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Personalization is the next big thing in content marketing, says Hubspot CEO

Inbound marketing is all about getting customers to come to you; rather than sticking your foot in their door, you offer them a free shoe-shine, and don’t give them a hard sell.

Cover of "Inbound Marketing: Get Found Us...

Cover via Amazon

The future of inbound marketing, said Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, at the Inbound Marketing Summit on September 14, 2011, is what Netflix and Amazon have already done: personalize the content your visitors see on your site, so the more they visit you, the more useful you are to them.

Inbound Marketing 1.0

The first inbound marketing movement was all about filling the top of the sales funnel, Halligan says. Sales must move beyond doling out asymmetrical information and controlling customers through the purchase process. Buyers are better educated and want more power.

So give it to them, he says.

Smart sellers create a way for buyers to sell themselves. It starts with multiple points of contact: blogs, webinars, search engine marketing, research, and social media. Let customers be in control of the sales process, and you should see traffic to your site and leads increase tenfold, Halligan says.

Inbound Marketing 2.0

The next big thing in inbound marketing is optimizing the middle of the sales funnel, Halligan explains. Such giants as Google, LinkedIn, Groupon, Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon brilliantly work the middle of the sales funnel, rather than exerting control at the very top. Not only do customers mostly sell themselves, but sellers save the effort necessary to qualify prospects.

Rather than think of traffic as visitors, see it as people who use your site for their own needs. Don’t corral them into a sale. Invest your resources into making the site more responsive to what customers want to do.

“We should all be learning from Amazon.com’s homepage,” Halligan said. “We can learn a lot from B2C sites for B2B.” The more someone uses Amazon, the more targeted and appropriate the suggestions its recommendation engine offers.

“The website should recognize you every time you come back, and suggest, based on what you’ve done in the past, what you should be looking at,” Halligan said. “Optimize the middle of the funnel with personalization and you can kill your competition and build a huge barrier to entry.”

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