Marketing has changed because our customers have changed. Technology has disrupted the way we conduct business, and, for many of us, traditional marketing and sales methods have failed to produce the results they once did. Today’s customers are researching online to learn more about their problems and their possible solutions before ever speaking with a salesperson. Inbound Marketing is the natural response to this customer-driven shift.
Inbound Marketing is a powerful, customer-centered marketing methodology designed to turn strangers into visitors, convert visitors into leads, close leads into customers, and delight customers into advocates.
Caption: It’s all about building relationships.
What Kind of Company are You?
Inbound Marketing would probably, on some level, benefit almost any kind of business, but there are certain qualifications that make a business an ideal for this methodology:
- Do you sell a service or product?
- Is your service or product differentiated from those of your competition?
- Do you want to sell more of it?
If you answered all of these answers ‘yes,’ then your company has met the minimum requirements for an Inbound fit. Additionally, your product or service should have a value high enough and a sales cycle long enough to properly utilize Inbound at each stage of the Buyer’s Journey (no small commodity or “impulse” buys).Inbound is the best fit for smaller companies with more modest budgets who are looking to compete with their larger competitors. The big companies tend to spend more on traditional marketing, such as advertising. If you can’t afford to outspend your competition, don’t. Investing those dollars in Inbound Marketing could be the answer
Do You Have Specific Business Goals?
What is your top priority for the next quarter? What about six months from now? Where do you see your company this time next year? To be an ideal Inbound fit, the most important qualification is that your company is focused on growth. You’ve got to have a vision for the future of your company, and that vision should be attached to specific growth-driven goals.
You don’t have to get too granular here (this can be broken down into quantifiable benchmarks when creating your Inbound Marketing strategy), but you do need to know what it is you ultimately want to accomplish with an inbound marketing program. These often include one (or more) of the following:
- Increase Number of Leads
- Increase Quality of Leads
- Increase Sales
- Increase Brand Awareness
Inbound Marketing is a powerful methodology, but it won’t do your business much good if you’re not prepared to set some growth-oriented goals.
Have Your Traditional Marketing Efforts Stopped Producing Results?
The efficacy of traditional “outbound” marketing methods such as cold-calling, direct mail, and even ad buys are at an all-time low, and many sales teams have been feeling the sting. We often ignore calls from unknown number, toss mailers into the recycling bin without even looking at them, and fast-forward through the television ads on our DVRs (that is, if we’re not already streaming everything). As technology has increased, prospects have grown accustomed to ignoring interruption-based marketing.
B2B sales and marketing are feeling it, too. As I began writing this section of the article — and I’m not kidding — I received an unsolicited sales call. Ultimately, I did not have time to be “sold to” because I was right in the middle of something (this blog), and I had to let the caller go. I’m sure results like this ring painfully true for many B2B sales professionals out there.
Your marketing and sales methods from 10 years ago — or even 5 years ago — are probably not producing the same results now. It takes you a greater number of cold calls to make one sale, and that number is only going to grow larger. If your traditional marketing and sales results have plateaued or, worse, declined, Inbound Marketing is likely the solution you’re looking for.
Are Your Prospective Customers Online?
My parents use Google occasionally, but they normally look things up in the yellow pages. They use email and Facebook sparingly, but I wouldn’t call them “active” online. Though your prospective customers are more than likely online in some fashion, what’s important is whether or not they’re using the internet to look for solutions to their problems.
Do your customers get online to research and compare products and services, participate in social media, or discuss your industry? If the answer to any of those is ‘yes,’ then Inbound Marketing is a powerful way to reach your audience organically, effectively helping them to seek out your company, instead of the other way around.
How Important is Your Website to Your Business?
Regardless of the current state of its design, it’s important to understand your website’s role in the overall success of your company. Many B2B companies treat their websites as digital portfolios, and in doing so, ignore its potential to move prospects through your sales funnel and help close them as customers.
Regardless of how a prospect first comes into contact with your company (in-person meeting, Google search, cold call,…) the next thing they’re going to do is visit you online. Your website should be much more than an ‘About Us,’ a list of your products or services, and a collection of work you’ve completed. See, your website is not really about you, it is about them. It should be an educational resource for your prospects and customers, demonstrating that you understand their interests and problems, and that your solution is exactly what they are needing.
Your website is an extension of your best sales and marketing leaders. The difference is that your website works at attracting visitors, generating leads, and closing sales 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Is Your Competition Outranking You?
If your competition is outranking you in the search engines, it’s probably safe to say that they’re doing something that you’re not. That said, you don’t have to outspend your them to beat them. You just have to outsmart them.
Inbound Marketing is an especially good fit for companies that cannot afford the luxury of outspending their competition. Your competitors may be outranking your now for a number of reasons, but a targeted SEO strategy within an Inbound program can overtake them. Original, useful content created to target your customers’ interests, problems and questions will boost your organic traffic, thereby raising your search engine ranking.
But remember: if, by now, you’ve determined that Inbound would be a good fit for your company, that also means that it’d be a good fit for your competitors. If they’re already rocking their own Inbound program, it’s all the more reason not to let your company get left behind.
Are You Willing to Make an Investment in Your Marketing?
If you view marketing as a necessary evil — something that you allocate money for but have very little tracking of — it’s time to rethink your position. Marketing is an investment, not a cost. And if you’re looking for the best return on your investment, Inbound Marketing is probably the program for you.
Goal-setting, customer-centric strategy and results tracking are all part of an Inbound program. But remember, Inbound is a marathon, not a sprint. Whereas a print ad buy may produce an immediate influx of traffic, an investment in an inbound program is an investment in long-term results and growth. Success will not happen overnight, but it will happen, and it will likely happen more effectively than an outbound strategy could accomplish.