I have long been fascinated by the Venus flytrap. Even as a child, I was mesmerized by the plant’s ability to devour insects in an animal-like fashion. As a carnivorous plant, the flytrap extracts vital nutrients from the insects that it captures. Therefore, in order to survive, the Venus flytrap must do three things successfully – attract insects, capture prey, and digest its victims. As a marketer, I have often thought of the flytrap as an analogy for effective inbound marketing campaigns. In essence, companies must do the same three things in order to ensure their health and survival, and insure inbound marketing success.
Step 1: Attract
Before it can capture and digest its prey, the Venus flytrap must entice an unsuspecting insect to wander into its open jaws. In order to do so, the plant secretes a sweet nectar that insects cannot resist. Companies must provide an equally enticing reason for consumers to visit their online assets. They must offer something their customers truly want – informational and entertaining content. This content may take the form of blog posts, industry white papers, photographs, infographics, videos, workshops, or e-books. The content must be of such a quality that members of the target audience cannot resist consuming it.
Step 2: Capture
Once an insect has entered the gaping jaws of the flytrap, it can feast upon the sweet nectar, undisturbed for a time. In its wanderings across the leaf, however, the fly is likely to contact one of several hair-like sensors, which protrude from the plant. Tripping a single sensor is harmless, but if a second sensor is contacted within a 20-second period, the plant’s jaws immediately snap shut trapping the unsuspecting insect.
In their inbound marketing efforts, companies should provide ample opportunity to consume informative content without obligation. However, companies should also build in lead-capture mechanisms for obtaining the contact information of interested consumers. Many times, lead-capture mechanisms are simple data forms that visitors are required to fill out prior to downloading a content item. Typically, lead capture should only be associated with higher quality content items such as white papers or e-books. Just as the flytrap expends energy only after multiple sensors have been triggered, companies may wish to track content consumption patterns in order to allocate resources to leads that have engaged with the content on a deeper level.
Step 3: Digest
Once trapped inside the clasped leaves of the Venus flytrap, an insect is slowly killed through the simple process of digestion. The digestive process is aided by the secretion of catalytic enzymes that break down the tissues of the trapped insect. For companies, it is not enough to capture a lead online. Most prospects, even after volunteering their contact information, are not immediately ready for purchase and may need to be “broken down” over time. In order to extract sustaining revenue from the captured lead, companies must have an effective lead nurturing system in place. Lead nurturing systems correspond closely with traditional Customer Relationship Management. Depending on a company’s industry sales cycle, a lead nurturing system may include an email drip, the provision of additional content items, or a direct sales contact. The intended result of this process, of course, is a customer purchase.
Shortcomings of the analogy
Obviously, the marketing-flytrap analogy has one serious limitation. While Venus flytraps deceive, capture, and kill their unwitting victims, effective inbound marketing campaigns provide benefit to those that they attract. With truly great marketing, there is no victim, no deceit, and no slow death by digestion. Rather, a prospect is enticed by helpful content, knowingly provides contact information, and is nurtured until a purchase is made.
By remembering the analogy of the Venus flytrap and by following the three simple steps, companies can successfully implement inbound marketing strategies and begin to capture actionable sales leads online – and what company wouldn’t prefer sales leads over dead flies.