eLearning is booming, with no sign of slowing down…
People want access to information and learning on demand.
Not in a month’s time when the next conference is on or when the next corporate workshop is planned.
As a society we’re impatient – and if we need a new skill, we need it now, and we need it on our own terms.
eLearning is the Netflix of personal development, it’s the Uber of corporate training initiatives. People can choose their own pathway for development and take lessons all from the comfort of their home.
For businesses that provide eLearning solutions, the biggest opportunity lies with corporations where you can sell programs and software to hundreds or even thousands of employees at the same time. Rather than fighting for every single sale, you can focus on the big-ticket clients and truly scale up the profitability of your business.
In 2017, corporate training expenditure in the United States grew by 32.5%. Basically, organizations are investing more in learning and individuals are seeking better and more flexible access to learning. It’s the perfect intersection for B2B eLearning solutions.
But, how do you generate a consistent flow of B2B leads in the eLearning space without burning out your sales team?
The answer is Inbound Marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is a term popularized by marketing software tool HubSpot. The general idea of this concept is that you attract people to your business by first providing value – predominantly through content – rather than bombarding them with outbound sales messages. Once you have a prospect’s attention, you then engage with them via marketing automation and lead nurturing tactics, before delighting them as a customer of your business. The concept is depicted visually below:
Instapage Founder and CEO Tyson Quick does a great job of summarizing Inbound Marketing in this video:
Why use Inbound Marketing in the eLearning industry?
While Inbound Marketing is an effective lead generation strategy in many industries, it’s especially powerful in B2B environments, and even more acutely suited to the eLearning industry. Here are two reasons why:
Trust and credibility
Perhaps more than any other industry, eLearning is built on trust, credibility, and expertise – be it perceived or otherwise. Companies are putting the achievement of their employee’s goals, ambitions, and career aspirations in your hands. So you need to instill confidence in these people that you are the right company to facilitate this journey.
Given its foundation of helpful content production as a way of attracting leads, Inbound Marketing is custom-made to build trust with naturally skeptical people.
Think about it for a moment, are you more likely to buy something after seeing a banner ad for a business you have never heard of before, or from a business that has gone above and beyond to provide valuable content that has helped you achieve something? It’s a no-brainer.
When compared to traditional forms of digital marketing, such as cold advertising, inbound is far more cost-effective. Instead of running cold ads to people who have never heard of your business previously, you can remarket to those that have consumed your content. There is already a base level of trust in this situation which reduces your ad spend.
As well, by creating content that is evergreen in nature, you build assets that will deliver you leads today, tomorrow, and next year. Evergreen content can be created once and continue working for your business well into the future as it accrues organic traffic from search engines and social media channels. You are investing in content assets, rather than spending money on ads that will stop running as soon as your budget dries up.
How to use Inbound Marketing to generate B2B leads on autopilot
When it comes to generating B2B leads on autopilot in the eLearning space, here is a 5-step process you can follow. The inspiration for this process has been drawn from the eLearning Industry’s Always-On Conversion Engine (ACE) methodology for Inbound Marketing.
Step 1 – Research
It’s tempting to jump straight into creating content aimlessly without any direction. Sure, it may feel like you’re doing something to progress your goals, but in reality, the wheels could be spinning on the spot.
To get the most from your Inbound Marketing efforts, you need to start by researching your ideal customers, competition, industry trends, search engine keywords, and opportunities for brand growth.
Before getting started with your research, you should remember that your inbound marketing strategy must be very specific to your target audience so you can address their specific pain points in a more exact way. In order to build a successful inbound marketing strategy, you should focus on targeting the right buyer personas who will maximize your digital marketing ROI.
Armed with the information from this research process, you can then create an editorial calendar of content ideas that align with your objectives.
Step 2 – Create
According to the Content Marketing Institute, producing engaging content is the biggest challenge for inbound marketers:
Basically, being successful with Inbound Marketing is not as easy as publishing a few blog articles and hoping for the best. Creating content is time-consuming and is far too easily pushed to one side by busy employees.
The thing is, you don’t have to publish every other day to get results from Inbound Marketing. In fact, most eLearning businesses won’t have the time, resources, or know-how to make this kind of content production happen. After all, you’re not a publishing business!
Instead, look at your inbound strategy as a project. Based on the research you have done, create a complete editorial calendar which targets your buyer personas. This will help you increase your Marketing ROI, without wasting your resources, money and time on less valuable audiences and topics.
Your editorial calendar should include 8-10 extensive articles per topic, use case or persona targeted, that will describe all aspects of your specific topic and buyer personas. By publishing high-quality, enjoyable content that is relevant to ongoing conversations in your industry, you can demonstrate your knowledge and authority.
You will write about the pain points your buyer personas face and how they can overcome them using your solution. This process will also help you progress your readers to the next steps of the buyers’ journey. A proven technique is to combine your focus keyword and your buyer persona in the title and text of your articles. That way the readers of your articles are unlikely to deviate from your target audience.
Regarding the content creation, a success factor of your editorial calendar is whether the articles you create will be search engine optimized and easily re-purposed into other formats like eBooks. So, the next step, after your article creation, is to repurpose the articles into an eBook. That way you will have the chance to turn your readers into leads by getting valuable information for them, such as their name, business email, their company, and their purchasing authority among others.
Finally, the last step to further nurture these leads, but also to create another conversion point for interested parties, would be to use the main outline of the ebook and summarize it into a webinar deck.
Step 3 – Promote
A fundamental mistake many would-be inbound marketers make is to focus all of their energy on creating content and neglect the distribution and promotion aspect of the process. One study found that as little as 15 cents of the dollar are spent on content promotion when compared to 85 cents that are spent on content creation. If you want to get serious with inbound, consider flipping this equation on its head.
Effective content promotion is about finding a third-party B2B eLearning publication where your ideal buyer audiences are active online and developing a systematic and repeatable way to access those people when you publish content.
Step 4 – Convert
Put simply, if someone ‘converts’ on your website, they have taken the specific action you intended them to. This is usually an exchange of value. For example, they may give you their contact information in exchange for the eBook I discussed in Step 2.
Those that part ways with their contact information are now your leads because you have permission to communicate with them again in the future – ideally turning them into a customer.
Here is an example of a white paper being used in this way by eLearning Industry:
Step 5 – Close
The final step of this Inbound Marketing process is the close. It’s when you turn a warm lead into a paying customer. When it comes to eLearning, one of the highest-converting tactics is to run a webinar. It makes sense in this industry because a webinar is essentially a live preview of the product you are selling.
It makes sense in this industry because a webinar is not only a live preview of the product you are selling but more importantly, a webinar is an opportunity to interact with people that have downloaded your eBook, in a live manner. When someone downloads an eBook, you really don’t know how much of the eBook they read, if any at all!? With a live webinar, you can qualify leads more deeply by monitoring their activity.
For example, you can use an intake form to select a few more critical data points, run a poll during the webinar, and foster a conversation during the webinar by taking cues from the chat/Q&A. This makes the experience much more interactive and full of insights, just like a normal sales call would feel.
The beauty of hosting a webinar is that you can record the session, use the recorded version to nurture future leads, and generate sales on autopilot.
Here is an example of a webinar sponsored by eLearning Industry and presented by Jon Graves eLearning Industry’s VP of Sales and Brittni Kinney Ratliff, VP at Influence & Co.:
With the rapid growth being observed in the eLearning industry, the opportunity for fast customer acquisition is more prominent than ever.
However, with so much opportunity comes increased competition too. So you need to be smart about the foundations you lay for your lead generation objectives in the long-term.
Creating an Inbound Marketing engine that generates B2B leads on an ongoing basis without significant intervention makes a lot of sense. It’s cost-effective, and perhaps even more importantly, it reduces the trust gap between your business and its cold prospects.
The thing with inbound is that it takes time to bear fruit. So the sooner you start, the quicker you will see rewards.