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The 10-Step Process for Creating your Own Inbound Content Strategy - Part 2

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This post continues on from yesterday's Part 1 post, which covered the first 5 stages of the inbound content strategy process.  Be sure to read that first, before continuing through steps 6 to 10...

Step 6: Path to Consideration (Nurture)

Many content strategists would agree, that the process of acquiring traffic and generating “top of the funnel” or ToFu leads is relatively simple and straightforward.  With the right positioning, a compelling message, and an attractive format, even a novice marketer can use paid social and search channels to win opt-ins of varying quality on a daily basis.

What separates great marketers from good is the ability to filter out the tyre-kickers, low quality, poor-fit prospects before any large amounts of time is spent on actual user interaction.

Enter Marketing Automation.

The process of gently nudging a lead from being simply “information qualified”, where they’ve only proven themselves to be interested in your content, to “marketing qualified”, where there’s a genuine interest in the products and solutions you offer, takes real skill and deep understanding of the buyer.

Your strategy needs to include a process for communicating with your leads, and presenting them with the next touch point – the “consideration” or MQL offer.  Great marketing automation should go beyond simply sending emails (autoresponders are so 2003) and could include elements of social selling.  Once you’ve established what your MQL offer will  be (next section), design a sequence of communications via email, social, and perhaps some well-crafted retargeting, to ensure every good-fit lead is given the opportunity to progress.

A sequence might look something like this:

hubspot-workflow.png 

The Custom task in this instance might be to follow the prospect on LinkedIn, a reminder for which would be sent to your own email inbox.

Step 7: The MQL Offer

To the MQL offer itself.  This offer should be centred around your product or service, rather than only providing helpful information. When a lead takes action on an offer that is “all about you,” you know that they are actively considering your brand as a solution to their problem.

All of your leads should be directed towards this consideration stage offer. This creates a filter in your sales process, with leads that move through the filter being considered “marketing qualified” (hence the MQL).  They’re ready to consume information about your products and services, and should be treated as if they were looking for more information into the solutions on offer.

So what does an MQL offer look like?

Your content at this stage could be a brochure, a “sell sheet”, A pitch deck or services overview, case studies, product videos and tours, etc.  As with the first lead offer, the information should be helpful – anyone that chooses to download this offer, regardless of whether they do business with you or not, should gain value from the experience.  For those that remain interested, however, and are coming close to making a decision (you, a competitor, or the dreaded “do nothing”), there’s more nurturing to be done!

Step 8: Path to Decision (Nurture some more)

The process of nurturing your leads from being marketing qualified to being sales qualified closely resembles that of your previous nurturing sequence or workflow.  The messaging should change, however.  With proven interest having being shown in your products and services, you can now start to address some of the nagging concerns that might be bouncing around in the head of your new MQL.

These largely fall into 2 categories:

Sales Questions

Solution-specific questions, many of which you face on a regular basis, I’m sure.  The most obvious of these tend to be about price and terms of service.  The research you conducted during Part 1 of this strategy should inform you as to which questions you need to address.  It’s best that you raise these before you prospect does, as in the absence of this information, they are more likely to remain silent and navigate elsewhere, be it online or otherwise.

Objections

Again, the research for any string push-backs or objections to your solution can be done with existing or past clients, as well as your own sales and customer support staff.  Again, they are often related to price (if you never get objections to price, then you’re likely not charging enough), but can often also be about the prospect’s deep-held belief that your solution won’t deliver the results they seek – either in isolation, or when compared to an alternative product they’re considering against yours.

In both instances, produce content (blogs and/or emails) that answer these concerns, and position them as a resource for anyone considering working with you.  Again, automating the delivery of this content, using tools like HubSpot, can dramatically minimise the amount of human intervention required, and thereby the cost of acquisition.

Where do you point them to next?  You’re about to find out!

Step 9: Hands up! The SQL Offer

If you’ve successfully removed the barriers presented by the sales questions and objections, your inbound lead should now be pretty close to talking turkey.  The task at hand is to present them with an opportunity to take the conversation further, and if they’re sufficiently qualified, they can earn some face time with you. 

Throughout the journey, I recommend that you use “progressive profiling” to extract more information from the prospect at each stage.  In simple terms, this means asking for more fields of information to be submitted at every touch point – information that aids you in filtering out those poor-fit leads that haven’t been put off by anything they’ve read, watched or heard so far, but still don’t meet the discerning criteria, the “velvet rope” that you’ve put in place to keep out the riff-raff.  This information also aids you in the sales process, by providing valuable insights you can use to position laser-targeted solutions later.

Here’s what progressive profiling might look like at each of the 3 stages of qualification we’ve discussed here:

progressive-profiling.png

Notice the growing numbers of form fields as the lead progresses along the buyer journey.  With a growing number of touch points comes the trust and buy-in necessary to elicit this information, and they’re intended to act as filters for those prospects less likely to convert later.  In the SQL form (far right) an ask for the marketing budget of a company will certainly deter those that aren’t serious contenders for what’s on offer.  Similarly, open-ended questions like “What’s your biggest marketing challenge?” will give you something to use in tailoring your pitch and proposed solution at the sales call or meeting.

What does an offer look like?

In most cases, this will be a consultation, evaluation of some kind, a trial or bespoke demonstration.  You might feel empowered enough to offer a “foot in the door” paid workshop or strategy session, that determines the prospect’s willingness to open the purse strings.  Whatever the offer, make it easy to access your services, and gather the insights you need in order to maximise the potential for success.

Step 10: Don't Stop There! Kickass Onboarding and Delight Strategy

Many companies stop at the sale, when designing their strategy, but I think there’s a strong argument for making at least part of the onboarding and after-sales experience intertwine with your content.  Setting the right tone at this stage can vastly improve retention rates, the loyalty shown by your new customer, and the rapport you both enjoy.  Referrals are far easier to come by, too, when the relationship has been nurtured beyond the sale.

Here’s a few tips for delighting your new customers with content:

The welcome pack

Go beyond the welcome greeting card (though that’s a good idea, too), and send a full welcome pack to your new customer.  Provide instructions on the preferred methods of communication, key contacts, and show them how to get the very most out of the product or service you’re supplying.  Too many organisations send an invoice as the first post-sale communication – big mistake.  To the prospect, it smacks of “they’re in it for the money”.  The welcome pack can be a welcome refrain from the path your competitors likely tread.

The case study

Wait a minute!  Shouldn’t we use case studies earlier in the buyer journey, to provide “social proof” and build credibility?  Didn’t you tell us to send a case study at the consideration stage?  I did, and you’re right, but there’s a very good reason for sending a relevant, specific case study just after the sales has been made… buyer remorse.  You can quell whatever doubts might have crept into the mind of your buyer, byt reminding them why they made this decision, and showing them the results that others – just like them – enjoyed, after making that same decision.

The case study you choose at this point should closely resemble the customer’s company profile and situation, as best as possible, in order to drive home this point.

Exclusive customer-only content

If you’re already creating content from potential prospects, in the form of blogs, eBooks, videos, webinars, and more, then why not create content exclusively for your customers?  Go beyond the usual newsletter, and perhaps create a private YouTube channel – uploading videos each month, that show them your summary or response to industry news items, new product releases, or strategies that you’ve seen working elsewhere.  You could set up a Slack channel, too, to provide more immediate responses to questions and calls for help in your customer community.  This can be great for creating bonds and cross-referral between your clients, too.

So that’s it!  My 10 steps to creating an inbound content strategy that covers the full-funnel buyer journey, and which we’ve seen produce fantastic results, time and time again.

What are your thoughts?  How would you change or add to this strategy, and what questions arise for you?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or get in touch.

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Matt Hodkinson

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