If you’ve read The Radical Sales Shift, then you already know that the way that business people research and make purchase decisions has changed radically in the last five years. Buyers now resist talking to salespeople until they’ve completed their own research and are confident about their options. 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.1 Unfortunately, many business owners that I meet still rely on tactics like tradeshows, print ads and cold calling as their primary focus for marketing. While these tactics can be included as part of your marketing strategy, they cannot stand alone. Companies who are looking to increase sales and revenue need to shift their approach to include inbound marketing.
What is inbound marketing?
According to Hubspot, inbound marketing is an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful — not interruptive.2 With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not need to fight for potential customers’ attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, inbound marketing attracts qualified prospects, proves your expertise and builds trust and credibility for your business.
What are some challenges with inbound marketing?
Many companies that we’ve worked with have not historically set clear goals for their marketing activities as they found it difficult to calculate ROI on the tactics they used. When you build your inbound marketing strategy you need to start by clearly defining your goals. They need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). Without having clearly defined goals, it will be difficult to track and measure success which will cause doubt. If you lose faith in your plan and pause or stop initiatives regularly it will completely throw off your momentum. Inbound marketing is a science as much as it is an art so reporting and analytics are key components to your success.
You need to ensure that you set realistic expectations for the timing of the results you will achieve. You should think of your inbound marketing like you would follow a recipe to bake a cake. You need to add ingredients, stir, bake your batter and wait for it to cool in order to get your cake. While you are anxious to see immediate results, you need to be sure you are incorporating all the right tactics (ingredients) to get to your desired results.
Inbound marketing is about building a relationship with your prospects so when the time is right you are top of mind. You can’t expect a potential customer to read one blog post and then immediately reach out to make a purchase. You need to allow them to engage at multiple touchpoints so they see you as an authority and will then reach out when there is a need or a fit. And while SEO is a big part of your inbound strategy, launching an optimized site doesn’t mean you are going to rank 1st in a Google search right away. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your marketing results are not going to be instantaneous.
Sharing the Expertise
The content strategy is often a big challenge. While you and your team are subject matter experts on your specific products and services, you likely haven’t had to explain the problems that your products solve or the benefits of your solutions to the end user in a succinct written format. As a result, it is often challenging for you and your team to define your content strategy (what you will write about and in what format) so that you’ve got a cohesive set of materials that are easily digestible for a prospect and position you as a thought leader in your industry.
It is important to be able to share your expertise with prospects who may not even realize they need your solution until they learn what problem it solves and how it can benefit them. With the inbound approach, you need to produce content that delivers value to your prospects so they choose to engage with you. To accomplish this, you need to educate your prospects on all the benefits you offer in a variety of formats (blogs, whitepapers, infographics, etc.) so they can consume the materials at their leisure and in their preferred format. Then by continuing to produce great content you will stay top of mind so you are the first call they make when they are ready to make a purchase.
What are the benefits to inbound marketing?
Here are 3 (of many) benefits to inbound marketing:
- It’s cost effective: Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing. 3 While companies are investing more on their inbound marketing initiatives the overall cost is far lower than the outbound approach.
- There is two-way communication: Customers are not just receiving your flyers and seeing your print ads in trade publications. Prospects and customers are engaging with your content and sharing it with others.
- Builds authority and increases brand awareness: According to the Content Marketing Institute, 89% of manufacturers surveyed said brand awareness was their organizations’ top goals for content marketing.4 Educating through thought leadership is critical to your business success (whether you are a manufacturer or not).
Are you ready to make the shift and try the inbound approach? Read our latest whitepaper: The Executive Guide to Strategic Marketing today!