“The proven methodology of the digital age."
Since 2006, B2B inbound marketing has increasingly proved to be the most effective marketing method for online business growth. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying email lists, buying ads and hoping for leads, inbound marketing draws on creating quality content that attracts people to your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By matching the content you publish with your prospective customer’s interests, you can naturally generate inbound traffic that you can then convert into a lead, and nurture over time, until they are ready to be sold to. This is how inbound marketing can help - but is it right for your business? Here are 10 reasons why it just might be the right choice to help your lead generation:
- Your ideal buyers are online
- Your customers are asking questions
- The value of your customers warrants the marketing investment
- You're getting leads, but not enough are becoming customers
- Your sales pipeline is drying up
- Your outbound initiatives no longer work
- Your competitors outrank you for important keywords
- You're unsure where your marketing investment is going, what's working and what isn't
- Your sales cycle is long and you'd like to shorten it
- Your customers aren't aware of all your products or services
Maybe it’s the complexity of the product you sell, the service you provide, or the general nature of the business – whatever the case may be, some decision-makers just aren’t convinced that investing in inbound marketing is a good call, given their own unique business situation.
However, inbound marketing has proven to be particularly useful for businesses that sell complex goods and services, such as:
1. Your ideal buyers are online
This one’s pretty obvious and fairly self-explanatory. If your ideal customer uses social networks, LinkedIn, forums, email and search engines, then this is someone you could attract with inbound marketing. It’s extremely important to first create your ideal buyer personas so you know exactly if and where your ideal customers are likely to be found online – then it simply becomes a question of what to publish, and when to publish.
2. Your customers are asking questions
If your company offering requires buyers to ask a ton of questions before a transaction occurs, then inbound marketing is highly likely to be well suited to your business. Inbound is especially effective for B2B companies that provide products or services with longer sales cycles that require a lot of research on the prospect’s part. For example, a company that is considering implementing a new enterprise software system is going to be investing a large sum of money. In order to make such a decision, they need to be well informed on the product or service.
By providing valuable, and relevant, content to prospects throughout the buyer journey, your business both educates and stays top of mind so that when your prospect is ready to buy, you’re the only logical solution.
3. The value of your customers warrants the marketing investment
If you’re selling a product or service that has a high price, then inbound marketing is probably a good fit. Inbound is a sizeable investment, and the numbers have to make sense before you go and invest a few thousand pounds each month.
For example, you’re going to have to sell a lot of software subscriptions, priced at £10 per month, to cover your monthly costs of anywhere between £4000 and £7000. However, that’s not to say there is no room for inbound when it comes to cheaper products.
The pricier your product or service, the more you’ll be able to justify the investment. If you sell products that cost £20,000, for example, it won’t take a massive increase in sales to pay off your marketing investment.
Knowing the value of your customers will also help you determine how much money you can sink in to inbound marketing each year.
4. You’re getting leads, but not enough are becoming customers
If your lead to customer conversion rate is low, it’s more than likely because your prospects aren’t ready to buy – you need to warm them up.
Maybe you’re stuck in direct-response way of thinking, where all you care about is closing sales right here, right now. You might be surprised to hear that 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up [Source: Scripted]. However, whatever the issue, your problem is the way you’re currently nurturing leads. You either don’t have a strategy in place, or your methods are just a bit old school. 80% of sales require 5 follow-up touches after the initial contact [Source: The Marketing Donut].
Marketing automation software and lead nurturing best-practice is an inbound marketer’s secret weapon – touching base with prospects at every stage of their buying journey from initial site visit, all the way through to a delighted customer.
All communication throughout the nurture-cycle is based on the lead’s needs, interest and their current stage in the buying journey. This can boost sales opportunities by up to 20% [Source: DemandGen Report].
5. Your sales pipeline is drying up
If quantity of leads is your problem, inbound can help. Creating quality content regularly helps tell search engines that you’re a respectable player within your sector. This will ultimately increase your search engine rankings, meaning that you’ll appear higher on the list of results when prospects are searching through Google, Yahoo, Bing etc., looking for information related to your business.
The attract phase of the inbound marketing methodology is all about getting more traffic to your site. The convert phase is where you turn that traffic into leads for your business. The number of leads is reliant on three things – content, traffic and how well your site is set up for lead conversion.
6. Your outbound initiatives no longer work
If you’re still using:
- Cold calling
- Print and magazine adverts
- Trade stands/exhibitions
You might have realised that the positive results it once yielded are slowly declining. People turn to the web for answers when they’re considering to purchase a product or service.
There is no obligation to fully switch to inbound, the budget can be split. However, those who invest wholly in the inbound methodology tend to see the best results.
7. Your competitors outrank you for important keywords
If you were to do a quick Google search for a product or service related to your company, are your competitors showing up on the first page of results? If so, then you’re late to the game. If they aren’t, then there’s a huge piece of traffic-pie presenting itself to you (and who doesn’t like pie?)
Search engine traffic is the main driving force behind any inbound marketing campaign. It will make up the majority of your site traffic. You’re best creating valuable, search engine optimised content to ensure you’ll be naturally found by your potential customers.
8. You’re unsure where your marketing investment is going, what’s working, and what isn’t
If you’re still utilising traditional marketing methods, then there’s a good chance you’re unsure how far your marketing investment is going. You may be dumping money in to telemarketing, or a swanky trade stand, and hoping for the best.
A lot of the time, you don’t have a way of measuring your efforts in order to calculate the ROI of each component of your marketing strategy. It’s hard to increase budgets, and spend more money on particular elements when you have no real way of knowing what works, and what doesn’t.
If you need to prove ROI, then going digital is definitely your best bet.
9. Your sales cycle is long, and you’d like to shorten it
In markets where inbound marketing works best, stiff competition and an increasing tendency of prospects to research options online are both reasons for sales cycles being longer. Some common concerns in complex markets such as professional services, capital equipment and tech are:
- "It's a big investment, so we want to be sure we get it right the first time"
- "We have a rigorous process we have to adhere to when purchasing a new product or service"
- "Our decision making team is composed of busy people"
- "The marketplace is constantly changing; we don't want to get caught with obsolete solutions"
- "We need to be able to thoroughly test your product or service before we commit"
- "We anticipate big company changes in the near future, and don't know what our needs and budget will be"
If you can think of every concern or question any of your customers has ever voiced, and use your website to answer all these, you’re putting yourself in good stead to avoid a lot of the objections you may receive and so to speed up the sales process. B2B businesses should stop talking about how great their product or service is, and instead start talking about how they solve problems for their buyers. If they do they’ll benefit from a quicker, more streamlined decision-making process and shorter sales cycles.
10. Your customers aren’t aware of all your products or services
If you often hear your prospects and customers telling you that they were unaware you offered a particular product or service, then it’s probably because you’re not making yourself clear. Listing your products or services on some long, boring page on your website isn’t going to get engagement. You need to ensure your prospects can find information about what you do, or offer, easily – you can’t expect them to find it themselves (surely?).
By creating valuable content, and putting it in the right place, you’re putting your entire offering in front of your prospects so that no product or service goes unnoticed. This links in seamlessly with the nurture cycle. Once you have a customer on board, by offering them content that is relevant to their situation, or recent purchase, you can open up cross-sell opportunities without overtly selling.
If you’re considering adapting the inbound marketing methodology but are unsure where to begin, download our free, useful guide 'An introduction to B2B inbound marketing'. In it, we'll help explain how you can develop data-driven marketing campaigns to give your business the lift it needs.
This blog was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in 2018 for correctness and quality.