eBook" or "Request a Free Consultation" you need to make sure you have enough calls-to-action to covert web visitors into leads.
Landing Pages + Forms: The meat in the tasty conversion path sandwich. A landing page accepts web visitors after they have clicked on your call-to-action and it satisfies the offer you promoted. The landing page allows web visitors to submit information in exchange for the offer through the use of an integrated form. Typically when website visitors complete forms and submit their information they become leads.
In part 2 of this series, we will discuss phases 3 and 4 of the inbound marketing framework, which will describe how you can leverage the data you have captured in order to close leads into sales and delight clients.