How to Get Buy-In for Inbound Marketing when Change is Hard

Most of the trouble with marketing comes with the words that we use. Rapidly-evolving words, disciplines, and then specializations, have made businesses pretty complicated environments to manage. When you’re always chasing knowledge and the concepts seem just out of reach, getting access to that knowledge can be threatening to your credibility. Worse yet, technology is pretty disruptive. It’s constantly changing the environments we work in, both creating new opportunities and making old methods completely obsolete.
Change, for many leaders, can be pretty threatening. Changes requiring that business leaders learn something new, release control, trust someone new, or face the unknown, are among the scariest environments imaginable.

The Scariest Environment Imaginable

Oscar (Owen Wilson): … let’s say that we actually do land on this. What’s it gonna be like up there?
Truman (Billy Bob Thornton): 200 degrees in the sunlight, minus 200 in the shade, canyons of razor-sharp rock, unpredictable gravitational conditions, unexpected eruptions, things like that.
Oscar: So the scariest environment imaginable. That’s all you gotta say, scariest environment imaginable.

Building a Strategy for Buy-In When Change is Hard

“I’m having trouble getting anyone to listen to me.”

The advocates of inbound marketing are primarily the marketing managers and leaders who are on the front lines, reading articles about marketing, and developing their own knowledge. They are also the people who are going to run up against resistance, bringing new ideas to the principals and leaders of their organizations without a strategy for influencing change. Change is even more difficult when you’re working in an industry that’s slow to adopt new ideas. If you’re not careful, you’re going to create your own roadblocks.

Research Shows that You Should Ask Questions

One of the ways that you can open the door to the C-Suite, especially when you know that what you’re doing isn’t working so well, is to ask questions. Though many people believe that asking too many questions might make you look uninformed or incompetent, the research according to Harvard Business School ( Smart People Ask for Advice ) shows that the only thing making you look stupid is your fear of looking stupid, and that maybe one of the ways that you can get others to be more open to your ideas is to ask the “right” questions. The research shows that two things happen when you ask the right questions. 1 ) Others see you as curious and intelligent – as problem solvers and resources for knowledge and they are flattered to be asked for advice. 2 ) You gain more self-confidence.
Remember that you’re in a business environment that is slow to adopt change, so it’s unlikely that the CEO is going to ask you what you think the firm should do to improve their results. He should, but let’s face it. He probably won’t, and if you just walk in the door and suggest that the organization should make a fundamental shift in the way that you earn business, it’s probably going to be met with some resistance.

How to Craft a Framework for Change

You’re going to have to ask the right questions in the right sequence, if you’re going to get anywhere with the CEO who’s resistant to change. I suggest that you get an audience with leaders that have some influence on the organization and explain that you are trying to do some research with other firms in your space, to see if there are ideas or best practices that could help you improve the results. Ask your leaders for their permission, support, or even suggestions for where to look. You might ask, “Who’s doing it right?” and then follow-up with “What do you think that they are doing, different from us, to be so successful?” This gets everyone’s wheel’s spinning and helps open you  up to being a potential subject-matter-expert.

What Are We Doing Today?

The first step is to step off the hamster wheel of endless tactics and take a short inventory of what you are currently doing today, and how your business is performing. Use data that is as objective as possible. You might find out that no one has been watching or measuring the process. You can use that to your advantage. Keep this simple.

How can we help grow sales?

The secret to getting buy-in for inbound marketing is to focus on the benefits to your business development process and helping you grow sales. The CEO isn’t focused on the nuances of marketing strategies and emerging tactics. Those are costs and without a framework to understand how all of those tactics drive the financial outcomes,  you’re going to run into resistance.
Despite the complexity of marketing, it’s an unfortunate discipline that everyone seems to think they know something about. And the term, “Marketing” means something very different to different people. You might be unaware that they CEO believes that the only marketing your firm engages with, is creating brochures or sharing news on Facebook.
Remember to communicate that your goal is to help the firm improve sales.

Who are the customers that we want?

Who or what are the top business opportunities that you want? This can get a little complicated if you work in a segment where there is a difference between relationships and project types. Try to focus on relationships and identify who is most important in driving our future business. If you can get buy-in on who your customer should be, then the other steps are much easier.

How do they connect with us?

Remember that all relationships are built around a journey. A good example is a marriage. It is rare that two people sit down to a first meeting and compare bank accounts and health reports, and then decide to spend their lives together. All relationships have entry points and then they evolve with both time and value. From a business perspective, can you take a quick assessment of YOUR typical buyer’s journey, from awareness,  to consideration, and decision – and identify what your firm is doing to reach them at each stage?
You might not be doing very much to address problems that your prospects have at each stage. This is good. You can use this to illustrate potential obstacles in your business development strategy. To fill your sales pipeline, you’re going to need the building blocks of inbound marketing infrastructure in place to attract, connect, convert, and nurture those prospects to sales opportunities. If you’re not showing up for the entire journey, your sales are going to suffer.

How can we measure our efforts?

Now it’s important to collect data. Without data, you might lose the entire opportunity. Again, following your buyer’s journey, quantify the number of new leads, new prospects, new opportunities (proposal), and new business (projects or contracts) that you close every month. Also, you’ll need to identify how many prospects you currently have in your sales database or that you are connected with via social properties. These are all assets with which you can leverage to drive new sales. Sometimes companies look at the outputs, but not the inputs in a process. Taking a few quick measurements will help you understand whether or not your business is attracting and closing the right kind of business to deliver the results that you want.

What’s the value of a new customer?

It’s important to understand or at least agree on the value of a new customer. A relationship might lead to many projects. Invite the principals and business development leaders in your firm to come up with the facts or the assumptions that will help you agree on a solid number. Try to measure value in terms of future profits. This metric that is typically used to accomplish this is customer lifetime value, or CCLV. (You can use our online calculator to crunch your figures). The benefit of using CCLV to measure the value of a new customer is that customers typically influence repeat purchases or one kind or another. When everyone at the table agrees to measure the value of customers in terms of CCLV, you are also helping them understand that investing in developing relationships is a marathon, instead of a sprint. This is an important element of inbound marketing, because it’s focus is on the entire lifecycle of the customer relationship.
Bonus Tip: Anytime that you are talking numbers, it’s valuable to get the CFO to sit down to the table and give his or her blessing on the facts. This will help give provide credibility for your inbound marketing pitch.

What are our goals?

Again, this is quite common, especially when times are relatively good and everyone’s current efforts are generating acceptable short-term results. If you can get the C-Suite to put a financial flag somewhere out there on the horizon and define goals in terms of both financial and personal aspirations (why they want to accomplish said goals), you’re in the home stretch.

Your suggestions for growing your sales pipeline

Just forget about calling this entire process “inbound marketing” to the CEO, ok? This is where your inbound marketing pitch comes in. Now you have the building blocks of getting buy-in for change, or in your case, inbound marketing. You know what you’re doing, whom you are doing it for, how you are currently performing, and what your goals are. You’ll probably uncover some gaps in-between your current performance, and your organizational goals. Those gaps are your opportunities for change.
This is where you can make your case about the benefits of inbound marketing for your sales pipeline, how engaging targeted-prospects early in their journeys, drives more qualified leads and your sales team can focus their time on sales-ready opportunities.
Presenting a Hypothesis: Without talking about blogging or marketing automation or any of the supporting tactics around inbound marketing, you have the building blocks to make your case. You will need to present things in a scientific framework by reverse engineering your goals, and then presenting the outputs that need to happen to reach them, e.g. x number of leads, x number of qualified opportunities, etc…


You’ve made your case and you’ve received buy-in at every stage. Then you can present the proven statistics and best practices around Inbound Marketing to demonstrate the process and the framework for making this happen. If you need more help, we’ll help you build a buy-in process and get the facts you need to make a game-changing pitch to the C-Suite.

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