The Inbound Myth
Inbound marketing is a topic that’s getting tons of attention these days, and for good reason: inbound has had a dramatic impact on the business landscape. The core of inbound is this: create valuable content for your prospects and put it in places (on social media, websites, publications, and search terms) where they hang out. You’ll establish your company as an expert in your industry and prospects will come to you, rather than you having to constantly drum up new leads. (you can check out a more complete definition here.)
The content creation and distribution aspects of inbound get most of the attention. But content alone isn’t a complete inbound strategy. This post will tell you what else you’ll need to create an inbound strategy that results in more sales.
The Difference Between Getting Leads And Making Sales
If you want to experience how a complete inbound strategy works, just watch the company that coined the term: Hubspot. If you go to HubSpot’s website or (more likely) do a search for an inbound marketing related topic, you’ll find their content. It’s extremely high quality and it’s everywhere: they check the box for both quality and quantity of content. And when you opt-in for one of their many whitepapers, software demos, or free tools on their site, you’ll start receiving information via email that educates you on the benefits of their products.
And here’s the part that might surprise you: you may also get a phone call from one of their salespeople. A phone call may seem old-school, or un-digital, or un-inbound, but they do it because it works. No matter how much great content is available from Hubspot, the company knows that prospects will need to be taken through a multi-stage, one-on-one sales process before they make the significant time and financial investment in the Hubspot software. Effective inbound marketers know that content is just the beginning of an effective strategy, it also requires a proactive sales process to turn inbound leads into actual sales.
A Few Tips For Turning Inbound Leads Into Sales
In a standard sales funnel framework, leads go in the top of the funnel, then they get qualified, educated and nurtured in the middle part of the funnel, and then they make a buying decision during the sales process (or bottom of the funnel). In inbound, content creation and distribution activities are the primary top of funnel lead generation activity. But if you want to effectively turn those leads into sales, you need activities to nurture those leads and initiate a buying decision from them. Here are few tips on how to do that:
- Newsletter and Lead Scoring: An effective and time-efficient way to educate your prospects and stay “top of mind” is to create an email newsletter or nurture campaign. You can reuse the content you’ve created from your inbound lead generation activities, and republish it in your newsletter. In addition, you can setup lead scoring in your email marketing tool, which “scores” your subscribers based on how often they click on your emails. This will allow you to systematically identify the prospects that are actively reading your emails, and provide more personalized attention to them.
- Prioritize and Personalize: When it comes to newsletters, you can add as many people as you want to your list (as long as they’ve given you permission to do so). But when it comes to personalized, high-touch relationship building, you can’t keep in touch with everyone. It can be valuable to prioritize a small number of high-potential prospects (say, a dozen or two) for high-touch, one-on-one outreach: personalized email or traditional mail, phone, informational meetings, etc. Pick a few prospects, keep in touch and be consistently helpful to build credibility and display your company’s expertise.
- Sales Process: Once a prospect has expressed interest in buying from you, it’s important to have a structured sales process to keep the conversation moving toward a buying decision (if you’ve ever had a prospective sale that drags on and on without resolution, you know how important this is). An understanding of how long it normally takes to make a sale, and the stages that the process goes through are valuable to know here. For instance, it’s common in professional services industries for the sales process to take about 90 days to go from start to finish, and to go through steps like these: (1) the prospect expresses interest, (2) you meet with prospect to get more details, (3) you create a proposal for the prospect, (4) you review the proposal with the prospect, (5) the prospect makes a buying decision (yes or no). Once you have a solid definition of your sales process, it becomes easier to proactive move prospects toward a buying decision, monitor and forecast how much new business is in your pipeline, and measure and improve your results.
Inbound marketing strategies are changing the way we do business. They’re displaying the value of high quality content, and they’re bringing new digital tools and metrics to bear. But an effective inbound strategy also involves many traditional sales and business development activities, too. To make more sales you’ll want to use them all.
Brian Shea is the founder of Shea Consulting, LLC, a company that helps agencies consistently execute their new business efforts. Shea Consulting puts systems and processes in place to help agencies keep their new business efforts organized, focused, and consistent over time. Since the early 2000’s, Brian has helped organizations improve their business development efforts through CRM, sales process improvement, and marketing automation. Find out more at our website, or subscribe to get more tips on building a simple process for making more sales.