Inbound marketing has radically changed the traditional sales process. The basic premise of inbound is reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right content.
The idea of a sales funnel has been around since the late 1800s, we have adapted several iterations of this model; which maps the process a theoretical customer journeys through before making a purchase.
The process, however, assumes that all prospective customers loosely take the same route. We know that not to be true.
With the introduction of social media and the huge influx of technology, we now know that consumers and prospects are entering the buying process from many different channels and progressing at different rates.
The introduction of an inbound marketing concept is fitting for this new style of selling because it adapts to the needs of the consumer, and not the rigidity of an imposed concept of buying.
By-in-large, I believe that nearly every industry, selling any product, to any person is at least an eligible candidate for applying inbound marketing principles. There are, however, more qualified candidates. This week, I will take a look at who inbound marketing can help, and how your business sales process can improve through it’s implementation.
Who Can Inbound Marketing Help
Key attributes of those who can implement inbound marketing include:
- Those who Recognize the Need for Change
- Those who have Access to Decision Makers
- Those who have a Budget to Support Growth
- Those who have a Product that Solves a Problem
- Those whose Value is Unique Among Competitors
- Those who have a Documented Sales Process
- Those who have Owned Media Assets
I have also found inbound to be most successful for brands who have a longer buying cycle and long-term, low-turn over customer relationships. That is not to deter those of you with shorter buying cycles or high-turn over customers. The lifetime value of a customer should be considered when evaluating whether inbound marketing principles make sense for your business.
Recognize the Need for Change
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
If your company culture proudly hails this as your internal sales motto, perhaps inbound isn’t for you.
However, if you are a forward-thinking sales or marketing VP who has been tasked with increased quotas in a decreasing economy; or if you are challenged to find a more efficient method of connecting with the right customers and not wasting time with tire-kickers, inbound could be a good fit for you.
The methods and processes are different when compared to traditional marketing. Leadership and staff need to be open to the idea of change for any inbound effort to be successful.
Access to Decision Makers
Ultimately, someone needs to make the decision to try new concepts and have the ability to approve changes to your sales process. Often, this is a make or break point for brands looking to change. Without the ability to access key decision makers, your sales are stuck.
Budget to Support Growth
Many companies look at the marketing department as an expense line item. Poor them.
With proper sales and marketing alignment, the marketing department can become an asset.
Switching to an inbound approach does take an investment of dollars, but it is just that: an investment.
Much like retooling an assembly line, there are upfront costs that are associated with changing status quo. An effective inbound marketing plan includes identifying ideal customer personas, educational content, developing lead nurturing workflows, and tools to measure the efficiency of our efforts. On top of that, the costs of having a team of experts on your side to gauge and advise on what marketing is having an advantageous effect on your business does not come free.
Adopting an inbound marketing culture takes a budget of time, as well. According to a 2014 HubSpot inbound ROI study, 69% of participants saw an increase in sales revenue after implementing their inbound software. And 74% of these customers experienced this revenue increase within 7 months.
However, the investment of time and money results in a measurable, scalable process for growing your business. Knowing exactly where your marketing dollars are being spent best (yes, you can accurately measure the ROI of your marketing); giving your sales team only best most qualified leads (reduce the frustrations and time lost to lookie-loos); and setting the stage today for more business tomorrow is a tangible business asset your competitors will envy.
Product that Solves a Problem
When considering if inbound is a good fit for your brand, think about your customer.
It may seem elementary, but many brands overlook this simple concept in their marketing. Does your product actually solve a problem for the customer?
If so, are you articulating the features or benefits of your product or service?
Successful inbound marketing meets the customer where they are in the buying process and leads with the benefits — how your solution fixes their problem. Today’s customers don’t care about the latest and greatest features of your product if they do not solve the problem they are facing.
A customer-focused sales process educates the buyer the moment they are seeking information, not blasting them with irrelevant features for a need they do not have.
This directly translates to a better close rate. By targeting only consumers who are actively seeking to solve a problem, your sales team will suddenly be faced with buyers lining up for your service.
Value is Unique Among Competitors
Even in highly competitive industries, I would argue that each brand has a unique selling proposition. It is easy to forget that your brand offers something that your competition simply cannot.
Whether your company has been family-owned for four generations or you have the highest customer satisfaction ratings ever, you possess value that, when revealed, makes you the easy choice for prospective buyers.
Dig deep to find your competitive advantage that you can highlight in your sales process. This can be used in a lead nurturing campaign that converts tire-kickers to paying customers who become brand advocates.
What an opportunity!
One of the biggest reasons businesses struggle in today’s market is because they have weak value propositions. Over and over again, I hear people who sell deliver ineffective statements about the value customers get from working with their organization. It doesn’t matter if these sellers are from big companies, small firms, or are independent professionals. They just aren’t saying things that get prospective buyers to say, “Come on in. We need to meet.”
> Jill Konrath
Documented Sales Process
Brands with a well-documented sales process certainly have an advantage when implementing an inbound marketing campaign. Those who don’t have an established process for closing sales can use this opportunity to create a buyer’s process.
There are a number of areas of the sales process that can be automated with technology today. This frees up the sales team to focus on serious, qualified prospects who have shown genuine interest in using your solution to solve their problem.
Marketing automation, when implemented wisely, offers a boost to the bottom line. According to Gartner Research, businesses that use marketing automation see a 10% (or more) increase in revenue within 6 to 9 months of implementing it.
With longer buying cycles, customers need more education before making a purchase. Knowing which point of the buying process the customer is in opens the door for delivering content that answers their questions or explains the benefits of one product over another.
Owned Media Assets
As consumers are shopping and researching, you have the opportunity to position yourself as an authority and partner to help educate them in their decision-making journey.
By presenting content that is thoughtfully crafted, you can help shape their education experience.
Remember, when creating content for your buyers, it should focus on their needs rather than you features. Otherwise, your material will get thrown in a stack with your competitors who are selling to the buyer rather than helping them make an informed decision.
Use your branded assets and content to go from a vendor to a trusted advisor.
Knowing when your prospective buyer is ready to purchase is powerful information that inbound marketing can help you gain. Of course, to get these types of insights, you need a partner and the right tools that integrate with your contacts database, website, and email client. If you feel that your business could benefit from these tactics, inbound may be for you.
By the way, 3 weeks ago, I talked about tools I use for my own agency. One of them, Signals by HubSpot, can send real-time notifications to you based on the actions you want to monitor. This is a way to get your feet wet in the exciting, transformational methods of inbound marketing.