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Inbound Marketing Lead to Customer in 5 Not-So-Easy Steps

By John McTigueSep 5, 2011

After a few months of publishing your best blogs and investing the time in social media to stimulate interest in your personal and company brand, you can expect some pretty nice gains in traffic and leads. At this point your work is just beginning, however. The next step, from lead to customer, is what separates the winners from the losers. You must be proactive but not pushy. What you say and do are crucial. Here are five steps to improve your chances of converting visitors and leads to loyal customers.

1. Tailor Your Content to the Desired Result

If you are hunting CEO's, publish content that will appeal to CEO's. This seems obvious, but most B2B bloggers and copywriters publish content that interests themselves and assume that their target market will share their interest. You can test this by publishing on a variety of topics and see which ones resonate with your strongest leads. As a best practice, join popular online communities and social networks that are created for your target, for example a LinkedIn Group for CEO's, and follow the discussions. You can gain valuable insights into the questions and answers that stimulate conversation and tailor your own content to appeal to group members. Join the discussions and gently suggest that members can read a more in-depth review on your blog. If you're not to spammy about it, this can drive targeted, pre-qualified leads directly to your doorstep.

2. Soften the Landing

Once your target leads arrive at your blog, you must create the lasting impression that your website and blog are valuable resources worthy of frequent return visits. This means tailoring your website content, calls-to-action and landing pages to appeal to the same target market you are attracting via the blog. Again, if you are seeking to land CEO's as new customers, make your entire "hub" the best resource for CEO's in your industry by knowing what they want and delivering the goods every day via your blog and throughout your website.

It's a mistake to assume that leads will naturally become customers. Depending on what you're selling, there may be a huge leap between "interest" and "commitment to buy". There will undoubtedly be a lot of tire-kickers and competitors interested in your content, so you need to find a way to filter these leads so that you can concentrate on potential customers. Within your real prospects, there will be different levels of purchase readiness. For example, if you offer a middle-of-the-funnel case study or white paper for download and include a question about their interest level in the registration form, you can immediately qualify them. A more general question about their needs or challenges can also reveal much about their intentions. The key here is to carefully plan your lead capture forms to elicit clues to potential interest and purchase without being overly pushy or obvious. Your conversion rates will tend to go down with too many questions, so be judicious with the number and type of questions you ask.

3. Don't Assume - Measure

Now you need to convert your targeted visitors to leads. Your calls-to-action and landing pages must be crafted to appeal to these specific visitors, but don't assume anything. Try different versions using A/B (or A/B/C/D...) testing using software such as HubSpot's new Performable applications or Marketo marketing automation software. Study the different strategies that companies are using to improve conversion rates. Just Google on "landing page optimization" or "conversion rate optimization" for some great examples. Try different messages, layouts, graphics and form requirements, then run your tests over several months. In general, you need at least 100 conversions for each landing page to gain enough statistical data to make valid conclusions. But don't stop at the numbers! Review the leads you get with each version. Is there a bias towards a certain type of lead in one form vs another? For example, are more qualified leads flowing towards longer forms, even though conversion rates are lower?

lead conversion assists from inbound marketing content

4. Measure Behavior to Gauge Interest

One landing page conversion doesn't tell the whole story. What else has your lead done prior to or following that event? Do they return often? What pathways are most attractive for converting leads? Do they start with a Home page call to action, or do they come in via your blog? Once they convert on a landing page, what do they do next? If a lead downloads your middle-of-the-funnel white paper then comes back and reads your Services page, wouldn't you want to know that, or better yet, respond right away? Again, the aforementioned marketing automation software solutions let you measure behavior by establishing "triggers" or "events" that can kick off an e-mail or SMS notification and automatically respond.

5. Be Proactive - Review, Qualify and Communicate

None of this does you any good if you aren't engaged in the process. As leads pass through the system and trigger certain key events, you can view their responses and intervene directly or pass "warm" leads along to your inside sales team. Either way, you need to fine tune your closed loop marketing system to quickly identify qualified sales leads for immediate action and return the rest to a general interest "pot" for lead nurturing and future prospecting. Once you have identified your best pathways for leads converting to customers, you can focus on those opportunities for content, landing page optimization and quick response tactics.

Happy Hunting!

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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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