Welcome back to the Inbound Sunshine Podcast.
Today we’re going to dive into how to attract strangers into website visitors; how to attract strangers who’ve never heard of your company before and turn them into visitors to your website.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology and Its Four Phases
The first thing I want to start with is to make sure that you and I are on the same page about the inbound marketing methodology. The inbound marketing methodology involves four different phases and is all about all about how to go from strangers to your most loyal fan base of raving clients and brand ambassadors.
- Attract (strangers/visitors) -- In the attract phase, it's all about taking strangers and turning them into website visitors.
- Convert (visitors/leads) -- During the convert phase, we convert website visitors into leads.
- Close (leads/clients) -- In the close phase, we accelerate and nurture leads until they become clients.
- Delight (clients/brand ambassadors) -- And in the delight phase, we take our newly sold, newly onboarded clients and turn them into brand ambassadors.
In this episode of the Inbound Sunshine Podcast, we're going to focus on the attract phase: how do we turn strangers in the visitors.
But it isn't just going to be about turning strangers into visitors. What it’s really about: how to attract the right strangers to your website. We don’t just want any old strangers. We want the right strangers. Because it’s an empty victory, it’s just a vanity metric, if we’re not working backward from the bottom of the funnel. If we’re not actively thinking about: are those strangers a good potential fit to be our next new clients?
The Full Funnel Approach
So it requires a full funnel approach, starting at the bottom of the sales funnel.
- Are they good fit clients? Are they profitable and likely to become our brand ambassadors or brand evangelists? (basically promoters)
- (Moving up one level from there) Is it a good fit sales opportunity that can lead to a good fit client?
- (Moving up one level from the sales opportunity) Is it a sales qualified or sales accepted lead -- sometimes called an SQL or an SAL -- that can turn itself into a good fit sales opportunity?
- (One level above that) Is it a marketing qualified lead -- an MQL -- that can turn into a sales qualified lead?
- (And finally, all the way back at the top of the funnel, where we will be spending most of our time in this episode) Which visitors and leads are most likely to become marketing qualified leads, that slide down the funnel into sales qualified leads, sales opportunities, and ultimately good fit clients that are profitable and most likely to become our brand ambassadors, enthusiasts, evangelists, and promoters?
What can we do to fill up the top of the sales funnel?
But when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors, it's very important to start with the question “why?” And if you've ever read the Simon Sinek bestseller “Start With Why” -- you know to ask yourself: why should somebody listen to you, especially complete strangers?
The Art of Caring More Than Anyone Else
We need to give those strangers a good reason for why they should listen to you. And it starts with caring more about their problems than anyone else on the planet. We know that there's a lot of competition on search engines and social media to get people's attention.
When it comes to a search engine like Google or Bing, there are only 10 of those prime time slots available on the organic search results. When it comes to paid advertising like Google AdWords or Microsoft Bing Ads, it’s an even thinner victory to get to the top of those pages -- use two, three, maybe four at the most of those ad units if you want to top of mind.
So we need to be obsessed about caring about their problems more than anyone else.
How do we show that we care? How can you show that you care?
While your educational content, resources, and thought leadership needs to be all about their problems, challenges, symptoms, goals, and questions, it's not about what you want. It's all about them. And the sooner you can get your mind around that, the easier it is to get your priorities straight when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors.
And when it comes to showing that you care and the content that's all about their problems, challenges, symptoms, goals, and questions, this is very early stage type of contents -- what's often referred to as being in the awareness stage of the buyer's journey.
The awareness stage of the journey, as compared to the consideration stage and the decision stage of the buyer’s journey -- which happen more in the middle to the end of the buyer’s journey, when somebody is aware that they have a problem, they have a name for it now, and they're considering their options. In the decision stage, the start to look at information about your particular company and your products.
Most of the time, when companies are new to inbound marketing and the inbound marketing methodology, they're completely saturated in content for the decision stage and have virtually nothing going on in the awareness stage -- which is an enormous mistake. Why? Because that's making the fatal assumption that everyone that comes into contact with your website, the very first time, is ready to buy -- which is not a good assumption at all unless you're selling something very inexpensive that's an Impulse e-commerce kind of purchase.
The Importance of Buyer Personas for Attracting the Right Strangers
But if your company’s products and services have any sort of sales cycle length or buyer’s journey, there's got to be a lot of thought into making sure that you have content that shows that you care in the awareness part of the buyer’s journey.
There should be no product mentions, and no brand mentions this early on. Nailing this is really about having an obsessive focus on understanding your buyer personas -- which just to review:
Your buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal customers, one of your ideal clients, even one of your ideal channel partners or ideal employees -- ideal stakeholders -- or simply customers, for the sake of simplicity, based on real data and some select educated speculation about their demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
Content that's put together to attract strangers into website visitors, by definition, is not gated. You won't find any forms or landing pages in front of content that's meant to attract.
Content that’s meant to attract will also be product-agnostic, brand-agnostic, and company-agnostic. Remember during the attract phase with complete strangers, no one knows who your company is. No one knows who your team is at this point. And frankly, no one cares quite yet!
I know it's painful to hear that nobody cares about your company or nobody cares about your employees that's a complete stranger.
But we have not yet proven our value to them. And because of that, there is no reason for a stranger to care about that type of content that’s more decision stage content.
Don't jump the gun. It’s all about awareness content that doesn't talk about your product, your brand, or your company.
What content that’s meant to attract strangers needs to focus on is providing helpful, expert advice that answers questions, gives solutions to problems, talks about their goals and challenges, and talks all about them -- not you.
Start with SMART Goals
Everything needs to start with SMART goals -- goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Everything needs to be grounded in those goals.
We also need to understand our buyer personas -- especially our primary and secondary buyer personas -- who are the top two highest priorities to create this content for? (to attract the right kinds of strangers)
Achieving Product/Market Fit (PMF)
Besides keeping in mind our SMART goals, we need to have a strong desire to get to, if we're not already at or achieving product/market fit (PMF).
Product-market fit is the degree to which you know exactly who your ideal customers are, what they purchase from you, and in what quantities and what durations of agreements, and at what price points. It's knowing what it's going to take to satisfy strong market demand.
If you define your target marketplace as everyone and anyone, your company does not yet have product/market fit. And it becomes very difficult to know where to allocate more resources for attracting the right strangers.
Again we don't just care about traffic generation. We don't just care about strangers. We care about the right strangers.
And a lot of this comes down to having helpful educational content, resources, and thought leadership.
From a tactical perspective, there are nine different areas that I want you to think about when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors. And again this is all about traffic generation.
Strategic Business Blogging
As a starting point, first, think about blogging. But not just any kind of blogging: strategic business blogging with a big emphasis on strategic.
Your blogging needs to support the full sale funnel. It needs to support your bottom of the funnel SMART goals.
That's why we started out talking about, in this episode, thinking ahead to what a great fit client looks like.
What does that great fit client look like, that's profitable for your company, that makes sense from a strategic standpoint, that lines up with your core competencies, and is very likely when they're satisfied to become a brand ambassador, an evangelist, and promoter for your company, and your products and services?
So what is it going to take, to start all the way up at the top with a blog post and make a percentage of the people that read that, progress down the funnel to different levels:
- Marketing qualified lead
- Sales qualified lead
- Brand ambassador
Strategic business blogging needs to have a big emphasis on strategic.
Next up, when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors and traffic generation:
Think very carefully about the keywords -- the words and the content that go on your pages and how to handle search engine optimization (SEO).
And when it comes to search optimization, we want to prioritize around the words that each of our buyer personas use and where they are in the buyer's journey.
We can't guess what those words are. We need to ask our buyer personas directly, either through face-to-face meetings, phone calls, video conferences, surveys, and looking at lead intelligence.
But we need to understand their exact words -- not our guess of what those words are. But their exact words. That can make a big difference to how we decide to optimize the content that we put up on our websites.
So we need to focus on each of our buyer personas and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
And there are two different legs to this:
- On-page search engine optimization -- On-page SEO has to do with the words, the content on your page. And it can be influenced not only by the information that's on the page. But what you decide to put in the Title tag. What goes in the image Alt Text. How you structure Heading 1 and Heading 2’s. How you structure file names and image file names.
- Off-page search engine optimization -- Off-page SEO is quite different. On-page SEO you can directly influence by how you structure the content on a page. Off-page SEO is about how the rest of the internet views your website, how they see and feel about your website. Are there other related authority websites in your niche or industry that find your content so helpful that they will link to your content? Links are seen as the votes, the trust currency of the web. And as much as we think that the search engines are getting smarter and social signals are going to replace link authority, link building -- and all that trust that’s transferred that way -- is still regarded as one of the most important ways that your company becomes visible or invisible with the right kinds of people.
So there's on-page search optimization: the content that's actually on your page that you can control. And there's off-page SEO: the links that come into your website from related authoritative websites.
And if you're talking to someone that is trying to game or rip off the search engines, or someone that frankly hasn’t updated their knowledge in this area for five or six years, there are some very shady hacks and tricks for what’s black hat SEO that people sometimes engage in. These tend to be extremely short-sighted because the search engines like Google are really smart and can spot someone trying to scam them a mile away.
So keyword stuffing, using text that's the same color as the background, or buying links, all those things are going to hurt you more than going to help you. In some cases, they may even get you banned from the search engine.
But at the minimum, you're going to get penalized.
Another important thing to think about is when it comes to the on-page search optimization:
There's no need to use exact matches anymore. The search engines have gotten smarter with effective artificial intelligence. They used something called LSI -- latent semantic indexing. They're very good at understanding the different variations of words that mean largely the same thing. So we don't need to create dozens of different pages that say largely the same thing but only differ on whether it's singular or plural. Or whether it's past tense or present tense. We don't need to do that. The search engines are very good at understanding similar kinds of content.
So regarding generating traffic, there’s strategic blogging. And there’s keywords and its impact on search optimization. What else should we be concerned about when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors?
Social Media Publishing
Again, just like with all of this, we want to prioritize by who our buyer personas are that we want to attract and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
So think about the different types of channels, the different kinds of social media properties that are worth participating in. You can’t be everywhere, but you certainly want to prioritize by where your primary and secondary buyer personas hang out, where they spend the bulk of their time.
It's important too that you make sure that your social media profiles are optimized, not just for your branding, colors, and logos but for the content that’s in your profile description, any hashtags that you use, and certainly where that website URL goes that’s in your profile.
Regarding social publishing, we need to be very aware of the hashtags that our buyer personas use and the groups where they hang out in.
And over time, we should be optimizing our frequency and publishing schedule to match what works best for each buyer persona.
Inbound Content Management Systems (CMS)
Another really important tactic to think about for traffic generation is your content management system (CMS), your inbound CMS.
That is is going to be where your website pages live, where your blog lives, where your landing pages and conversion paths live, your calls to action, your forms, and your confirmation pages.
You cannot do content marketing without a content management system. And you can't manage content at scale without a content management system. So don't allow your webmaster or your IT department to bully you into letting them control everything.
If you're serious about attracting the right strangers into website visitors that can ultimately lead to very favorable bottom of the sales funnel outcomes, you need a content management system.
You can't allow your webmaster or IT group to be the bottleneck because you're going to want to be continually optimizing.
A basic principle in inbound marketing that dictates how your metrics improve over time is growth driven design (GDD), which has two basic components:
- Launchpad website -- This is what your website looks like when it launches, in a pretty simplistic form -- but better than you have right now.
- Continuous Improvement -- You cannot engage in continuous Improvement if you have to beg, borrow, and steal every time you need to get a Title tag, Heading 1, image Alt Text, a couple of paragraphs, or a call to action replaced here and there. It’s critical that you have a content management system that supports all of this.
Another big area when it comes to traffic generation -- attracting strangers into website visitors -- is paid search and paid social. Let’s talk first about paid search.
Just like with all of this, when it comes to paid search you want to prioritize by buyer personas and the different stages of the buyer’s journey.
The gold standard for paid search, kind of the industry standard, is Google AdWords -- which has many different parts: including the ability to advertise on search, display, YouTube, and retargeting.
Microsoft Bing Ads, formerly known as Microsoft AdCenter, is the biggest direct competitor to Google AdWords.
There are some big prerequisites that you want to make sure that you have in place before you start investing in paid search:
- Premium content
- Conversion paths
- Lead nurturing workflows
So it's not just about attracting website visitors -- attracting strangers into visitors, we need to be able to convert those visitors into leads. We need to be able to accelerate those leads into sales opportunities and paying clients.
So it's all well and good to get your strategic blogging going, your on-page and off-page search engine optimization, and your social media publishing. You certainly don't want to build a website on a house of cards. Content management systems are critical.
But before you start engaging in paid search, think about how you’ll:
- Prioritize for your our buyer personas and where they are the buyer’s journey
- Need to have conversion paths in place
- Need premium content that sits behind each of those conversion paths or more specifically the landing pages (so we have a pretty gosh darn good reason to ask people to surrender their contact information: who they are -- for access to what's on the other side of that landing page)
- Need to have lead nurturing workflows because we want to have a second, third, fourth, fifth, perhaps dozens of chances to get our educational content back in front of that person, to build trust over time, to help accelerate them from leads to sales qualified leads and ultimately into sales opportunities
Besides paid search, there's also paid social -- that's where you're paying to get priority placement on social media properties. Again, think first about your buyer personas and where each of those people are in their buyer’s journey before you make big investments in paid social.
LinkedIn is a big area. Facebook and Instagram have big paid advertising programs. Twitter also had paid advertising programs.
All of these social media properties, in general, have deprioritized your ability to get access to audience and your buyer personas by just using organic techniques. In other words, in the old days, you could share content on social media and your fans, followers, and connections would see just about everything that you posted.
But over time as feeds have gotten increasingly noisy, the algorithms preclude that from happening unless you already have a lot of likes, comments, and shares.
Fear not, however, these profit-driven social media properties: LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoft, and Facebook and Twitter -- they all at the end of the day need to generate revenue.
One of the ways they generate revenue -- and a lot of it -- is by selling paid social, by selling advertising to you.
Another big trend that we see happening on the social media properties is they want the lead generation to happen without the visitor ever leaving the social media property. So each social media platform now has a unique way of being able to generate leads for you without that person ever leaving.
That's good because in general, the conversion rate should be a lot higher. However, in other ways, it’s bad because you can't control everything. But it is what it is. And it pays to experiment with both ways -- each platform’s native lead generation capabilities vs. sending paid social traffic to a landing page on your website -- and see what works out better for your cost per acquisition.
And just like what paid search, you should not invest big resources in trying to generate traffic using paid social until you have
- Premium content
- Conversion paths
- Lead nurturing workflows
You need to be able to do well at the “convert” and “close” parts of the inbound marketing methodology.
So we're talking all about the attract phase of the inbound marketing methodology. But before you pull the trigger on paid search or paid social advertising, it's critical that you have some assets that are working effectively in the convert and close phases as well.
Public Relations (PR)
Two more big things to think about when it comes to attracting strangers into visitors: public relations and video.
And again for PR, make sure that you prioritize by buyer persona.
While certainly press can help, with the amount of effort -- the resources -- it takes to get good press, we want to focus our efforts on the most important economic buyers.
We can use things like
- News releases
- Blogger and podcaster outreach campaigns
- Alert services subscriptions like Help a Reporter
Aside from news release, do not pay for placement when it comes to public relations. That's very old school. Search engines don't like it. They see it as very unnatural. They see it as trying to game the system.
Years ago, most news release websites and similar kinds of properties started implementing something called a nofollow tag for their websites to not be passing search engine authority to outbound links on news releases. Why did the news release websites implement a nofollow tag on the outbound links on news releases?
It’s simple. The news release websites didn’t have a choice. Google mandated it.
Now when you get a link from a news release, it counts to a certain degree. But it doesn’t really count as no authority is passed.
Just be aware of this if you become temporarily seduced or over-enamored with the value of public relations.
Make sure that you’re building relationships with the editors, reporters, journalists, podcasters, and bloggers that you're trying to get coverage from. Don't just spam them. In order to really get on their radar screens, you want to add value and build those relationships over time.
And the final tactic that’s super important for pay attention to, when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors:
Just like with all of these traffic generation tactics, make sure your prioritize by buyer persona and where they are in the buyer’s journey stage.
A sign of the times that video has gotten so hot:
Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin now have native ways for you to upload video -- and they prioritize when you upload natively to them. Both Facebook and LinkedIn have now both publicly said that they give strong preference to videos that are shared natively on their platforms, as opposed to just sharing links to YouTube videos.
Again, they want to control everything. Facebook doesn’t want your visitors to leave and go to YouTube, that’s owned by Google (Alphabet). LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoft, doesn’t want your visitors to leave and go to Google-owned YouTube.
They want to keep everything in their house as long as possible. We talked about that with the lead generation programs. It’s very big with the video programs. They want to keep you in their world.
Besides Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin being good places to put video, there are private video hosting services; commercial video hosting services like WIstia, Vimeo, and Brightcove.
You can use video at all stages of the inbound marketing methodology. But when it comes to focusing on traffic generation, we want to use video on social media. We want to use video that is compatible with and aligned with what we're doing with search and contents to drive new visitors to specific website pages or specific landing pages on our website.
Those are some of the traffic generation tactics to think about when it comes to attracting strangers into website visitors on your site.
The Bottom Line on Attracting Strangers into Website Visitors
So just to recap, we talked about
- Strategic blogging
- Search optimization
- Social publishing
- Inbound content management system (CMS)
- Paid search
- Paid social
- Public relations
A couple more key things to always keep in mind if you want to do well at attracting strangers into website visitors:
- Buyer personas -- Make sure you have a good grasp on your buyer personas. Buyer personas should be detailed and really well flushed out. If your buyer persona is small enough to fit on the back of a napkin or a Post-It note, unless that's a summary version, it’s probably not detailed enough to be effective. Dive into buyer personas with one-on-one interviews -- either in person, by video conference, or by phone. You can use surveys if you want to reach larger audiences. Lead intelligence is also quite valuable. But get their exact words.
- Buyer’s journey stage -- Besides buyer personas, we need to be very aware of the buyer's journey stage. For attracting the right strangers into website visitors, most of the time people, when they're first starting out, really are overweighted in the decision stage and having paid nearly as much attention to the awareness stage.
- Full funnel/bottom of funnel SMART goals -- When it comes to attracting the right strangers into visitors, make sure you're thinking ahead -- thinking of the full sales funnel, and especially the bottom of the sales funnel. Make sure that you're supporting your SMART goals for new customer acquisition, whatever your goals are, that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.
- Achieving product/market fit -- Finally, we want to make sure that everything that we're doing with attracting the right strangers into website visitors is supporting our company's quest to achieve product/market fit if it doesn't already have it. Or strengthen our product/market fit as we continue to scale up.
So we've been talking all about how to attract the right strangers into website visitors for your digital properties and your digital presence.