Many marketers – especially those working in businesses that sell primarily in the B2B sector – have embraced inbound marketing. HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2015 report found that inbound is the “core marketing strategy” for companies with 25-200 employees that are beginning their growth phase or are “fighting for growth.” Companies with more than 200 employees tend to use inbound and outbound strategies equally.
Yet doing inbound marketing well takes considerable time, money, and staff resources. We run into many companies that have tried to implement inbound on their own and they tell us they're overwhelmed by the effort, and underwhelmed – and very frustrated – with their results. What’s more, they find that the results that did come didn’t come fast enough and their marketing team was burned out by the end of the year.
Many of these businesses did inbound exactly right – but they were trying to achieve a year’s worth of work in just a few weeks.
KISS the Craziness Goodbye: Keep It Simple, Sweetie
Inbound is simple but you can quickly over-complicate it once you add the power of the HubSpot inbound marketing platform to the mix. Inbound requires that your team members create multiple types of content for the different stages of the buyer’s journey. While you should aim to eventually publish two to three blog posts a week, if you’ve never blogged, if you’ve posted just a handful of tweets over the past year, if you have no long-form content, then you should – to misquote Bette Davis’s character in All About Eve – “fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a rough year.”
Simple Step #1: Focus on Awareness
People can’t buy what they don’t know is out there: make sure you’re doing the right things to catch your buyers’ awareness.
Inbound has very specific strategies when it comes to growing your ideal prospects’ awareness about your products and/or services. Also known as the “top of the funnel,” this stage of the buyer’s journey is when potential clients are searching for resources, answers, data, education, insight, even opinions about overcoming a challenge they’re experiencing or reaching a goal.
Some of the strategies you’ll use include:
- Content seeding/syndication
- Speaking/branded events
- Social media
- PPC and advertising on social media
You may not need to use all of these strategies but, at minimum, you should have a mobile-and SEO-friendly website, use social media, and blog.
For a quick overview and to see how well your website stacks up, check out HubSpot’s Website Grader.
Simple Step #2: Consider What Your Customers Want, Not What You Want
Inbound gets great results because it focuses on your customers’ needs, not yours. The idea is to give them what they want (information), so that you can get what you want (their business). In other words (and to misquote another famous phrase for our own purposes): “It is not what your customers can do for you, but what you can do for your customers.”
Basically, this consideration of your prospects’ and customers’ needs gives them a reason to stay engaged with you. As you know, the number one goal in the B2B and professional services sectors is to build relationships. You’ll also support your sales and business development teams in the process.
Use your blog to answer common questions and give your sales team members ammo and research to back up discussions with prospects and clients. You become a valuable asset to your prospects.
Shhhh. Nifty “secret”: While you need to create content “manually,” you can publish and broadcast it automatically with HubSpot or another blogging and e-mail connection. Create a blog subscription list by asking people to subscribe so that they can stay up to date. Offer a valuable free white paper, case study or eBook (one that addresses a challenge or goal your prospects face or seek) in exchange for their e-mail address so that you can continue to send them great content. Do so and they will stay engaged with you and you will stay top-of-mind.
Simple Step #3: Ask
If you want to get married, you have to ask. When selling, you have to ask if they want to buy.
No matter how much information you’re giving your prospects, they may still have questions. Or someone else on the customer’s team needs to get caught up on where the firm is in the decision-making process. Your contact also could have gone on vacation, or just plain old apathy or inertia set in.
For you, this means that once you have information on the prospect, don’t be afraid to actually ask if the prospect is ready to buy.
Make sure you’ve created a great service-level-agreement with your sales or business development teams. A lead scoring system also is a good idea. Once these are in place, sales and marketing together can start identifying those prospects in your database who are ready to make a decision. Remember, just because the lead went dark six months ago doesn’t mean they won’t buy next month, so connect and make the sale.
Tip: Creating a direct line to the correct salesperson using HubSpot’s lead rotator function, as well as personalized e-mails, can help streamline the conversion process.
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