Whats the Required Skillset for Inbound Marketing Success?We often find ourselves in conversations with senior management of companies considering taking the plunge into Inbound Marketing. These are people who accept the basic promise of Inbound but are struggling as they try to imagine successfully implementing and sustaining an effort that might seem too ambitious for the capabilities their internal team possesses.
From the beginning of the conversation we reassure prospects that most mid-market or smaller businesses don’t have all the capabilities needed to be self-sufficient from the beginning. There’s usually a lot of work to do, and it’s work that’s often far outside of their core competencies. Almost all companies need help developing and executing an SEO strategy, doing design related changes to their website and online properties, with content planning, creation, and curation, with creating and launching effective social media campaigns, and with understanding the technology of whichever platform or product they’ll use as their foundation.
This is where we remind them why we’re there in the first place. That’s what we, and other businesses like ours, do, and because we do it every day those are things we can do much better than they would ever want to. But there’s still the critical question of what roles and responsibilities do they need to be able to take on from the beginning so when they launch they clearly feel comfortable owning and managing the plan and the results it will generate, stuff that they’ll turn into value for their business.
Business and Marketing Goals
Surprising as it sounds, many businesses don’t have well-articulated business goals. They know they want to grow revenue and improve profitability, but how much, how fast, and how? And marketing goals are even less likely to be well-defined. Putting stakes in the ground in advance (like when you’re building a house or a highway) will help you build something that best addresses where you’re trying to go and what you’re trying to achieve.
Business and marketing goals should be objectively connected in a way that provides everyone involved a good view of the importance of their contributions. For example, if you’re a $50 million engineering firm trying to grow 20% ($10 million) in 2 years, and your 2 primary revenue streams are comprehensive facilities design projects that average $3 million spread over 2 years, and long-term service contracts that average $20,000/month, you can play with the math and arrive at multiple combinations of growth in each area that will get you to your target. The important thing that you did is break it down into the individual bricks of success, represented by new customers. The next step is to estimate how many leads you need to close that many new customers, how many leads will come from existing traditional efforts versus Inbound, and how much Inbound traffic you’ll need to attract to deliver the leads needed. Now you’re talking about meaningful marketing goals that can be monitored on a weekly basis for progress.
Defining Your Target
Since Inbound Marketing is about attracting the best prospects with authentic content, you have to truly know your target so your content and context speaks directly to them. That means focusing on specific industries, company types and size, geographies, and then the people within those companies who are decision-makers or key influencers: job titles, functional areas, responsibilities, and most importantly their needs and pain points. Because if you can define your target with that level of detail, you’re 70% of the way to a completed persona, turning the description of your target into a living, breathing prototype of the perfect customer.
Think Like a Publisher
You don’t have to be a publisher or writer or eBook author to launch a solid Inbound program; there are plenty of ways to get content creation and curation done with outside help. But you do have to think like a publisher, which to me means regularly getting inside the head of your targets to think about what you know or can share that would be valuable and interesting to them. By thinking like your target you’ll start seeing potential content in a new light; recognizing that commentary on a new study would be welcome; evaluation of some emerging technology by one of your engineers would be helpful; providing predictions about the impact of new regulations insightful. When you get your entire organization thinking like this suddenly everyone from sales reps to supply chain managers are starting to be content idea contributors.
An effective Inbound approach will dramatically change your sales funnel, first by presenting you with more raw leads than you’ve ever had before. But leads, like fish in your boat, need to be sorted and evaluated. If you’re fishing for walleye for your table, first thing you do is throw back everything that’s not a walleye, as well as the walleye that are obviously not big enough to keep. Take what’s left and measure and weigh them, and with that information decide which ones you’ll keep. In our world those are marketing qualified leads (MQL), which are the leads that have the closest fit with the target requirements you established earlier.
The next thing to do with MQLs is to segment them based on what you know about them from their company information, their role, and their demonstrated intent. Some of your MQLs might be sales qualified leads (SQL) already, because their company is a perfect fit for your services, they’re decision-makers, and they’re behaving like someone ready to get started. Decide in advance how those will be assigned to respective sales people and what you’ll do to drive the closing process on your terms. Never forget that these are prospects who found you, told you they need what you sell, and weren’t shy about signaling that they’re ready to buy.
For the best-looking MQLs, understanding their purchase process and the consideration leading up to that will help you create nurturing protocols, which are pre-determined sets of connected tactics that you’ll use to grow relationships with MQLs before they’re ready to commit. Study the processes your best current customers went through before buying from you; don’t be shy about asking them directly so you can understand all the gates they go through. You’ll be more likely to design plans that fit real buyer behaviors and timelines if you base them on reality.
Continually Apply Learning From Analytics
Inbound Marketing provides a rich assortment of real-time data everyday, all there to tell practitioners what’s working, what’s not, and what we could be doing differently tomorrow to improve performance and results. But analytics are only valuable and effective (like your gym membership!) if you use them regularly while following the thoughtful, considered advice of professionals.
Just as you want your organization to start thinking collectively like a publisher, you need to also create a mindset about becoming a bit of an Inbound wonk, encouraging curiosity and excitement about learning for the simple reason that it will drive better business results faster. Do you know what’s your best source of traffic? Where are the highest quality referrals coming from? What blog subjects and headlines seem to get the most tweets? Which landing pages have the highest conversion rates? Answering these questions as fast as it’s possible to learn them means you can increase the slope of your Inbound Marketing learning curve, and that usually means improved business results arrive faster too. I think I smell a bonus.
Want to learn more? Download our Inbound Marketing Checklist, and make sure you’re subscribed to this blog so you never miss a post.
More Business articles from Business 2 Community:
- Is Lifecycle Marketing the New Heir to the Digital Throne?
- Why Is Planning Your Content Marketing Important?
- And (Possibly)The Best Marketing Weapon Of All Time Is…
- 3 Must-Do’s in Bootstrapping Your Personal Brand
- Reasons Why Outsourced Telemarketing is a Clever Idea: Reason # 2: Flexibility and Competence