Jean-Marie Bonthous, Seamless Social
I attended the Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston and had a chance to listen to Brian Halligan, founder and CEO of HubSpot, and author of best-selling book “Inbound Marketing”. I tried to capture the essence of his vision for inbound marketing at a 2015 horizon.
The marketing funnel is shifting: the buyer is in control
In the old marketing paradigm, the buyer seller relationship was controlled by the seller who had all the power. There was asymmetric information between buyer and seller and it worked to the advantage of the seller. The seller controlled the information and leveraged that to control the buying process. If you wanted information about the product, you had to go through the sales rep,. Pricing information, technical information, negotiation parameters, even customer satisfaction, all these were all closely guarded. Marketing played a very small role and sales dominated most organizations.
Things are changing a lot: the shape of the funnel is changing and the seller-buyer relationship is shifting from the seller to the buyer. The buyer now has all the power: it has gone from asymmetrical information to a situation where the buyer is more educated than the seller. This is a radical transformation in the dynamics of the funnel
Inbound marketing 1.0 delivered a tenfold increase in traffic and leads
Before inbound marketing 1.0, people would buy a list and advertise or call prospects cold. This model became obsolete a few years ago as people got sick and tired of being marketed to.
Inbound marketing pulled people into blogs, and matched the way you market to the way people shop and learn. Inbound marketing done right, Halligan says, gets you 10 times more visitors that outbound marketing, at a 62% lesser cost, and delivers to you 10 times more leads.
Inbound marketing 2.0 will transform the middle of the funnel
The next wave, according to Halligan, is not around the top of the funnel and getting found by more people, but in improving the conversion from the top to the middle and the bottom of the funnel. This requires rethinking the entire engagement process and the marketing department going beyond getting found and becoming responsible for converting visitors into customers effectively. With the rise in the power of customers, marketing is now in control most of the buying decision-making processes from the top to the middle and even the end of the funnel. Control over the funnel needs to shift from the sales organization to the marketing organization.
Marketing and sales processes often match the old, not the new, buyer behaviors.
Now people enter the funnel by doing a search online. If you are a blogger your articles rank high, you may be found. The prospect may then forget about your company until one of their colleagues on Facebook becomes a fan of your company.
He may then do a free a download and leave some information about his company and then one of your sales rep may call him but, with caller ID, he may not answer. He may listen to your message and search online for your company and your competitors.
This is a completely different process where the prospect is in control and driving all the decisions. Importantly, the first conversations happen very later in the process after the prospect has made many decisions about features, benefits and pricing. Marketing and sales processes in most organizations match the old way of buying and don’t track with the social buyer.
Inbound marketing will remain key for the top of the funnel (TOFU
The people who do inbound marketing right get a lot more visitors. They publish their way to success. They create tons of great content, optimize it for Google and social media. Each piece of content becomes a mini-magnet that pull customers and increases the assets. Inbound is scalable and repeatable.
The same revolution is coming to the middle of the funnel (MOFU)
In the last 4 years inbound marketing has transformed the top of the funnel. Many companies have experienced a 10x improvement in the top of the funnel . Now, Halligan sees a 10x improvement coming in the middle of the funnel. Now is the time to transform the middle of the funnel. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Neflix, Groupon, Linkedin are all very hugely successful because they are conversion experts, MOFU experts, says Halligan. What can we learn from them to do conversion as they do?
The holy grail ahead for inbound marketing
These companies have 4 things in common. When prospects become users, a three step process of usage and conversion unfolds. In these 4 sites:
- Everyone who visits gets a personalized experience.
- The value of the site is a function of the number of users on it: the more people on the site, the better the personalization.
- if you visit to Netflix, Amazon or Pandora for the first time, there is little on the page where you register. But as you start to use it, the recommendations for you become more pertinent. The system knows what you like, what other people like you like.
- The more people use it, the more valuable it gets for them. The platform creates segments of one, where everyone has a personalized experience.
And the conversion model is very scalable.
Inbound marketing 2.0, says Halligan will make it possible for small and midsize companies to market like Amazon. As a company, you will be able to transform your web footprint into personalization engine serving the right content to the right person in the right format and at the right stage of their buying cycle. A capability reserved until now for a few mega organizations with deep pocket.
The promise of inbound marketing 2.0
Halligan sees the conversion rates in the MOFU going up tenfold with inbound marketing 2.0, just like the generation of leads at the TOFU went up tenfold with inbound marketing 10.
We should learn from Amazon and Netflix, says Halligan, quoting Isaac Newton’s: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” Isaac Newton
The need to rethink engagement processes and to hire “DARC”
The role of marketing and sales needs to be rethought, with marketing becoming largely a publishing and analytics organization and taking responsibility for more of the funnel, up to the sales and even later through up-sell and referrals.
And the people with the right skills need to be brought onboard:
- Digital natives speaking internet without an accent,
- Analytically skilled
- “R” stands for reach: hire people who have a big online Rolodex. When HubSpot Hired Dan Zarella, he already had his own 22K mailing list.
- “C” stands for content: hire content creators: people who are comfortable creating content.
Inbound marketing 2015: a better moat around your business
Warren Buffer said: “ Build a moat around your business: large, deep with alligators in it…. For Halligan, the moat of the future around your business is inbound marketing. Inbound marketing 1.0 built such a moat on top of the funnel. Now the same transformation needs to be applied to the MOFU.
Halligan sees inbound marketing in the middle of the funnl as a powerful a strong deterrent to rivalry because, just like it’s very hard to become another Amazon or Pandora, it’s very hard to catch up on a competitor that has implemented personalization throughout the middle of funnel.
Have you started implemented processes to improve lead scoring, nurturing and recycling? What challenges are you encountering and how are you overcoming them? I would love to hear your comments. Thank you
Download the free eBook: “Getting Started with Inbound Marketing”
Photo courtesy of sntgmdm, via Creative Commons, Flickr