The good news is that Inbound Marketing is a cost-effective, highly measurable and very targeted approach to marketing that prospects and customers crave.
Here is the bad news, though: It is definitely not for everyone!There are certain criteria that have to be fulfilled in order to work for your business:
- Do you have the right kind of customers?
- Does your sales and marketing requirements support a move to inbound?
- What about your competition?
- Do you have complete buy-in from your C-Level management?
Do You Have The Right Kind Of Customers?
One of the most important factors to consider, when judging if your marketing mix should include inbound marketing, are your customers.
Inbound marketing works best for companies whose prospective clients use the internet to research their problems, search online for solution strategies and potential solutions before making a purchasing decision.
In contrast to traditional marketing, this new approach to marketing relies heavily on offering outstanding content to your ideal customers along their buyer's journey.
- At the beginning of their buyer's journey (the so-called awareness phase), your ideal customers look to blogs and topic related websites to learn more about the problem that they are currently facing.
- Once they have collected enough information about the symptoms they are experiencing by reading eBooks, guides, and long-form blog posts, they will focus on formulating a solution strategy. This stage is called the consideration stage.
- Finally, in the decision stage, your prospects will turn to your (and your competitors') website(s) to research your products and services. They will also refer to social media, and online reviews verify all short-listed options.
On the flip-side, they voice their opinions and share their experiences (good or bad) on social media and submit product reviews.
Do Your Sales And Marketing Fit The Bill?
Another criteria for inbound success is your internal setup for your marketing and sales team. Most businesses don't realize that, on average, 57% of the sales process is completed by the time your prospect talks with your sales team for the first time. Those 57% are spent by self-learning on the website, blogs, social media, etc.
This is something very powerful to realize!
If you are cold-calling or sending mass direct mail, you most likely start at 0% and have to educate a lot and work through numerous objections before your prospect will even consider to give you a chance to show them the product.
With inbound marketing, your marketing efforts will pick up the client where and when they are looking for answers, provide solutions and hand over a warm lead to sales.
But for this to be successful, you have to have:
- A sales cycles longer than a week
- An alignment between your marketing department and sales team
- A need to fill your sales pipeline with hot leads
- And a decrease in the effectiveness of your traditional marketing mix.
For example, if your marketing team fully invests in inbound marketing, but your sales cycle is shorter than one week, your are probably not a good fit, since you will not be able to nurture your leads enough to prepare them for sales.
On the other hand, if your sales team is swamped with high-qualified leads (which is a great problem to have in itself) and does not need you as the marketing department to fill their pipeline, your marketing budget is better invested in branding or similar activities.
Finally, if in your industry, traditional marketing is still the way to go and direct mail, tradeshows and cold calling is the most effective way to pursue clients, then you will have a hard time to get budget or buy-in for inbound marketing. For example, we recently spoke to a long-term website client of ours who is the leader is a super-specialized, locally limited niche. He is not a fit for inbound marketing, because he solely closes customers through personal relationships and in-house product demonstrations.
Does Your Competition Have A Massive Online Presence?
Guy Kawasaki, a best-selling author, keynote speaker and social media maven, said once: "If you have more money than brains you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing."
Which really is the essence of inbound marketing in a nutshell.
However, you will face an almost impossible task if you have a huge competitor that has been doing inbound marketing for years, who has published thousands of helpful blog posts, established their own social media communities (such as specific LinkedIn groups with thousands of active members) and ranks in the top three for every relevant search term with decent search volume on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
To illustrate the point, let's say I want start a marketing automation software-as-a-service company. I will never, ever be able to compete with HubSpot who generates hundreds of thousands of views every month, pushes several blog posts our daily and who has a massive reach on social media, blog subscribers and partner ecosystem that promotes them constantly.
Do You Have 100% Executive Level Buy-In?
Inbound marketing requires some organizational changes - structural and process-wise.
For example, if your business is organization-centric, you will be less successful in adopting inbound marketing than a customer-centric organization. While the latter already puts the ideal customer (your buyer persona) front and center, the former has to overcome a lot more challenges and struggle against political obstacles internally.
In order to make these changes, you need complete support from your C-Level management.
In addition, your sales and marketing need to work hand-in-hand, and you need to be able to commit to either creating or outsourcing content that addresses your customer's needs on a consistent basis.
Last, but not least, you must have a willingness to share your expertise and insights, even if that means your competition will be able to see it as well. Only if you can readily teach your prospects and customers and address issues and functionality of your product openly, you can succeed.
Before even thinking of how much money you should dedicate to inbound marketing or which agency to hire, ask yourself if your organization is a good fit for this. It is much easier to make organizational changes before implementing a full-blown inbound marketing strategy then partially approaching inbound and then fixing internal problems later.
Not sure? Just schedule a 30-minute conversation with me and I will give you my honest opinion about it.