Last year at the HubSpot User Group Meeting in Boston, Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, shared his vision of the future of lead nurturing—personalization. During his keynote, Halligan previewed a bit of the HubSpot software development roadmap, and the most intriguing part for me was the discussion about personalized websites. The idea is that instead of mapping content to a customer persona, then sending out automated lead nurturing campaigns via email, marketing automation will take a new turn—knowing who you are and what your preferences are, then customizing your web experience to match. This is where we are going in my view.
Lead nurturing itself has been around since the Stone Age. People don't always sell their wares on the first try, so they have invented all kinds of ways to keep prospects interested and informed in order to consummate the sale later. Phone calls, direct mail, email, all with supporting messages designed to gently (or maybe not-so-gently) convince a lead to purchase and to be top-of-mind when a buy decision is imminent. Fast forward to today, and we use marketing automation tools to study the behavior of leads as they interact with our website and consume our content—then reach out to them with additional content to support buying from us. The problem is that we are using outmoded technology to do the reaching out, and it's still an invasive process.
Does anyone like email? For most of us, it's a necessary evil for doing business because everybody is still using it as a primary communication tool. True, text and social media are making inroads, but email is still King. But, let's face it, email is invasive, even if opted-in. It shows up in your inbox and demands your attention. You have to do something with it. Most of us get hundreds of emails a day, and most of us have become experts at filtering it into spam or deleting it without a careful read-through. It's truly a wonder that any email offers ever get clicked—and that's usually because you implicitly trust the source and know the value of its content in advance. I know there is plenty of data to suggest that email is still viable; so are horses as a means of transportation.
I'm not saying that a phone call is also a dead lead nurturing strategy. In many ways, the personal touch is a modern, highly effective way to nurture leads into sales. The key questions are (1) who to call and (2) when. Marketing automation as it stands today is a good start. Personalization may be an even better way to increase close rates.
What if you could fine-tune the content you are presented with when you visit a trusted website? Not a pipe dream. It's already happening at shopping sites like Amazon.com. They record every search, every click and every purchase. They know your interests as well as you do. Whenever you visit Amazon, they present relevant offers to you based on your preferences. Why couldn't this same process be applied to a B2B site or even a personal brand's website?
You can see how HubSpot is evolving in this direction with its Enterprise level software, allowing site owners to track visitor and lead interaction and trigger behavior-driven, just-in-time lead nurturing emails. The only thing missing is the delivery method. What's undoubtedly coming is the ability to present content based on user preferences, for example:
I'm not saying HubSpot, or anyone else, will bundle these features into their next official release, but it couldn't hurt to make some suggestions!
What are your ideas for next-generation website experience and lead nurturing?
Photo: Intersection Consulting