Bringing Inbound Marketing Automation to WordPress

Not so long ago I was in a conversation by email with a guy at a local web agency (we were moving some domain names around for a friend of mine) and I asked if he did any inbound marketing.

I was curious to see if they’d picked up on it and more importantly which tools they were using. “Yeah, it’s our core business..” he said. “Cool!” I replied “Which software are you using?”

I couldn’t see how HubSpot, Marketo and the like would be a good fit for these guys as cost and complexity makes them a tough sell for any small business.

WordPress, Yoast, landing pages.. and MailChimp

Right..

I’ve thought about it since and my conclusion is that while inbound marketing clearly describes a mindset change for top of funnel (TOFU) activity and provides a new flag for SEO’s to wave – it also makes it easy to miss the point about what really drives it’s effectiveness.

So what makes inbound marketing effective?

We’ve all been doing SEO for years, many of us have been blogging for our business and using social media too.

The act of doing those things, whilst they are inbound tactics don’t constitute a complete inbound strategy.

To have an inbound strategy you need to be aligning your marketing activity with how you nurture buyers, engaging with them, educating them and encouraging sales readiness.

Inbound is more than a one hit process. You can attract people to your website and convert them with landing pages, but the things you offer them and the order in which you engage and the messages you send and the degree to which you personalise your content over time is where the action is at.

The truth is you can’t do that with WordPress.

It had to be said.

You can add plugins for great landing pages and web forms, you can nail SEO and of course blogging is where WordPress excels.

You can definitely create a great inbound website. But what’s lacking is an inbound marketing automation process.

Inbound tells us that people research and buy in their own time and on their own terms, our challenge is to manage our part of this interaction in a way that supports our buyers every step of the way. This is where inbound succeeds.

What happens after that initial conversion? How do you follow up? How to you encourage re-engagement? and what with? How do you track and understand just how sales ready each and every one of those people that converted are? What do you do if they come back to your website and view your pricing page? Which people are interested in which products for segmentation?

These are some the marketing questions that inbound as a process answers, and all together they help us to create a way of guiding our buyers from strangers, to friends, to customers.

Inbound Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a mechanism used to deliver personalised marketing based upon an individual’s activity. If you haven’t looked at it in any detail it’s quite different to the world of Google Analytics and MailChimp.

Why? Because it’s all joined up. There’s a CRM that creates tracks and score’s the people who convert and their subsequent activity, emails and autoresponders are tracked through to website visits. It deals in people. It tells you the who, what and when.

This is fundamental to inbound marketing because it allows us to create marketing that can be delivered over time based around our buyers journey and triggered by their unique and individual activity.

That’s what makes inbound powerful.

Bring it together with WordPress

We built Jumplead to deliver this inbound marketing process, it runs across 15 web servers and uses around a dozen web technologies to create as simple a way for people like us to do sophisticated online marketing.

It sits behind your website to let you understand your buyers and create an inbound marketing process that persists over time and reacts to your buyers activity.

WordPress is already a fantastic platform for publishing, we think it should be a great one for marketing too.

Looking for the Inbound Marketing Automation Sweet Spot.

People buy to solve a problem they have and marketing problems tend to be specific and tactic related like sending an email marketing campaign or creating a landing page for an Adwords campaign.

More rarely does someone say “Hey everyone! We need to re-engineer how we do our marketing from the ground up” – to sell this kind of strategy change you need a new methodology (inbound marketing anyone?).

So if you’re building a web app, one that solves a specific problem looks like a safe bet, plus if you can monetise it with monthly plans that sit between $10 to $60 there’s a relatively low level of friction for most organisations.

So, why on earth did we choose to build marketing automation software?

We’ll it goes something like this.

Lets go back in time

We launched our web application Jumplead as a visitor identification tool back in 2011.

A website analytics system designed to work out the identity of the organisations that visit your website based upon their IP address. This information can be very useful for pro-active sales teams as they can focus upon prospects with a real requirement.

It makes sense to target organisations that have a need rather than those that don’t, right?

With Jumplead we were also entering a marketplace where existing providers were charging around $600 per month. So our $80 looked pretty good.

We grew well. Partly due to our main competitor aggressively approaching B2B businesses and quoting $600 when we had some good visibility in Google as a technically equivalent alternative service.

However.

IP analytics isn’t for everyone

We’ve always believed in using our own product and yes we could see the organisations visiting our website and I started trying to hunt down the people within each organisation that looked like they might be a good match for us.

I found out a few things:

  • People don’t like you ringing them up out of the blue. (Actually some were okay, some were rude).
  • Identifying the individual person in an organisation to talk to can be very difficult.
  • The people I did get to talk to were way early in their purchase cycle and didn’t necessarily have approvals or even budgets.

So, I was generating lot’s of notes and reminders to call people back in 6 months. Not a way to grow fast.

(Saying that we’ve still got plenty of early customers that just use visitor identification and nothing else, just because it’s working for them).

Where’s the secret sauce?

We needed more from Jumplead. What we needed was a way of understanding how ready a visitor is to purchase, so we didn’t throw resources at following up poorly qualified prospects.

Plus we wanted our analytics to tell us when our prospects were ready to talk to us.

Also, a way of retaining a level of engagement so that we could keep in touch with (and sales intelligence on) those that were interested.

All in a way that we could scale up without employing whole teams of people to manage the process.

We quickly realised that as great as our app was, we needed marketing automation.

Buy or Build.

After some research it became apparent that the kinds of tools we would need cost thousands of dollars per month.

But hey! We already had analytics and a CRM within Jumplead, plus if we were drooling at the window of the promise of marketing automation but hamstrung by price, other people must be too.

So we decided to go roll our own and build the features into Jumplead.

Aside from the time and resources required to build a marketing automation system we had a significant product design challenge. Because we really dislike complexity and marketing automation reeks of complexity.

Just the name conjures images of techno-voodoo and corporate “leveraging-sale-side-demand-generation-in-a-360-degree-pyjama-equity-matrix” style babble.

So we thought we’d do our best to keep it simple, and affordable.

We wanted anyone to be able to pick it up and quickly get value from it, then work into the features over time. For a traditional marketing automation system you need to buy training and maybe hire an implementation partner, that’s not us.

So if you want to send email, great! Do that, and if you want to see what your contacts do on your website after your campaign goes out – add the tracking code to your website.

Or if you want to add conversion forms and landing pages, do it! Knowing that if you want to follow up with an auto responder, send a sales team notification or even carry on profiling contacts across multiple forms – you don’t need to look around for yet more software.

Even if you just want to identify those visiting organisations, you can.

So here we are trying to build an inbound marketing automation system that’s simple enough for us all to use.

Tall order.

I said earlier that people buy web apps to solve a problem and large organisations traditionally buy marketing automation because it can solve their marketing problems at scale.

Our gamble is that small and medium size businesses will recognise that the immediate problems they face are better solved by a system that will allow them to grow their marketing in ways that they might not have considered already.

I’ll let you know when we’re done. :)