Inbound marketing attracts traffic with great content that gets found, educates and is worthy of spreading. Marketing automation continues the conversation with subscribers, prospects and customers, primarily through email marketing.
Sounds simple, right? Not if you are keeping up with industry discussions.
Marketing automation and content marketing are often pitted against each other, as if marketing automation is only a “push” tactic and the inbound marketing is only “pull.” In the extreme, the debate pits buyer vs. seller in control of the conversation, helping vs. manipulative engagement tactics, polite vs. pushy attitudes, and purist vs. practical approaches.
This “good versus evil” debate may make for interesting blog headlines, but it doesn’t help marketers get the best results. The reality is the best marketers are using both inbound marketing and marketing automation together, and they are getting great returns.
Here are three keys to success when using inbound marketing and marketing automation together to drive traffic, engagement and sales.
Continue educating throughout the buying process
Your visitors, prospects, buyers and followers are all looking for information and insights to help solve problems and make decisions, but they are not all looking for the same information. By giving the gift of great content on your web site, you’ve earned the right to ask more specific questions on your opt-in web site forms from visitors who want access to more valuable content or from those who want to engage with your team directly.
This provides a unique opportunity to deliver specific educational materials that are tuned to your different target markets, buyer roles, stages of interest and even specific challenges. Your marketing automation system can correctly engage based on the specific information they provide — and the behaviors they exhibit. Continuing to educate after prospect or sales engagement begins will increase response at every stage and accelerate your sales pipeline.
Where many marketers go wrong is when they transition from inbound marketing to email marketing. Just because you've captured a lead and can now send them email, doesn't mean you've earned the right to sell. For example, a medical software company might attract potential clients by blogging about best practices for organizing medical charts. The interested visitors read the blog post and opt in for more information. The key at this point is to continue to send valuable information.
Think of it as a bank account. You should probably make 4-6 deposits (give more valuable information similar to what first got their attention) for every deposit (sales pitch). If people don't bite on the sales pitch, they're not ready yet. It's time to go back to providing value and building the relationship before attempting the sale again.
Engage differently at each stage of the customer lifecycle
Inbound marketing can be great for attracting qualified traffic, but unless there are compelling reasons for visitors to choose to engage further, you are missing big opportunities to attract prospective customers. Likewise, email marketers who have graduated to more sophisticated marketing automation approaches can be overly aggressive with calls to action and messaging when sending to their email lists.
Having different calls to action for web site visitors, engaged prospects and even your customers is critical to making the most of your marketing investments. Marketers who use the sophistication of today's marketing automation systems can ensure that their calls to action always mirror the prospects' most recent behaviors. If a prospect downloads a free report, the next engagement might be to offer more content of a similar nature. If a prospect signs up for a free trial, the next call to action might be to talk to a sales rep or upgrade to a paid version. The key is to use the inbound topic of interest and the recent behaviors to present engagement opportunities that feel natural.
Timely follow up
People who have found your site through search engines are likely to be victims of our “now” society. They searched and got immediate responses. They went to your site and found immediate information. If they then engage with your company and don't get immediate follow up, they'll move on to one of your competitors. It's important to use marketing automation in these circumstances to keep the flow of information as timely as possible for your prospects.
Let's face it: following up can be difficult. Even your best sales reps can't be ever-present for every lead. They're busy closing deals, finding hot leads, and trying to follow up. But, we live in an impatient, on-demand society. We're used to getting the information we want right now. So, if you're follow up is dependent on your sales reps, there's an opportunity to further wow them with marketing automation.
Inbound marketing and marketing automation excel when they work together. Melding the different approaches in the right way will help you build traffic, engagement and sales.
Greg has a successful history in the software business with a track record of creating winning products, brands and businesses. For more than 15 years, Greg helped grow the ACT! contact management and SalesLogix CRM businesses from startups to global brands. He has a passion for helping emerging technology companies with their marketing and growth strategies.