relationship marketingYou wouldn’t walk into a party and ask the first person that shakes your hand to marry you (would you?). So it is with effective inbound marketing – your marketing offer should be tailored to your buyer’s interest. After all, people buy from people they know, like and trust.

Therefore, it’s crucial to cultivate a relationship and build trust with new contacts, before you ask them out – for a product demo or an order – that is.

According to recent research from the business research company CEB and Google, business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57% of the decision-making process is already complete. That means for nearly two thirds of the buying process, your customers are self-educating: browsing websites, getting recommendations from friends and experts on social networks, comparing you and your competitors. Sales people are losing their ability to influence and educate purchasers at the stage where opinions are being formed and options are being narrowed.

A well-planned program of inbound marketing can effectively generate website traffic and leads, and nurture new prospects by connecting with them throughout the 57% of their buying cycle that happens before that initial human contact.

Prospects make contact with your company and brand in different ways, depending on their interest level and where they are in their decision-making process. Picture a sales funnel. New prospects enter at the top of the funnel (TOFU) as leads from your website, social networks, and other channels. Your success at nurturing these leads through their decision-making process, the middle of the funnel (MOFU), results in paying customers coming out the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

b2b content marketing funnel

Most traditional methods of advertising and marketing, like broadcast ads, trade shows and direct mail, work at the top of the funnel to reach large numbers of people. An unfortunate byproduct of traditional marketing activities is that you may be making contact with people who do not have an interest in your product at this time. One advantage of an inbound marketing program is that it works on the buyer’s schedule. Your blog articles, web pages and landing page offers are available on your website exactly when the prospect decides to search for the information that you provide.

Match your message to the buyer’s interest

To maximize lead generation from inbound marketing, it helps to determine what message is appropriate at each stage of prospect’s decision-making process. Ask what challenges your customers face. What keeps them up at night? What topics have been interesting to past leads? How do their questions and needs change over time?

Offer Top-of-Funnel prospects more general, introductory content. A resource library full of quality informational or how-to articles will position your company as a thought leader in your industry and sow the seeds of trust with your new visitor. The goal is to capture a name and email address and convert that TOFU prospect into a Middle-of-Funnel lead.

Re-engage a MOFU contact with a follow-up email that provides more information that they may find useful – specific information about a product they were browsing, for example. This is someone who has already begun a relationship with your brand. They are likely a repeat visitor to your website and have taken you up on of some of your other offers, so links to new and helpful information would be welcomed.

Further down your sales funnel, it would be appropriate to offer a product demo or face-to-face meeting to your BOFU contacts who, at this point in the relationship, are far warmer, more qualified sales leads.

Inbound marketing strategies help to identify and engage prospects at the various stages in their buying cycle. But don’t rush into things. Taking time to nurture the business relationship gives the buyer time to build trust with your brand on their own terms.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot /