The bigger the organisation, the more difficult it is to freely access data, create strategies, content and deploy software that requires integration with legacy software. By sidestepping the internal problems and creating an independent inbound marketing ecosystem, you will be well placed to test and learn. After all, inbound marketing is a different mindset to push marketing and it will take some time for the team to adjust. Once complete you will be able to see where prospects are in the sales funnel and forecast how many leads you expect to provide sales each month.
Inbound Marketing in a nutshell
Inbound marketing is the process of attracting and nurturing prospects to a level where they are ready to buy. Inbound marketing enables the business to build trust with prospects, thus creating a far stronger likelihood of conversion.
Typically the sales team has been expected to retain relationships, making regular calls and constantly trying to convert prospects over time. But in reality this simply doesn’t happen. Either the sales person looses touch or interest, or the constant bombardment erodes the trust.
Inbound marketing provides a way of attracting prospects and nurturing them as they move along the buyer journey until they are ready to convert by your sales team.
Why does Inbound Marketing matter?
The Internet is now the primary source of information gathering and has the greatest influence on purchase decisions. Prospects no longer need to engage with sales executives or showrooms to learn about a product or service. They can find all the information they need from websites, content, reviews, peer-to-peer references, and social media networks or by engaging with other buyers.
Nurturing prospects with helpful, relevant content will move potential buyers through each stage of the journey at a natural pace until they are qualified and ready to be passed on to sales. Nurturing is the safety net for every stage of the buying cycle, helping ensure that no revenue opportunity is missed.
Why bother hacking inbound marketing in the first place?
Implementing inbound marketing is complex and requires a significant investment of money and time as well as adopting a fresh mindset. A light touch test can prove out your thinking and be used to convince the board, demonstrate the value to sales teams and realize where the gaps are.
What is growth hacking anyway?
I see growth hacking as deciding what true north is and aiming ones efforts at that, or as Gagan Biyani put it “Basically, all they (growth hackers) are trying to do is to make their primary metrics go up to the right.”
So rather than try and build the entire ecosystem in one go, you seek the path of least resistance in an effort to achieve some level of success. Growth hacking is doing, learning and adjusting whilst others are pondering and delaying. It’s not for everyone or every business as it requires a different mind-set from the normal way of approaching problems in the corporate environment. That said, you come across more organisations now that are interested in identifying true north and are willing to rapid test, learn, change and repeat in the name of success. But every business has its own culture, objectives and measurements. From a CMO’s point of view, you may be interested to see how apt your marketing team are at delivering inbound marketing and use the growth hack method to flush out problems before you fully invest. For a marketing manager, you may be pushing against colleagues that can’t ‘see’ the true benefit and still believe that B2B sales teams should just keep bashing the phones. By running a controlled, small, cost effective test you can show the results and make a stronger case to invest. You can argue that doing it twice (once to test, second time full implementation) is wasted effort and that a sensible marketer should do it once and do it right. Well, the good news is that most of what you do with your growth hacking method will not be wasted as it will cross over nicely when you are ready to implement a full strategy. The strategy has been tested and tweaked, the content has been created and tested so it can continue to be used and the learnings you and your team have gained will be, as Mastercard put it, priceless.
The four big considerations of inbound marketing
- Data intelligence is a vital component for the effective implementation of inbound marketing. You will need a coherent and clear process for managing data including capturing, recording and moving data across your organisation. Deploying the right data strategy and creating a clear data eco-system from the outset is essential.
- Secondly you need to fully understand your prospects to create the right inbound strategy. This includes the various buyer stages they go through and what content will be most useful at each stage. Marketers need to consider the psychology of buyers in particular, their specific internal narratives in relation to the purchase process.
- Without relevant and informative content it’s not possible to attract and nurture prospects for your sales pipeline. However, not all content is equal so it’s important that your content resonates with them and is engaging.
- Lastly you need to deploy, implement and integrate with your CRM the right marketing automation technology. With so many cloud-base tools available it’s a challenge to select the right combination for your current and future needs.
So let’s take the four key points you need to achieve inbound success and growth hack them.
How to growth hack your way to clean data
Data silo’s, policy, governance and poor data are sadly the norms of every organisation. So don’t worry, you, your competitor and me are all awash with data with only a little of it flowing smoothly toward providing useful insight. It’s the norm, so it’s pointless fighting the system, your objective is true north, to prove inbound marketing via the path of least resistance. So whilst adhering to company policy, you are going to collect some fresh data. By creating a true inbound campaign you will be able to generate new prospect data so you can remove yourself from the problem of dealing with the data police.
How to growth hack your way to a strategy you can easily implement
It’s time to hack out a simple inbound strategy. Your strategy will only contain the bare bones information required to move a prospect through the funnel, or in this case along a buyer journey.
Start by selecting one of your products or services that you know well and is a good market fit, in other words something that customers find useful, value and happy to pay for. Ask the sales team what attracts a customer to the product or service, how they normally buy, how long is the buying cycle, the questions they ask, the objections they have to overcome and how they do that. You will also need to know which assets already exist, which assets are deemed good and ask about specific insights the sales team share with prospects.
Now clean a white board and on the far right draw your prospect with one hand in the air. That’s the goal, to get that guy to say I am ready to buy. Now draw a straight line from the left hand side of the white board right to that little hand-raising dude. Divide the line up buy length of buying cycle. So, for three months you will divide it into three parts, six months six parts and so on.
Mark out on the line the number of times you will need to contact that prospect with a communication in order to close a sale. Gather up all the content you have and based on the insights you collected from your sales team, identify a high value piece of content that will attract and engage the prospect. This high value content item is going to live at the far left of the line at the start of the journey. That piece of content could be a white paper, deep dive case study or an industry insight piece, just use the knowledge gained from your sales team to find the subject matter/conversation opener that attracts prospects. It will be called ‘gated content’ on the white board and your team are going to set up a simple web form on a landing page that will require anyone wishing to view your high value gated content to exchange their email address and name. Your gated content will act to attract a prospect and you will use social media channels to get it in front of them. As a test, I would recommend buying some media on LinkedIn and point people to the free download. You can tweet it, blog it and use any other method you are familiar with to get your prospects to download the gated content and, most importantly, hand over their email address and name.
So your strategy has a buyer journey flow, content (we’ll cover that next) and a web form. It’s not sophisticated, but it can deliver leads. If a prospect gives there name and email you can follow up with the second, third and however many touch points required to convert. If a prospect opens some or all the subsequent emails you can count them as a hand raiser, basically someone who has shown more than a passing interest in your product or service and the sales team would probably like to speak to them. Also, the sales team will know what they have, and have not, seen on the journey so will be well informed in advance of speaking to the prospect. How can they speak to them? Well it’s not a huge leap to take the company name, persons name and email address and find them on LinkedIn and use Sales Navigator to get personal and close the deal.
Congratulations, you now have a simple strategy that moves a prospect from attract, through to nurture, and ends with conversion. Now it’s time to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in to content.
How to growth hack your way to creating content
What do I mean by content? I mean any communication you create that you share with a prospect. An email, tweet, blog, white paper, case study, infographic, video or any of the numerous formats. It’s all considered content.
90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that companies providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. (source: McMurry/TMG). Good content really does matter and you will need to treat each piece of content as a part of the bigger prospect journey. To better understand what content is right try to view the buying process through the eyes of your prospects wants and needs, not those of your business. Your opinion, all though interesting, is irrelevant, as you are not the buyer.
Here’s a sobering thought: the content you create will be the determining factor to your inbound marketing success. As inbound marketing allows the prospect to self select what content they chose to engage with it’s important your content resonates with them. From headline to CTA and everything in between, every thought counts. So how can you growth hack content?
Write a watertight brief for each piece of content, that’s how. Include the subject matter, what it must talk about, and the call to action. Share the brief with the sales team and explain where that piece of content will fit in to the user journey and ask for advice to make it better. If the sales team say the brief is a bit verbose, then switch to plain. If they say you missed a vital detail, then add it in. Remember, you are only going to have to create 3 or 4 pieces of content so spend some time to get the brief right. You can’t disguise poor communication with jolly graphics when it comes to inbound marketing, you need to be clear, compelling and useful!
Need to create that content for less? For designer, writers, animation, film and audio production check out the following websites.
There are many more to choose from but these are a good start. As long as you provide a clear, well-defined brief you should expect quality original work in return.
Instead of filling your content with technical speeds and feeds try creating content that demonstrates how a past customer has benefitted by purchasing from you. A customer story is a compelling way to engage prospects early in the journey. Stories are a powerful way to share information. Studies in psychology show that stories have the power to influence our behaviours, attitudes and decisions we make. You can download your free copy of my guide ‘Applying The Power Of Story To Content‘ which includes my 5-step process for creating business stories.
How to growth hack your way to marketing automation implementation
Marketing automation technology requires a massive investment in time to ensure that it will integrate successfully with your CRM and Data Management Platform. To growth hack your way to managing the email side of your inbound campaign you need to select a simple tool to use email solution like MailChimp.
Using MailChimp, you will be able to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your content and strategy. MailChimp boasts a simple user interface and intuitive reporting, allowing you to quickly hack your approach until the results you are looking for begin to appear.
Start with running a basic campaign (using MailChimp’s tutorials to guide you if needed) with two or three emails, based on a subject that you can solidly communicate to your audience.
Based on this campaign, determine what your success criteria will be (for example, if a contact clicks on all three emails). Doing this will mean you will be able to easily measure the performance of your activities.
Run your campaign and supporting activity (such as social media, if applicable), keeping an eye on the engagement (opens, clicks, unsubscribes etc). If you notice a sudden spike in activity, positive or negative, take note and try and determine the source; did you have a different call-to-action style, design/layout or send time? Once identified, use this information on your next campaign to either avoid a weak performance, or ensure a stronger one.
Even though MailChimp’s reporting provides a lot of insight, you’ll need to keep track of the contacts that meet your success criteria manually. I’d recommend using Excel to manage the exports delivered by MailChimp, combining the reports for your various sends and using the conditional rule (highlighting duplicates) feature to flag those who have engagement multiple times.
Repeating this process and experimenting with new content will ultimately provide you with complete overview of the most effective material and approach for your email campaigns, allowing you to progress to more advanced automation software.
Data, strategy, content and software are the four pillars of inbound marketing. Your growth hacking efforts will give you exposure to them all in some small but meaningful way.
The future is buyer driven and it’s up to marketing to bring the solution to the table. Although implementing a formal inbound marketing strategy and following best practices may seem the most logical thing to do, you may find that colleagues do not appreciate your reasoning and to achieve progress you need to demonstrate the possibilities with a little bit of hacking.
If you want to growth hack your inbound marketing or roll out a full solution, the team at HarveyDavid are more than happy to continue the conversation and see where we can add value, email: email@example.com or call: +44 (0)117 214 0011
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