Finding the Answers to Tough Questions
What would you do to learn more about, let’s say, the inbound marketing funnel? Simple – you turn to the search engines (usually Google). Keyword searches throw up blogs, news stories, and videos that explore and elucidate whatever you’re researching. During this process you’re subconsciously assigning a value to the websites you find most helpful. You’re growing to trust the authors of the most useful resources you stumble upon. You may even bookmark them for future reference.
What’s really happening here, of course, is that you’re being targeted with clever marketing that matches useful content to consumers’ honest desire to know. You’re becoming a new lead, drawn inexorably in (the marketers’ hope) towards a purchase.
You’re in the inbound marketing funnel.
How Does Inbound Marketing Work?
Wikipedia describes Inbound Marketing as:
“a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and branding.”
Inbound marketing can take many forms: blog posts with tailored content, SEO which includes the keyword strings that users are searching for eBooks, videos, white papers, newsletters, and social media, to name but a few.
By curating content that actively fills a user’s knowledge gap, you create value and build trust, you set your site up as a useful resource that keeps people coming back for more. HubSpot itself is a perfect example, popping up near the top of most searches for internet marketing education. As well as encouraging repeat visitors, the best-designed funnel will welcome new leads and reward loyalty in equal measure.
Breaking Down the Inbound Marketing Funnel
The Funnel comprises a three-part “buyer’s journey” which splits into these three inbound marketing phases:
- Top of Funnel (TOF) | Awareness: Here is where new leads settle – people searching for answers find your SEO-optimized content and extract value from it. The challenge is to keep them there, by maximizing the value of each visit.
- Middle of Funnel (MOF) | Consideration: Browsers become shoppers here in the funnel. Having identified a potential source of ongoing value, they are now weighing their options and trying to identify who best to buy from.
- Bottom of Funnel (BOF) | Decision Stage: Finally, customers are ready to make a purchase. This must be made as straightforward as possible for them, or else they may quickly change their minds and flee.
In summary, inbound marketing utilizes well-written and informative content which includes subtle but effective SEO to draw in potential leads (TOF). Customers then settle into your brand and explore what’s on offer while keeping their options open (MOF). Eventually, something inspires them to decide to buy from you and you optimize their journey to the checkout (BOF).
Organic vs. Paid: Attracting Prospects
Let’s examine how you might go about getting leads at each stage of the funnel, using either an inbound/organic approach or outbound/paid advertising strategies.
Top of Funnel
- Inbound: SEO, newsletters, blogs, and other means pull in new leads organically, allowing potential buyers to find you.
- Outbound: Running paid campaigns that optimize for brand recall or brand awareness. The ads aren’t trying to make a sell but introducing the brand to prospects.
Middle of Funnel
- Inbound: Having settled on your site, customers now want to examine what you’re providing more closely. More in-depth content such as downloadable e-books, longer articles, FAQs, and newsletter subscriptions broaden the scope of your offering. If a visitor completes a form or gives you their email address, you can consider them a strong lead. You can create a landing page with forms enabling visitors to download premium content using an automated service such as HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardot.
- Outbound: The best way to bring prospects into the middle of the funnel using paid ads is to run a campaign with the intention of collecting email addresses. You can then follow up with these individuals via email to pull them into the bottom of the funnel.
Bottom of Funnel
- Inbound: Here your customer signs up for a free trial, tries out a limited-time subscription, or otherwise makes a soft commitment to purchase.
- Outbound: PPC results (pay per click), banner ads, trade shows, event marketing, free gifts, social media platforms, and even TV or radio advertising can be used to provoke purchases or signups. The typical language used in such techniques includes buzzwords like “SALE”, “BUY NOW”, or “LIMITED OFFER”.
Final Words on the Inbound Marketing Funnel
Both Inbound and Outbound marketing lets you communicate with potential customers at each stage of the buying journey. By contrast, Inbound marketing also doesn’t require financial resources to support ad campaigns but does take more time to develop high-quality content that’ll rank, over the long term, on search engines.
For optimal marketing, you can combine both approaches, splitting your budget spend. Outbound marketing strategies such as PPC ads bring in a certain number of quick buyers. On the other hand, your inbound approach builds a base of regular customers. There are paid approaches to bring people into the funnel. This includes both in larger numbers at the top, or in a more focused way at the base. But the best approach is to provide genuinely useful content that generates fans of your brand, in an organic way.
Remember that the customer often knows best and can tell the difference between content that rewards their interest and time, and that which attempts to quickly manipulate them towards a purchase. Inbound marketing is about playing the long game, building a rapport with regular customers, and establishing your brand as a go-to answer to those pesky search engine queries.
Let’s chat on how to make the inbound marketing funnel work for your marketing strategy.