Do you Create or Consume? Finding balance for productivity and fun.

There are two fundamental states (or modes) in the way that you can interact with technology and media.

You can Create or Consume.

Everyone does both in some form, from browsing the internet (or watching The X Factor) to writing an email or the next great novel.

Being mindful of how we use technology

When we’re mindful of the modes we are using and aim to balance our consumption with creativity our experience of technology becomes richer and more rewarding for ourselves and others.

It can mean challenging yourself to create something new and individual, or just being more aware of how you interact with technology and to what end.

Tools not TV’s

In the 1980’s when microcomputers such as the Sinclair Spectrum and the BBC Micro became available the primary uses were programming (creation) and gaming (consumption) with a pretty even split between the two activities.

In computer studies (at school) we learnt logic and programmed BBC Micros. The idea at the time was that everyone would (or could) write their own software.

However, over the following 20 years as more sophisticated and powerful commercial software became available it was easier to buy a word processing package than code your own.

So education shifted to teaching how to use existing software.

But something was lost.

There was too much consumption of commercial software and we lost the opportunities that would have existed if a generation had grown up seeing computers as universal tools for creation.

Today we see a re-focusing on the creativity of programming with the Raspberry PI and software such as Scratch that right from an early age makes the computer a creative tool for programming.

Endeavour

With the advent of computers and the internet much of our consumption now lives online, but it’s important to remember that creation and consumption goes beyond technology.

Let’s try to keep some time for creative play – whatever your age, whether it’s writing, drawing, programming; learning skills and self expression help us to define who we are and stretch ourselves to achieve more.

Creation is part of our dialogue

After all, we humans are creative creatures, we invent, we share, we learn.

We can also be incredibly lazy.

Try for at least a while to be mindful of the time you spend consuming and the time you spend creating and find a balance between them.

I’ve found that it has helped me to be more productive, and fuelled interests and skills that I now enjoy. I hope it can for you too!

Is your Lead Tracking and Lead Nurturing in Sync?

Leads are the life blood of any business, we all need to be attracting new prospects and converting them into customers, after all – the more customers we generate the more successful we are.

But even with active marketing programmes and busy sales teams why is it so difficult to know which leads are ready to buy and which ones need more time and nurturing?

Because if we knew where to focus our sales efforts we could reduce lost opportunities and really increase the success rates of our sales teams.

This is why lead tracking is so important.

When you are following the activity of your leads, you can learn to pick up on their buying signals – from the website pages they view to how they respond to the emails you send.

Then using this sales intelligence gathered from your lead tracking software, you can ensure that your conversations are better timed, better informed and more successful.

So what do you want to know?

Given that we are tracking and scoring our leads based upon their activity, it makes great sense to have a few ‘trackable’ activities that we can use to understand better where our leads are at in their buying process.

We can then use these activities to move our leads into better qualified sales stages using our favourite inbound marketing automation software.

The stages that we move our leads into based upon their behaviour provides a way of both grouping our leads by their sales readiness as well as (at an individual lead level) a rich information resource for our sales team.

But equally, it allows us to create offers, incentives and materials designed to encourage that next interaction. Whether it’s a personalised offer for people that have previously signed up to a demo. Or the offer of a new ebook for newsletter subscribers.

And as you create and deploy marketing that is designed for individual buying stages, your sales team should know exactly who clicked through on your product demo email to then follow up on those who have demonstrated an active interest.

They should also know when those leads revisit your website, because that’s when they are thinking about you and that’s when they are potentially ready to buy and engage with sales.

Get the balance right

So we need to balance two elements here, there is an ongoing process of creating content and interactions that will educate and nurture your leads over time.

But equally important is building in the hooks to keep our sales teams in the loop on where leads are in their buying process, so that they can step in at the right time, with a complete understanding of your lead’s individual needs.

Armed with these insights, sales teams can quickly become more productive, better focused, better informed.

And having the right conversations at the right time.

Is the term Inbound Marketing harming HubSpot’s business?

The term inbound marketing is a stroke of genius, it succinctly captures a uniquely modern marketing methodology and sets it in contrast to traditional marketing methods.

But as far as HubSpot’s marketing software goes, I believe that it misses the point.

As a phrase it’s been instrumental in catapulting HubSpot into the minds of modern marketers and given a broader purpose and framework to what was previously SEO.

Specialist SEO community SEOMoz has repositioned itself to take best advantage of the rise in interest the term attracts, and many agencies are rushing to offer inbound services.

So how could this be detrimental to HubSpot’s software?

So what is inbound marketing?

When the term first surfaced it was linked directly to the full process that HubSpot offers, from the publishing of targeted content via their CMS to the conversion and nurturing of leads using their marketing automation features.

This is the process described in their book entitled ‘Inbound Marketing’ so it’s a fair bet that this is how the process was conceived.

(Interestingly the marketing automation component isn’t at all reliant upon your leads being generated in an inbound fashion, it’s just that inbound leads tend to convert better, they just tend to be better qualified).

However, now that the term is in general use it’s meaning has shifted, and this general perception I believe is a limiting factor.

This is why we need to term inbound marketing automation because they are seen as being conceptually distinct. It also opens up a marketplace for software providers to create inbound marketing automation software.

Today inbound marketing represents a ‘top of funnel’ activity, it’s how you get visibility and attract traffic.

My suspicion is that this due to a combination of the high volume of SEO professionals who recognise an opportunity to rebadge an existing skill set with a term that attains a moral high ground – away from SEO as a tainted process of ‘gaming’ search engines.

And the fact that employing the marketing automation component requires some deep evaluation (and change) of a company’s marketing processes and activities.

And so it gets harder to justify the value.

I’m all for marketing automation, and I have much respect for HubSpot’s software, but I can see that with the label ‘inbound marketing’ so closely tied to it – the value of it’s marketing automation features is sidelined.

Because when people see inbound as a purely top of funnel, traffic generation exercise, it doesn’t stack up so well against WordPress which you can use for free.

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. :)