If your business has an online presence, or you are thinking of marketing your services online, chances are, you’ve heard of inbound marketing and inbound marketing services. It could be from marketing agencies who are spinning tales of a future where your website generates more leads than you can handle. Or from your network of peers who have tried to make inbound marketing work with moderate to no success.
As for yourself, you probably think it’s just a new term that’s going to go up in smoke a couple of years down the line. You believe that it’s only nose-to-the-grindstone hardwork and networking that can bring you the leads you need.
And you would be absolutely correct. You do need hardwork, and networking, and persuasion skills. However, in a world that is filled with marketing messages screaming at you from every corner, your hardwork and skills need to be applied in a radically different way to get you some results.
What Has Changed?
The way people buy stuff has changed, and it has impacted the way we market:
From searching for a product or service, to evaluating it, to making the final purchase decision, every aspect of our buying cycle has moved online. Whether we are looking to buy a laptop to looking for an IT company to modernize our system architecture, our first search is online.
Why? Because it’s convenient. Because we can do it in our own time, at our own pace, on our own device of choice. There is no pressure to immediately make our choice. No salesperson trying to, sometimes not-so-subtly, push us towards buying something. We don’t have to say “No” to someone’s face. Searching online is a lot more stress-free, and we can do it irrespective of our location or time-of-day.
Marketing messages are everywhere, whether it’s a video ad, or a sales call, or the ton of unsolicited emails in your inbox. There was a time when these caught our attention. Then there were suddenly too many messages being thrown at us, and only the most impressive ones caught our attention. The ones that maybe evoked some emotion, or the ones we came across at unexpected place. But today, even these have blurred in with the background. Whether it’s huge billboards or ads online, we have learnt to tune them out.
Today, we would pay a premium for an ad-free experience, block tele-caller numbers, and simply send unwanted mails to spam. We do not want marketing to interrupt our experience, and would do anything to actively block interruptions.
These two phenomena are facts of life as we know it. These are not fads, or trends, or hyped up incidents. Our move to an online world is permanent, as is our disdain for unwanted marketing messages that interrupt our experience.
And hence, a marketing method that has evolved in response to these fundamental changes: inbound marketing, is also here to stay.
Why Does Inbound Marketing Work?
Inbound marketing works because it does the exact same things that you would do to grow your business. However, it also takes care to leverage the Internet, and not interrupt your customers’ daily experiences. It still needs the skills of networking, and persuasion, just on a different platform.
Earlier, you would make a sales call and take a prospect through what you have to offer. That is if they listen to you long enough. You would pay them a visit to discuss things further, answer their questions, handle their objections. And you do the very same things in an effective inbound marketing strategy, with minor differences.
The prospect is someone who is actively searching for your services and found you online. They look at your products and learn about your company on your website. You have content that takes them into details of your services, anticipates and answers common objections, and talks about how you have delivered similar solutions to clients before.
Inbound marketing works because you are not interrupting your prospect. You are allowing them the freedom to understand your company and your services, at a place and time of their choosing. When they finally come in contact with your sales team, they have already invested time in understanding your value proposition, and the chances of a conversion increase manifold.
Earlier, your sales team would probably make several sales calls to take an update from an interested customer. Or you would send out mass mailers to a whole bunch of prospects hoping some of them would see the mail, and respond.
You still make sales calls, and send out mailers in inbound marketing. But the intent is not to close the deal as soon as possible, or shoving your services into their inboxes. Here, a sales call happens when they have filled a form, specifically asked for you to contact them. Mailers go out only when they have opted into your mailing list, when they want to hear from you. And even then, what you offer is not a sales pitch but valuable content.
Inbound marketing works because you ask for permission. You are giving them what they requested rather than aggressively filling their inbox with stuff they don’t even want. It’s common courtesy, and your prospect is grateful for it.
Why Does Inbound Marketing Not Work?
As you might have heard from your peers, and we have heard from numerous prospects, that inbound marketing has not worked for them. They invested in a marketing team that promised great results, they spent on tools and software, they created some great content. And yet, no ROI to show for it.
We agree, this can definitely happen. Inbound marketing may not work for you. But the problem is likely not in the inbound philosophy, but rather your approach to it.
Here’s why inbound marketing does not work:
Because you treat it as a silver bullet: You get a marketing team, subscribe to a few tools, and expect leads to come pouring in. That does not happen. Inbound marketing does not magically fix everything that might be wrong with your business. If you do not know your personas well enough, if your business has no clear growth strategy, if your value proposition is not useful for your audience, then there’s nothing that inbound marketing can do for you.
Because you use it in isolation: Inbound marketing is definitely the way to generate more leads, but it should not be the only tool in your arsenal. You need to have a mix of strategies that work for your particular needs. Different businesses have a different target demographics and how they function. So while the first contact might be through inbound channels, some businesses might still require to call up their prospects, or set up a meeting before they are ready to buy.
For one of our clients now targeting enterprise accounts, it has become important to be seen at various industry conferences, to physically network with decision makers, before inviting them into their online sphere.
Because you are not agile: Inbound marketing is just an umbrella term for a lot of different tactics: content marketing, SEO, email marketing, social media marketing etc. Each business might require these tactics in different proportions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. What did not work for your peer, might work for you!
So, you need to be agile enough to change strategies when required, or capitalize on new opportunities that arise. When your case studies are bringing in great leads, it’s time to promote them harder. When your social media messaging is not engaging enough, it’s time to try a different approach.
The bottom line is, inbound marketing is here to stay. And it works because it is convenient for your prospects and is courteous to their needs. However, you need to be conscious of how you approach inbound marketing: as a quick fix just for the sake of trying out what’s new in marketing; or as a sustainable way to generate relevant leads, in combination with other marketing methods. We would suggest you choose the later, because that is when inbound marketing works.
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