If you are an inbound marketer, you are probably pretty familiar with hearing the following statement, “Inbound marketing does not work!” Unfortunately for me, I hear this often. So, how do I respond? Well, let me tell you a story.
It was early September of this year, and I was in Boston for Inbound 2015 – HubSpot’s annual marketing conference. I was with Julie, from our TPM Marketing Automation Team. It is, by all accounts, a love-in for inbound marketing aficionados. With so much positive inbound energy within the walls of the Boston Convention Center during these four days, I wanted to bottle up the energy and take it home with me. But alas, amongst the inbound revelry, I did have to defend the virtues of inbound marketing – at a HubSpot Partner social event, no less.
It was late in the evening and Julie and I had wandered into Del Frisco’s Steak House in the Seaport District (it was highly recommended and we were open to trying out anything). We were enjoying some cocktails and discussing the day’s events, when a tall, Inbound 2015 lanyard-wearing, suit-clad gentleman sat next to me and asked, “What’s the deal with this inbound stuff?” Given his spiffy lanyard, I was taken aback by this sobering question, so I replied back, “Excuse me?” He repeated, “Why is everyone so fanatical about inbound marketing? Does it even work?”
That’s when it occurred to me, Julie and I, and frankly everyone at TPM, much like our colleagues at Inbound 2015 are obsessed with inbound marketing; however, it still doesn’t mean much to the folks outside of this quaint family of 10,000 attendees, their colleagues, employees, and clients. This is something that we as inbound marketers forget. With inbound inspiration fresh in my mind, I looked at this scenario as an opportunity to test out a challenge given by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah (founders of HubSpot), to see if I had the chops to convince this skeptic the true value of inbound marketing. This was my opportunity to test out my years of inbound marketing experience and use my perfectly orchestrated elevator pitch to win over this skeptic.
If you are an inbound marketing believer, this is very important. You see, I believe that all of us will have this one opportunity – this one chance to convince our boss, the sales team, our marketing department, or ourselves, of the exponential reach and ROI of inbound marketing. When you are presented with this opportunity to sell someone on the value of inbound marketing, you will want to make sure that you are prepared. But fret not, because we have compiled a list of answers to the commonly asked questions about inbound marketing. We hope that this information will come in handy because, as an inbound marketer, I’m sure you’ll get questions along the way, as well as the same push back that I faced. So, good luck.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing (sometimes called permission marketing) is promoting a company or product through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, newsletters, whitepapers, SEO, physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to make a stranger into a customer through the buyer journey outlined in the graph below:
- Attract strangers to your website as visitors
- Convert website visitors into leads
- Turn leads into customers
The key is to create content that aligns with your buyer personas, and provides them with valuable information that they seek during specific stages of the buyer’s journey, and in turn, nurtures them through the sales process.
If you want to learn more about the buyer journey, check out these other articles:
The Buyer Persona: Buyer Persona Content Marketing
The Buyer Journey: How a Customer Journey Funnel Qualifies Leads
What’s the opposite of Inbound Marketing, Outbound Marketing?
Yes, the opposite of inbound marketing is in fact, outbound marketing. The role of a marketing agency or an internal marketing department has traditionally been to facilitate outbound marketing campaigns. Outbound marketing uses paid channels to disrupt our lives with marketing messages in a shotgun manner. Think TV and radio commercials, print media ads, flyers, cold calls, billboards, search ads (Google, Bing, etc.), display ads, purchased email lists, and other paid channels of marketing. The unfortunate truth is that most businesses don’t have the budget to spend money on these traditional paid mediums, and aside from AdWords and display networks, tracking ROI is difficult, if not impossible.
I’ve Heard That Inbound Marketing Does Not Work. What Do You Say to That?
Inbound marketing does work, but it isn’t appropriate for all businesses. Inbound marketing works best for small businesses that offer products or services with a high purchase price, and a long research cycle. If you are selling a product or service where buyers make spur of the moment decisions, or where buyers don’t typically conduct online research before making a decision, then unfortunately, inbound marketing using content may not be the right fit for you. The longer the buyer journey, the more opportunity you will have to provide valuable content to help your buyer along this journey.
Larger enterprises can also leverage inbound marketing, but if the business has grown as a market leader, then brand visibility and recognition start to play a role, and that’s when outbound marketing is needed in conjunction with inbound marketing.
So How Exactly Do You Attract Customers to Your Site?
With Google being the first stop for online research, organic content marketing must target specific search terms. These terms will be dictated by the type of questions your buyers will have during the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision making stage. Promoting your content through social media channels, forums, and email will also broaden the reach of your content. The key is to understand your buyer personas and write helpful content that answers any questions or pains that your potential customers may have as they find their way towards your product or solution.
It’s Just a Fad, Inbound Marketing Does Not Work Long Term
In the 2014 B2B State of Procurement Study, Accenture found that 94% of B2B buyers did some kind of online research before making a purchase decision. This number probably doesn’t shock you, but you’ll agree that even three years ago this number would have been a lot less. And going back, say 10 years ago, B2B buyers relied heavily on outbound marketing campaigns and sales reps to make informed purchase decisions. So it’s true that inbound marketing has become more prevalent over the last five years or so, as we become more dependent on the internet to research our potential purchases. This user behavior has led to the evolution of inbound marketing as a sales tool as more and more of the corporate decision makers become digital consumers. By publishing valuable content that targets your potential buyers and helps them answer possible questions that they may have, you will help build your brand as a trusted resource. After you have engaged with them, the final step is to convert leads into customers, by using lead nurturing best practices.
How Do You Nurture Leads into Customers?
Few things on the internet are free – cash is still king, but information is queen. Some of your content in the form of blogs or social media can be consumed freely. But in other circumstances, you may ask for contact information or likes and follows, in exchange for subscriptions or premium content. Once you have earned this information, you have a channel through which to connect with your buyers at a more personal level. Now is the time for marketing and sales to collaborate to vet out the leads and to nurture the relationship towards a purchase. This is done, again, through inbound marketing, in conjunction with the sales team. Even if buyers might not be quite ready to speak to a sales rep, they may continue to consume your content until they are ready to make a purchase, and, when they do, who better to purchase from but their trusted resource for valuable information – you!
Alright, so do you still think inbound marketing does not work? Well, the tall gentleman from Inbound 2015 was sold. He turned out to be a vendor at the show and was drinking the inbound Kool-Aid by the end of our conversation. I saw him the next day at the conference and I overheard him talking to another Inbound attendee about how inbound marketing was going to change his business! Another inbound convert. You’re very welcome, Brian and Dharmesh.
If you think inbound marketing might work for your company, then contact me firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss inbound opportunities for your company. We can also help you to setup a 30 day free trial of HubSpot and provide on-boarding workshops for your team. Find out more about our inbound and marketing services.