Many B2B companies are adding inbound marketing to their marketing mix. It’s a sound choice for most -- using their websites as sales tools to fill their sales funnel alone is worth the investment as more and more decision makers search for solutions online.
Salesforce’s 2015 State of Marketing report reveals that your corporate website is the most popular digital marketing channel, with 64% saying that it’s a “very effective” tool for revenue growth.
The same report tells us that new business development, lead quality and remaining up to date with trends are the most pressing online marketing challenges.
Many companies are trying new things in order to get revenue growth, including inbound marketing. If you’re planning to add some inbound marketing to your overall marketing program, here is some advice from our years doing inbound marketing at our agency and for B2B clients:
Inbound marketing takes planning.
Not surprisingly, you can’t just jump into inbound marketing without a plan.
HubSpot’s inbound marketing methodology is a great place to start your planning, but your plan needs to be practical. It helps to have a step-by-step plan to write content, promote it, and generate new leads.
To get your creative juices going, here’s how we think of it. Start with a PDF of a specific whitepaper or guide relating to your industry. Then make a list of blog post titles that are related to that whitepaper or guide. When you write your blog, include a link to your whitepaper that requires a prospect to fill out a lead form. Now promote your blogs through email and social media. You’ll be well on your way.
Inbound marketing reaches early stage buyers.
Some companies think that website leads aren’t qualified. If you’re using traditional sales approaches where you’re essentially “pitching” or making price quotes, you probably won’t be completely happy with leads you’ll get from inbound marketing (although I guarantee you’ll get more from your website than you do today).
A traditional sales approach might not resonate well with website leads. First, many inbound marketing leads will be “early-stage.” They are just beginning a search for solutions to solve a problem. They might not have specifications, but might be comparing your product or technology with others. It pays to be consultative in your sales approach with inbound sales leads.
One of our longest-tenured clients really sums this up in the following quote:
“Before, we had one phone number [on our website] that went to our receptionist and she handed calls off to an inside sales person. In a lot of cases, those people are not equipped to handle inbound leads because they work with distributors. Our inside sales people were gathering information and putting quotes together so we didn't have anybody really equipped to sell on the phone. We figured that out when going through the call recordings that you provided. We have spent time training and nurturing those sales people to get them to a point where they feel more confident with inbound sales. In sales, the first thing you ask is ‘what's your name’ and ‘what's your phone number’ and I'm not sure we deserve that information right away. Let's talk about why you called me and through that conversation, let's talk about your needs first.”
Are you equipped to sell in a consultative way? If so, you’ll do well with inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing takes time to "work."
Inbound marketing isn’t a switch you flip and get instant results. When you use a tactic like content marketing to bring people to your website, it takes time for Google to index those pages and assign authority to them.
We like to tell people that it takes about 3 months of blog writing to see a significant increase in website traffic. Continue that effort for 6 months and website traffic grows faster. Past 6 months, as you steadily add helpful content to your website, visits from search engines increase because of the volume of content.
Imagine you own a library. If you have one or two books in the library, you won’t see many people come in to read. As you add new, interesting books, you accumulate shelves of books. More people are interested and pass the word along to like minded readers. More and more people visit the library, including those that come to read books that you added early on.
Have a plan to stick with your inbound marketing efforts and give yourself time to see results.
You can use inbound marketing assets to make other marketing work better.
When I do inbound marketing for our agency, a big “a-ha” moment for me is that I can use what I create for our blog or lead generation offers for other purposes.
- I can share a blog with a prospect that I talk to over the phone.
- I can print a guide and take some copies to a trade show as a giveaway.
- I can use what we write (facts, figures, stories) in presentations.
- I could include a link in a trade journal ad linking back to an informative guide (with lead form) on our website.
- I could pay for search engine advertising and link to that informative guide (with lead form).
I’m sure you can get creative with this concept. How can you re-use and re-purpose your inbound marketing assets offline?
As you start to transition to inbound marketing, you need to keep these things in mind. It's not a magic bullet but can be incredibly effective if you have a plan and the patience to carry out that plan.
This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but rather a starting point. I could've listed other considerations for transitioning to inbound marketing here:
- Inbound marketing takes multiple skill sets
- Your website has to be a sales tool, not a brochure
- You shouldn't give up on traditional marketing -- it has its place
- You need to measure effectiveness on a regular basis, reporting metrics to the C-suite
If you are curious to hear about some of these, or you're confused about how to implement inbound marketing at your company, maybe it's time to schedule a time to talk.
Have you thought about transitioning to inbound marketing? What are the hangups? What is holding your company back? I'd appreciate your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.