Inbound marketing software provider, HubSpot, has released a new graphic intended to offer an at-a-glance explanation of the methodology on which their software is based.
Marketing and sales professionals will recognize the graphic as a slight re-imagining of the traditional sales funnel analogy. It’s not perfect: HubSpot would do well to revise the graphic in order to clarify certain aspects of inbound marketing.
But, if you’re curious about the method, or still learning the theory behind inbound marketing, HubSpot’s new graphic (and accompanying web page) is worth a look: it does offer a more comprehensive explanation of the sales process as related to HubSpot’s flagship software than do previous attempts.
You’ll notice immediately that the graphic is oriented horizontally as opposed to the vertical sales funnel. This allows for hubSpot to better highlight the three aspects of the methodology -- sales process, prospect progression, and relevant software tools -- while simultaneously demonstrating the integration among these aspects. Like the funnel, the graphic is color-coded to represent the transition from “cold lead” to “warm customer” through each stage of the progression.
Attention to Retention
For anyone who’s ever used the ‘funnel’ to explain marketing or sales, the paradox of the analogy is usually pretty obvious:
Although the ‘tapering’ funnel perfectly illustrates the dwindling of prospects over time, it tends not to give proper respect to Retention, i.e.
What happens to customers after they pass through the bottom of the funnel?
Are customers sent back through the top of the funnel again?
Are customers sent to a separate Retention funnel?
By turning the analogy on its side, HubSpot has given equal billing to Retention/Renewal, i.e. the lifeblood of any business. The Retention stage (“Delight”) is, literally, identical in size to the Top-, Middle-, and Bottom-funnel stages, thus expressing an equal need for attention.
Customer retention may not be the sexiest aspect of business, but it’s undoubtedly the most important. This is now more obvious with HubSpot’s new graphic -- and highlights HubSpot’s fantastic personalization tools (Smart calls to action, lists, etc.). The Right Tools at the Right Time
HubSpot’s greatest strength has always been that it’s an ‘all-in-one’ solution.
In my opinion, this has also always been HubSpot’s greatest barrier to entry. The software requires that a user fully comprehend every aspect of inbound marketing and how they all integrate with one another, across different platforms, potentially different departments, and the different stages of the sales cycle.
In other words, there’s a learning curve involved: it can take some time before the methodology *clicks*.
But HubSpot’s new graphic clearly maps each inbound marketing tactic to its respective cycle stage, making it easy to understand when and where each tool fires. It’s a small change, but much improved from the traditional funnel which, for example, tends not to mention CRM integration.
Premium Content? Premium Content? Bueller?
Accompanying HubSpot’s new graphic is a full web page dedicated to providing a comprehensive explanation of inbound marketing. There’s a lot of text, but reading should provide at least a foundational understanding of the theory and software.
Within this text-based explanation are many, many mentions of “content” (18 to be exact). but “Premium Content,” i.e. conversion collateral, is absent from the graphic itself.
To be fair, blogging, calls to action, and landing pages are present; but, lacking “premium content” from the graphic may potentially downplay its importance to the methodology, especially to new users -- the exact opposite direction those of us in the industry are hoping for.
“Inbound marketing starts with blogging.” Does it?
Blogging is a great introduction to inbound marketing: blogging is easy to understand and has multiple benefits -- increased search traffic, foundation for social media strategy, earned RSS subscriptions -- but I’d argue that inbound marketing shouldn’t start with blogging.
Inbound marketing should start with specific marketing goals -- i.e. increased leads database via online form submissions, increased newsletter signups, increased social engagement -- all translatable to bottom line sales goals.
From there, buyer personas can be identified, premium content can be created to target those personas, and then blogging and social media editorial strategy can be developed.
Strategy is developed in reverse; in that respect, inbound marketing ends with blogging.
Lacking strategy, blogging becomes obligatory “publishing just to publish,” which over time inevitably pulls content development teams away from their original goals.
Thumbs Up Overall
I’ve always been concerned that HubSpot may have initially “over shot” their market, meaning they may have provided solutions -- fantastic solutions, by the way! -- before prospects knew they needed them, or understood them fully.
I’m less concerned these days. HubSpot’s new attempt to explain inbound marketing is a great step in the right direction: it explains the method in an easy-to-understand way while demonstrating the ‘holistic’ nature of digital marketing and sales.
This won’t be the last attempt by an organization to succinctly describe our industry’s fluctuating process, but I do believe it is the most comprehensive so far.
Need help implementing a digital inbound marketing strategy with HubSpot? Get in touch. We can help.