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Content marketing continues to be an effective Inbound Marketing strategy for Freelancers and other business leaders who seek to interest and engage potential clients, nurture relationships with current clients, demonstrate an understanding of client concerns and generate leads that have a healthy possibility to convert to sales.
Yet according to sales and marketing experts, fewer than 50% of those who claim to be evaluating a product or service purchase are ready to buy. Therefore, the job of business leaders/ owners and Freelancers is to move prospects through the buyer’s journey, also known as the sales funnel, and toward the sale.
Recall if you will the shape of a funnel—wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. The shape of a funnel reflects to the buyer’s journey. Early in the search for a solution, would-be clients search for information. Many are window shoppers. Others are more serious. They explore options, compare prices, clarify their needs and confirm their budgets. Eventually the most serious shoppers become fewer in number as they acknowledge their must-haves and narrow their choices down to a short list of sellers (i.e., businesses). Only a relative handful buy make a purchase.
Let’s examine the typical buyer’s journey and understand how inbound marketing can function to encourage the sale along the way.
Tofu: Top of Funnel
This stage signals awareness and potential prospects are searching for information. Content here will cast a wide net, to attract the attention of all those who are searching for insights, opinions, research and other data in their early stage and education process. Just as you may scan rating sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor when searching for a hotel or restaurant, Tofu tier leads get familiar with your products and services through your blog, newsletter and social media postings. It’s too early to present a call-to-action appeal, which could be a turn-off at this point. In general, the value of Tofu leads is low.
Nevertheless, your objective is to peel off the most promising leads and move them into the next tier. Achieve this aim when you offer a 15 minute free consultation, announce a podcast or webinar in which you’ll be featured to discuss a topic relevant to your typical clients, or extend an invitation to download an e-book that you’ve written, gratis. Those who register for these extras are making a commitment, to an extent, to your business. Furthermore, they must share their name and email contact as they register. They will progress to Mofu.
MoFu: Middle of Funnel
You now have a qualified lead. The prospect is real and has acknowledged that a problem that must be solved in the near term. Your prospect must evaluate which of the available solutions might be the best fit?
Content at this tier must continue to educate, but the approach will become more specific, to position your company as capable and trustworthy, prepared to deliver the right solutions and solve problems. Here, content explains why your solution and approach to problem-solving are the best fit. Examples of your ability to understand client concerns and priorities, as well as provide the best solution, can be illustrated in white papers, case studies, or (video) testimonials.
This tier is often considered the most critical because prospects will either agree to move forward and approve the sale or decide you’re not the one based on the information presented. Demonstrate expertise, establish trust and build relationships here. Flash the power of your brand by dropping the names of a marquis client or two.
On the other hand, if it becomes apparent that you are not the best fit for a client, be upfront and make that known. You always want to provide the optimum customer experience that leads to good word of mouth and avoids churn (see last week’s post).
BoFu: Bottom of Funnel
Here is where the buyer confirms his/her decision to do business with your organization and the actual sales process can begin. According to research featured in Forbes Magazine in 2013, many prospects get 60% – 70% through the buyer’s journey before they care to speak with a sales representative.
There may be no content offered at this stage, but time-sensitive special offers can make a big difference. Your prospect is ready to buy but there is still no guarantee that s/he will buy from you. Here you give a little nudge, a sweetener, as you present your call-to-action, at last.
Depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C, tangible product or intangible service, you may offer a modest discount to buy now (or within 24 hours). You might offer a tantalizing (and inexpensive to provide) upgrade or add-on to what the prospect has indicated s/he would like to purchase. Free or discounted installation and a free trial are also effective. Art galleries have been known to allow serious prospects to take an artwork home so that they can live with it for 10 days.
Inbound Marketing is lots more work than tried-and-true Outbound Marketing, where you scrape together some money and place an advertisement or two in target publications, or distribute flyers in certain zip codes, and hope for the best. Outbound Marketing still works, but Inbound Marketing is how to highly target your marketing campaigns and receive the highest ROI.
Thanks for reading,
Image: A 13th century Ottoman (Turkish) horseman draws his bow. Artist unknown.