Every day we speak with B2B marketers. Some have been with inbound marketing from the beginning; some are still in camp outbound. With the advent of GDPR, the world is most certainly taking inbound more seriously. Many, however, are still grasping at the concept and trying to understand how does inbound marketing work?
Many people I speak to have a clear conceptual idea of how it what the structure looks but many fail to grasp how the mechanics work. How they translate those mechanics to new website visitors and how those visitors turn into leads for their sales team. In this article, I'll try and sum up why inbound works rather than how it works. Hopefully, this will provide some insight into why people are making the shift how it could work for your business.
We get to take a look at a lot of marketing plans. Now I must admit a lot of the marketing plans we look at are sales driven. Now in principle, there is no problem with sales and marketing working hand in hand. But, when I talk about sales led marketing plans - what I mean is a list of stuff. A marketer is under pressure from sales to deliver leads, and they decide a long list of 'busy activity' is the right way to satisfy their sales colleagues. But, those tactics are normally piecemeal, let's send a tweet about X, let's write a blog about product Y, let's do PPC on Z. The tactics themselves are not wrong - but no common thread knits together any single element together. Inbound allows you to structure and interlink your tactics into a coherent structure. Pulling in real actionable data that can measure success and will enable you to plan your next stream of work.
I like Daniel Day Lewis's Quote from Gangs of New York: "Each of the Five Points is a finger. When I close my hand, it becomes a fist." Isolated marketing tactics are like a finger jabbing, while inbound is like a fist.
Bill 'The Butcher' - Gangs of New York. Credit: Miramax
It brings together unusual bedfellows. Those marketers who are brand, PR, digital or demand gen centric are very different beasts, usually with very different aims. Inbound is the only approach that allows everyone to get their way. Whether it be 'how well know is our brand?' or 'where are the leads?' Inbound is the answer to both questions at the same time. With inbound, you can turn those old world tactics of thought leadership into a real credible part of your demand generation strategy.
You don't have to talk about yourself. Seriously, your prospects don't want to hear it. In the same way, you don't want to listen to a cold call from a salesperson; your prospective customer doesn't care either. Inbound is about being relevant, about helping and being generous. Tell your prospects what is happening in their market, how you see their world, how they can solve common challenges (without mentioning your product), make yourself relevant. Much like good dating advise talk about them, not yourself.
There are some elements that you need to figure out before you get underway and the key is who are we are targeting, what is a perfect customer? What situation are they in? What challenges do they face? What's happening in their market? When you've answered those questions, you've got a defined market strategy. Then you move to who - which people - building clear personas. From there you have your strategic view. That context means you're ready for anything and can drive the leads and growth you are looking for.
When I first become a marketer, we built dashboards in spreadsheets and copy and pasted them into presentations and then printed them out to be added to a reporting pack. This process used to take at least half a day a month getting facts and stats from around the business and different teams and systems. Making them match and, let's be honest, doing some light massaging to ensure they looked good. Hopefully, those days are long behind us. Today with tools like Hubspot, all of that is at our fingertips, data that is real, actionable and specific. We've got more insight than ever before on what works and what doesn't work all in real time. It's almost the nirvana of which we used to dream.
When I first became a marketer, I yearned for process and structure. It never came. I could never see how this could scale, systems didn't do the job you needed, and repeatability was none existent. More time was spent planning than doing. The doing was stressful and often based on incorrect data. With inbound, its a system, a process, dial up, dial down. Best of all now transparent processes are meaning you can automate the hell out of things; email is a great example. Only send an email when its the right moment for that prospect - no more conversations about the right time of the month, week or day to send 80,000 emails for a 0.5% click-through rate. Now marketing happens while you sleep.
But, for all the good it does take time. Many of our prospects and clients talk about not having the time to wait for inbound to ramp up; I get that, everyone is under pressure and needs results today. But there is nothing else that will ensure that your business has a sustainable, measurable engine to drive demand into your sales team like inbound marketing.