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The Evolutionary Stages of Inbound Marketing – Which Generation are You?

By Chad PollittOct 4, 2011

Inbound marketing has come a long way since visionaries like Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah coined today’s denotation back in the middle of the last decade. It’s a continuation of Seth Godin’s permission marketing which he popularized in 1999. Inbound marketing has three distinct generations according to Halligan. Most marketing professionals are still deploying first generation inbound marketing.  Below is a summation of the evolution of inbound marketing and its generations as discussed by Halligan.

Evolution of Inbound MarketingGeneration One - Brochure

This can be used to describe the first websites created for the internet. Unfortunately, it can be used to describe many websites today. The first generation of inbound marketing is best summed up as a brochure. Its content is very me, me, me oriented and focuses on features, benefits and value not on solutions to prospect’s problems per se. People only go to the Internet to solve a problem or be entertained – quickly. First generation websites fail at this.

First generation websites are holdovers from the outbound days by marketers stuck in their ways. A common misperception is that including SEO, email marketing or a social media campaign with a first generation website moves it to the second generation of inbound marketing. This is not the case, because the content created for these first generation websites doesn’t do a very good job of converting anyone at the top of the sales funnel no matter how they come to the website.

Generation Two – TOFU

TOFU stand for Top of the Funnel. Inbound strategies which fall under TOFU provide visitors with lots of high-quality problem solving content. Some of the content is free and available on a blog while other more valuable advanced content is available behind a form. This advanced content can be a whitepaper, ebook, guide, webinar, video, audio or a myriad of other digital assets which provide value to a visitor and helps solve a problem. Content of this nature and a visitor's email address is the currency for the above quid pro quo transaction. It’s also known as a moral bribe or unique value proposition.

Once leads are captured in this way they can be placed in an email lead nurturing campaign which drips a series of strategically written emails over time. These emails are created with the intent of moving prospects down the sales funnel until they are mature enough to be contacted and closed. This is accomplished by tracking and scoring leads as they continue to visit the website over time.

MOFU Inbound MarketingGeneration Three – MOFU

MOFU is Middle of the Funnel inbound marketing and can best be described as content personalization. Amazon is a great example of MOFU. As users of Amazon continue to purchase and interact with the website it gets smarter and begins to understand the user’s likes, needs and wants. As a result, Amazon is able to offer up products which fulfill its customer’s wishes without the customer ever doing a search for them. For a website to become intelligent like this requires analysis, the right software and lots of content.

Analysis

In order to attain the necessary data to properly analyze a MOFU strategy requires advanced lead generation analytics. Analytics of this type do a very good job of reporting and tracking visitors based on their IP address, name, email and even social media profiles. It not only tracks what they click on and where they go, but it reports on which content is accessed through the buyer cycle. This gives marketers defined paths that converted prospects took prior to becoming a customer.

Advanced Lead Generation Analytics ReportThe Right Software

There are only a handful of software packages out there which perform as described above and are typically referred to as marketing automation. HubSpot’s Enterprise package is one of them. It not only provides the needed data for MOFU, but it also includes cross-channel behavior-triggered lead nurturing.

So, once buyer-cycle paths are defined based on the reporting it is easy to trigger an automated email with custom tailored content when a prospect performs an action on the buyer path (i.e. watch a video, download a guide, click on the about section, etc.). It’s also possible to trigger correspondence if a prospect veers off of the buyer path with the intent of nudging them back on. Not only that, but what if a prospect mentions a competitor on Twitter? That too can trigger correspondence. The idea is to provide the right content at the right time in order to expand the middle of the funnel prospects.


Which generation of inbound marketing are you? The better question would be which generation of inbound marketing would you like to be? With the right team in place and the right software MOFU, third generation inbound marketing, can be deployed. It takes a commitment to data and an even greater commitment to content. For more help on converting to MOFU watch this Advanced Lead Generation Analytics video


Image: Holmesian Cockatiel

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