B2B inbound marketing is gaining in the percent of new sales as a part of an integrated marketing strategy. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it can significantly change your sales process.
We implemented HubSpot marketing automation over three years ago. After thorough testing, we became a certified partner and began offering HubSpot to our clients in high tech and industrial markets. Most of our clients were starting virtually from scratch; they had previously received almost no quality leads through their website, and they had very little content to work from. A degree of skepticism pervaded their view of inbound marketing.
After a few years of employing inbound marketing strategies, however, we’ve found that inbound does work, if you’re willing to accept a few common truths.
Inbound Marketing Works When You…
Reset Your Expectations
The sales metrics you may have used before do not correlate to inbound marketing or content marketing.
One client—whose business was almost entirely local, in-person and referral-based—moved to an online business model, but they were discouraged at the lower close rate. Setting practical, relevant benchmarks was key. After prospects completed the company’s assessment and live sales meeting via video, the resulting close rate of 52% was quite exceptional. To get to this point, it was important to:
- Create a clear and compelling call to action.
- Implement live chat and improve phone support to increase speed of engagement.
- Attract interested but ‘not ready’ prospects, and keep them engaged through automated marketing workflows so that sales time is focused on ‘ready’ prospects.
- Reset how salespeople qualify prospects for ‘pain.’ Do they need your solution, and is their need significant enough to buy? Referrals are already further along in the process; they’ve typically vocalized their need for a solution.
Rethink Deal Size
There is room to experiment here. One services company had great success with an introductory discovery offer at the $3,000 mark. While their marketing focused on selling the introductory offer, their sales efforts were concentrated on exploring follow-on work. Within two years, they were seeing better leads in a day from the website than from a day spent in the trade show booth.
For another company, their introductory or prototype work attracted too many of the wrong type of client. Promoting their larger, more targeted high-volume capabilities through inbound marketing has resulted in fewer but much higher revenue, higher margin opportunities.
If you close two deals this year for an annual revenue opportunity of $250K and a multi-year client lifecycle, and set a target of four new deals next year at $500K, the conversion rates may be discouraging, but the ROI on inbound marketing will make up for it.
Reconsider International Sales Strategy
Inbound marketing is inherently international, as the internet of course is global. While you might have previously focused your attention nationally or even regionally, at the one to two year mark of implementing an inbound strategy, you’ll find yourself rethinking your international sales strategy.
- Getting specific about countries of opportunity. Where are you competitive? Where aren’t you? Be sure to set automated workflows to rule out leads from countries that do not represent opportunity, and eliminate them from any search engine marketing campaigns you may run.
- Changing your sales follow-up approach. Many salespeople are reluctant to phone international clients, but if it works, do it. Figure out the time differences, make room in your schedule, and use technologies like Skype to make these calls inexpensive and easy.
Implement Deliberate Sales Follow-up
Pick up the phone. That’s the first and clearest lesson learned by sales teams as they move into inbound marketing. No matter how effective your content marketing, social media promotion, email marketing campaigns and automated nurture campaigns or drip marketing is, at some point you’ve got to pick up the phone. Here’s what we’re doing to make that more effective:
- Lead scoring – Measure the quality and engagement of your prospect before you call them, based on factors like: industry, country, job title, level of interest indicated on the form they completed, how many web pages they’ve viewed, whether or not they’ve made multiple visits to your website, whether or not they open your emails, etc.
- Marketing automation – Warm up a prospect to your call by sending emails that are relevant to their specific area of interest. Bring them back to the site and keep them engaged. They may not be ready to talk on day one, but in a week, month or even a year they could reconsider.
Download our tip sheet, 8 Tips for Better Sales Follow-up.
Balance Your Sales Funnel
B2B sales cycles are long. Studies have shown that 63% of prospects requesting information will not purchase for at least three months.
Inbound marketing gives you a stronger, better sales funnel by engaging your prospective customers until they are ready to make a purchase decision. Just be sure you are offering them something at each step. Tip sheets are great for customers doing preliminary research, while white papers or webinars might attract more serious prospects.
Focusing all your sales and marketing efforts on bottom-of-the-funnel leads can put you in a tight spot when deals don’t close when planned and make for bumpy cash flow and delivery. Consider whether your 2016 marketing roadmap addresses the top, middle and bottom of the funnel.
Don’t Trap Inbound Marketing in a Vacuum
The industrial and high tech companies who realize the highest ROI from inbound marketing take a serious look at the metrics, expectations and ramifications for all aspects of their business. They make inbound a consistent priority, and involve more than just the marketing department. Marketing and sales alignment, for example, can greatly improve inbound marketing and lead generation success.
We’re happy to share more specific results and benchmarks if you are considering inbound marketing or if you are already a HubSpot customer and believe you should be seeing a higher ROI. Just request a consultation!