This Is How CMOs Should Be Embracing Inbound Marketing


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The concept of inbound marketing is still a bit nebulous to the average organization. While inbound marketing tactics and content marketing continue to gain traction, it’s mostly technology providers, agencies, consultants, associations, and analyst firms that are leading the charge on driving tactical best practices. And yes, we all have an affinity for figures and text that look pretty but don’t exactly translate to tactical recommendations. Sorry about that. According to Gleanster, only 33% of B2B marketers that participated in the 2013 B2B marketing survey (n=176) felt confident that they could measure the impact of inbound marketing.

XX InboundI’m going to make a statement that is likely to miff a few technology vendors: inbound marketing alone is useless. Embracing inbound marketing in your lead nurturing efforts requires a combination of inbound and outbound marketing tactics. You have to promote the content you create and somehow entice your target audience to consume it. That requires outbound marketing spend. This is why I think marketers really need to start thinking about unbounding marketing. So let’s put some meat on the bones here that would make it easier for CMOs to allocate marketing budget across inbound and outbound tactics.

The thing is, for every vendor that tells you inbound is the future, there’s a little secret they fail to mention: they spend millions on outbound marketing as well. So for marketing leaders who are still trying to figure out how this new concept fits into B2B marketing strategy, it can fail miserably when taken to the extreme. I recently had an advisory client that was frustrated by a PR firm they hired that recommended they invest heavily in inbound marketing. What they failed to mention was that inbound is a long tail investment; it absolutely works, but when the CMO is accountable for sourcing a volume of qualified leads that must convert to short-term sales targets, it’s not a good idea to invest exclusively in inbound. Needless to say, that CMO was none too impressed by the benefits of inbound, and the PR firm ended up getting fired. I have a feeling things like this are happening a lot in the industry, and its likely leading to a lack of understanding about how inbound actually works. It may also leave CMOs a bit skeptical about spending precious budget on inbound.

A more appropriate approach involves layering inbound into outbound investments with the goal of building more intimate relationships with prospects before they engage sales. The figure below shows how this can be done without sacrificing short-term objectives for the business. Every CMO has likely experienced diminishing returns from outbound marketing investments. And in most cases, throwing more money at the problem usually isn’t an option. Prospects are fatigued by too many messages, and if all you are doing is hoping to interrupt them with your unique value proposition, it’s going to fail miserably. Click-through rates on generic outbound email blasts are as low as 1% on average (and they used to be 3-5% ten years ago). You should still be sending outbound communications. But in 2014 the nature of the communication has changed.

The Key to Success with Inbound Marketing is Including Outbound

The Key to Success with Inbound Marketing is Including Outbound

Capturing mindshare requires a clarity of focus. Who is your real buyer? Who do you really want sales to be engaging with? If you don’t know, your sales team can tell you exactly who they need to engage to close a deal. As such, your inbound marketing strategy is about enticing the right buyers and decision makers to consume highly relevant content that is specifically designed to meet their needs at different stages of the buying and sales cycle.

As such, your content marketing strategy is a lot like bait on a fishing hook. The type of bait attracts a very specific type of fish. Done correctly, an outbound marketing communication should be targeted to a specific audience with a very relevant message in the content. This can be done with blog posts, whitepapers, landing pages, webinars, and events. The nature of the content they consume dictates how you should engage with them in the future. This is how you capture the attention of your buyer and simultaneously build a relationship with them in the process – long before they are introduced to sales.

Once you capture the buyer’s attention, you need to route them to appropriate outbound communications based on their propensity to purchase. Someone who is just researching doesn’t need a call from sales – in fact, it will turn them off. Someone who is reading about product specifications and pricing might be ready for a sales conversation. Content marketing helps you isolate where different prospects are in the buying cycle. Then you can route them into appropriate outbound campaigns. Essentially, you continue to support all those outbound communications you are using today – newsletters, email campaigns, events, etc. Inbound marketing helps you funnel leads into the appropriate campaigns so your engagement isn’t intrusive or premature. You can still send outbound communications, but just make sure the actual content is highly relevant to your target audience. That’s the beauty of unbounding marketing. You can’t rush straight to outbound with generic communications and expect to see results.

That said, I don’t see a future where everything marketers send is SPAM unless someone opts in to the communication. It’s SPAM in the mind of the buyer if it’s not relevant. We know from empirical research that buyers are less fatigued when content is relevant. Inbound is essential because the discipline demands marketers take more responsibility for delivering relevant communications in outbound campaigns. That’s good news, because it’s not a 180 shift in what most marketers are doing today. You don’t substitute outbound with inbound. Unbounding marketing requires a conscious effort to resonate with the buyer BECAUSE you took the time to understand them.

If you are looking for additional tips and tricks on making inbound marketing really sing for your organization, check out the Deep Dive “Inbound Marketing from Good to Great.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


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