Maybe you’ve stumbled across this article because you’re thinking about implementing an Inbound Marketing strategy and want to learn more. Maybe you haven’t got a clue what an Inbound strategy is but know you want to drive more leads to your business. Maybe you’ve aced your Inbound strategy and just want to see if anyone agrees or disagrees with how you did it. Either way, if you want to learn more about Inbound Marketing, you're in the right place.
I get asked that question a lot. No matter how much I try and dress up the answer, my go-to one-liner comes from Marcus Sheridan. His best seller 'They Ask, You Answer.' is, in my opinion, the most distilled articulation of Inbound Marketing. In fact, if you haven’t read or listened to it yet, I would encourage you to do so now, and then read the rest of this article. It gives fantastic insight and sets the scene for what is about to come.
Why do I feel the book is so powerful? It cuts through all the traditional myths, mystique, complication and cost of marketing and boils it down to one simple premise; before people get themselves to a place where they are informed enough to buy, they have questions they need answering. Your sole job is to educate them and answer those questions. That is it. Seriously, that’s what it comes down to. So why do we consciously or unconsciously put so many obstacles in the way?
Built a successful business with lots of customers and success stories? Great! Spent hours in training learning the new product portfolio? Gold star! Here's the problem though; that is not what your buyer is interested in and it’s not what they are searching for. So often it seems to be the case that this is the first thing people reach for when writing content such as a blog or press release, or when pitching and promoting what they do.
We neglect our buyer. They are no different to us. They are doing a job, trying to improve the way they do things, half trying not to screw up, half reaching for the next rung on the ladder. With luck, they will have bosses, mentors, and teams of people around them to help them get there. More often than not they are on their own, desperately trying to educate themselves on what to do next, how to make the right decision and how to be successful.
This is where you come in. You represent a business that can give them an outcome to make them successful. How-To's, Blogs, Videos, FAQ’s... The raw material to give your buyers what they crave is plentiful, it’s just a case of focussing on the right end of the telescope and you will unlock the ability to churn out reams of information that help make your buyers be rockstars.
As my colleague, Steve pointed out in one of his blogs recently, against a backdrop of relatively static growth we are all eating each other's lunch. This makes us naturally cagey about sharing how we differentiate from the competition.
We are often afraid if we don’t get to tell our story the way we want to, we feel out of control if we cannot deposition the competition if we know our buyer is engaged with them. Even worse, we feel we’ve lost out if we give indicative pricing before we have a full understanding of our buyer's position - either through fear of pricing too low and leaving money on the table, or pricing too high and scaring them away. All of these reasons and more are why we tend to close shop rather than open up about all the things we know are inevitably going to be part of the sales cycle.
The problem with this approach is it means your buyer has to already consciously be in a sales cycle with you before they get the best information you have to offer. If you consider that on average a B2B buyer does 12 searches before engaging with a specific brand’s website, if you wait to answer all the questions they’re going to have about your story, your pricing and your competition, there is a good chance you will not get to answer them at all.
We want more sales now. We employ expensive salespeople and need them to be closing. Often this means we’re under the misguided impression we can fully control the sales cycle. Even though we know B2B sales is shifting towards buying rather than selling, from Outbound to Inbound Marketing, we still get impatient and we still interrupt. We make it about us and not about the buyer.
An inbound strategy does not yield instant results. It is one of the reasons too few businesses still don't adopt it as part of a healthy marketing mix. Many feel they’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked for them. Often this is because it has not been tried for long enough, or because the right tools are not in place to measure attribution.
Changing out of these habits is not easy. Many of the things which obstruct answering our buyer's questions are not put there on purpose. They are there because it is how we have been selling and marketing for years and change is hard.
Not only this, but an inbound marketing approach requires a scientific and methodical approach. It cannot be hit and hope. You do not build the momentum, you do not yield the expected results, and as such, you risk giving up far too early.
You have to hone your target market(s) and get under the skin of your buyers. Think hard about what they need, what they are asking and where they spend time online. After all that you have to attract them to you and ensure your website is set up to nurture and convert them. It is only after all those things have happened, in the order they're supposed to, that you can unleash your expensive salespeople on them. You need a plan, and you need to stick to it.
The points above are largely taken from our own sales deck. In true Marcus Sheridan style, and as we highlighted in point 2, we have made it available to download which you can see at the bottom of this article. We've really enjoyed educating prospects with it over the past months and hope you enjoy it as well. If any of the slides don't make sense, just drop us a line and we will happily schedule a call to walk you through it.