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Inbound Marketing 101: Lead (Don’t Push) Your Prospects

By Sally Kieny on 9/17/15 10:00 AM



I had the opportunity to take off my “marketing hat” this summer as I took a leave of absence from work. But in reality, we marketers never really remove our marketing hats whether we leave the office for the day, a week or a few months—that’s because marketing lessons abound and always seem to find us even in our ordinary lives as consumers.

Inbound marketing is everywhere

Over the summer, I spent a lot of time online researching and reading about ADHD (attention deficit disorder) and found a wonderful website for a business that offers coaching services (for a fee) to parents and families. Although I haven’t purchased their coaching services yet, I’ve found a wealth of information (content) on the site and have participated in some of their webinars. (I am a qualified lead in their inbound marketing funnel as I continue to spend time with their content and build a relationship with them.) It’s through one of their webinars that I experienced a basic lesson about the importance of crafting the “right” offers at the right time to support your inbound marketing activities.

The inbound offer process

In short, the inbound marketing process involves providing content of increasing value to your leads (aka, prospective donors, clients or buyers) as you build a relationship with them. Your offers are designed to help your lead move through a classic buyer's journey or decision-making process so you are delivering the right content, to the right person, at the right time. Your ultimate goal is to convert a prospect into a donor (in the case of a non-profit) or into a buyer of your product or service.

The ADHD webinar I attended consisted of two interviews with different experts each day during the week. After each interview, the guest expert provided an offer (or free gift as they called it). These gifts consisted of checklists, articles or other information that I could get in exchange for providing them with my name and email address.

In most cases, the initial “gift” was something I wanted and found useful. And in many cases, I proceeded to sign up for that expert’s newsletter or visited their website to learn more. (Their lead nurturing process was working well!)

In one instance, however, I received an email from an expert asking me to sign up for an upcoming webinar that happened to be about the same topic I had just heard them speak about. (That offer wasn’t useful; I didn’t care to spend time listening to the same information again.) The next day that same expert sent an email offering me a complimentary coaching phone call. (Again, the offer didn’t work for me. I didn't want to share information about my personal situation with someone who I hadn’t developed any sort of relationship with. I hadn’t even had time to visit her website yet! It seemed to be too much too soon and really turned me off.) And then in the days following, I received three more emails reminding me about the upcoming webinar that I had no intention of attending. This particular offer series failed to bring me along the lead nurturing process. It was more of a “hit me over the head and push me to them” process. It didn’t work.

Lead and nurture, don’t force the process

Whether your organization is a non-profit seeking potential donors or a business selling widgets, the lesson here is a basic one: make sure your inbound marketing activities are gently pulling, not pushing, your potential supporters or customers as you work to build a relationship with them.

Your offers should lead prospective donors, clients or customers to your organization or business by providing them with content of increasing value until ultimately they realize they can’t live without your products or services. If you don’t allow the process to evolve gradually, on your prospect’s terms, you run the risk of stopping them dead in the process.


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