Is the cloud making it rain for your business?
Last year more than 21,000 people attended the Inbound conference in Boston, hosted by Hubspot. To put that into perspective, in 2015 there were 14,000.... in 2013 there were 5,000... Something like 500 people attended their first year, which was in 2012.
That's a CRAZY amount of growth! No wonder the methodology isn't working as well as it used to, right?
Inbound used to be a disruptor. Now it's known and practiced by marketers just about everywhere. Your marketing team probably does some version of it today.
If you haven't heard about about inbound at this point, you're in the minority, and you're really behind. Luckily, if that's the case, the landscape is about to be hit hard with another disruption, and you could be first-in. If it's not the case... if inbound is something your business practices... then you'll be able to relate to the challenges it's experiencing. The good news is that it's once again time to strap on your party hat, and get ready for the rocket ride, because disruptive growth IS possible.
It's important to understand the nature of the disruption caused by inbound in the first place. Like the release of the "first" "smartphone," inbound wasn't a unique invention that some evil genius created in a laboratory. It was merely the organization and alignment of several existing technologies and methodologies into a single concept.
Steve Jobs didn't invent the smart phone. I had a windows smart phone years before the first iPhone hit the shelves. But Apple did it better because they put the pieces to work together in one simple, cohesive package.
Apple took a highly complicated set of technologies and consolidated them into a simple-to-use interface and seamless ecosystem.
Inbound isn't much different. When the term was coined in 2007 by Hubspot, they had grouped several digital marketing practices together, so they all worked toward the same outcomes. The result? The first measurable home-grown organic lead gen engine ever.
This was highly disruptive because it created organization and predictability among a group that was historically difficult to measure and forecast. For the first time ever, marketing could be held accountable to a certain degree for the sales outcomes of their organizations.
So, when we look at what's disrupting the status quo today, it's not something we've never heard of. Again, it's a realignment and organization of existing resources with a totally new mindset about how it all works together.
Problems created by inbound:
- Inbound leads don't act like other leads - If your sales people call an inbound lead and treat them like any of the cold leads they've been fed or prospected in the past, they're going to fail to close more often than they should.
- The internet is saturated with content now - Think about this for a minute... every year we multiply how much data exists on the internet. In 2013, many reports stated that 90% of the content out there had been created in the prior 2 years. That same # was thrown around last year. That's a LOT of data for visitors & search engines to sort through...
- 42% of all inbound leads never get followed up on
- Sales & marketing are being measured for the same outcomes, but opportunities are slipping through the cracks, and there is a LOT of finger-pointing
- Sales & marketing are merging into a single department, but most companies aren't recognizing this shift.
MORE LIKE THIS: Why Inbound before Sales Infrastructure is a Mistake
MORE LIKE THIS: The Introductory Guide to Your Future Growth Plan
The value of inbound in 2018 and beyond:
When inbound came along in 2007, it disrupted how digital marketing was packaged and delivered, but it didn't necissarily deliver any knock-out punches to individual tactics or even the outbound mindset. At the time, social media was finding its legs, and SEO was at its peak, and both concepts found themselves front and center with inbound.
But they were treated quite a bit differently in 2007 than they were in 2006.
Today, we are seeing the same sort of disruption occurring, which is causing problems for those centering on inbound, but opportunities for those looking to disrupt the status quo and leverage inbound in a more comprehensive manner.
Inbound is becoming a single component in much bigger, much more customized picture.
So, it's not going away by any accounts, but it is changing.
Customization is key:
One of the bigger complaints I've heard about inbound in the last 2 years is that the formula is a copy and paste, cookie cutter concept.
Before I go on, let me dispell one myth... inbound was never a copy-and-paste your way to success methodology. People who think that they can just scrape a competitor's site and customize it for their own were never of the true inbound mindset. Not only does this get you in trouble with savvy search engines, but it creates a dull, generic experience, and that simply doesn't cut it today.
Many of you have tried this... I know some of you personally. And I have yet to see it succeed. Have you?
You also don't know why your competitor chose a certain blog topic or offer, nor do you know whether those campaigns were successful in any way.
People need to feel like you're talking to them. They need to feel special, and most of all, they need to feel like you understand them in all of their uniqueness.
The inbound methodology does a great job of addressing this challenge, because you're communicating in a manner that educates, not pitches, and you're gathering a lot of information on people, and therefore, you're equipped to meet them where they are interested and with content that triggers conversations.
But this idea that we can just plug a formula into a calculator is a little crazy, isn't it?
Yes. The answer is yes... because it doesn't address the entire picture. Sales isn't just about lead generation any more than it's about website visitors.
We recently updated our marketing ROI calculator to take all of this into consideration. It brings a much more granular focus to your challenges and newer investments, and you can download it here:
Sales is about sales:
Marketing is about sales too. When you're making an investment in marketing, you're making an investment in sales. One is meant to support and drive the other, and therefore, they should not be operating in silos.
I will talk a little more about the two departments merging, but I think we all know and sense the shift occurring between them.
Sales and marketing should only be measured based on outcomes. The only outcome that matters is sales.
Forget reports that show growth in other areas. If it doesn't hit your bottom line, something is broken.
The formula for disruption:
There is no magic formula, because every business is different. Even if you sell the exact same product or service as your competitor across the street, you're still different.
You have different problems, strengths, people, goals, available cash, market penetration, years in business, appetites for risk, assets, investors, BODs, and you.
So, when you create a growth strategy, it's not going to be the same as anybody else's.
But there is a hierarchy we can go through to root out the real issues, so we can apply the right solutions.
This, my friends, is the new formula.
Before you skip this paragraph because you have Salesforce in play or some other home grown program that you have extreme bias for, let me stop with this...
Your CRM sucks.
I said it.
It had to be done. #sorrynotsorry
Your CRM sucks, and it's more destructive than you may realize.
It's the very reason why you have no idea what your real challenges are in the sales field. It's why your marketing team feels like opportunities they generate are slipping through the cracks. And it's why your top performers are the WORST when it comes to keeping it up to date.
I don't care if you have Salesforce, the original cloud CRM.
It's not modern just because it doesn't require a desktop install.
It was built just like every other CRM before it... but on the cloud.
CRMs were never meant to support sales. They were built for management. Period. The idea was to give you insight to the activities that drive success.
Sure, it was pitched to salespeople that it would make their lives easier. But if you ask most sales people why they don't use the CRM to its fullest or at all, they'll list of a litany of complaints, mostly related administrative overhead.
Yes, having historical data is helpful to them. But when it takes 1 - 3 hours of EACH and every day to input that data, it becomes secondary to sales calls... and eventually "me-time" and even sleep. Why do you think there's always somebody playing on their phone in the bathroom?
Your best salespeople have their own systems... usually consisting of spreadsheets with their best leads and all of the accompanying notes.
This should make you sick to your stomach as a business owner or sales leader. Not only is your data integrity questionable, but think about everything that dies (and ends up with your competitors) when somebody leaves.
A modern CRM solves this problem, because it automates a significant portion of the data entry that's currently missing from your system. Moreover, it's built with the salesperson in mind to support the sales process, not add to or aggravate it.
Read more about Modern CRMs here. Here's a summary of the types of things a program like Hubspot Sales can automate:
- Setting up meetings
- Entering calendar details into the CRM
- Adding new contacts to the CRM
- Nurturing long-term prospects
- Aggregation of both marketing & sales activities
- Distribution of inbound leads based on territory, geography, time zones, etc
- Duplicating notes across a system
- Pulling people out of lead nurturing flows
A modern CRM will also elevate insights in front of your salespeople where they are needed. Sending an email to a prospect? The minute you dial in their email address, an according menu of history will pop up to the right, and a best day and time for sending analysis will appear when you go to schedule it.
Not sure where to start? Get some help!
CRM services include some or all of the following, depending on your individual needs and challenges:
- Set up
- Deal stage evaluation
- Deal stage exit criteria
- Data cleansing
- Integration with other platforms and processes
- Automation setup
- CRM maintenance
Once you have a modern CRM in place, and feel confident of your data integrity, the next step is to make sure your sales people are fully equipped to leverage your internal resources.
Sales enablement helps businesses keep fresh content and positioning statements in front of their sales people without creating more work. If anything, sales enablement is supposed to remove more of that administrative overload they hate so much.
An example of first order sales enablement services you should explore include:
- Setting up individual sales people on the CRM with customization
- Set up and optimize meetings tool (automates scheduling)
- Set up chat function for incoming prospects (automates live lead distribution)
- Set up reporting standards & dashboards (make it easy to see their pipe and what they need to do to hit their goals)
- Create templates (follow up is SO much faster and scientific this way)
- Train on sequences & templates usage
Then there are some ongoing needs:
- Email template reporting
- Sequence effectiveness reporting
- SQL reporting
- Sales & marketing funnel analysis
- SLA reporting (if applicable)
Then there are the things you'll do out the gate AND ongoing:
- Email template creation
- Sales documents creation
- Landing pages for specific sales reps
- Case studies development
The idea is to empower sales to be better at their jobs... to really support their efforts in the field.
You wouldn't ask a wild animal to babysit your child. You shouldn't ask a salesperson to be responsible for data entry.
Typically, what we find during the CRM implementation and the enablement phase is that there are alignment issues occurring between sales & marketing.
This should be no surprise. How can we create alignment if neither side can be held accountable for their outcomes? And how can there be accountability if there is no transparency or data integrity?
So, if getting your most important teams for business growth on the same page is important to you, I suggest getting some alignment between them.
Initial steps you can take towards alignment after you have a CRM and enablement program in place include (both parties should be involved):
- Buyer persona development
- Buyer profile development
- Alignment workshop
- MQL & SQL definitions
- Lead scoring
- Goal setting
- SLA development
- Feedback channels development
Like everything important in your business, to keep your systems healthy, you're going to want to continuously add to your programs with new and updated templates, content, etc.
4. GDD Website
Most agencies lead with websites or inbound when trying to land new clients. We don't, because there are often many other issues that need to be dealt with first.
For example, having your personas (what's that?) clearly defined is a critical step for any good website or inbound program.
We have to know who we're marketing to. But often sales and marketing have differing views on persona details, including which are the most important and how to communicate with them. This is why persona development should happen together and before making any serious investments on the marketing side.
Growth Driven Design or "GDD" is a methodology that places heavy focus on personas and strategy development. The idea is to create a website that looks and performs better, but also that uses measurable data as a driver for future iterations.
Websites are no longer one-and-done investments... not if you want it to actually work for you.
Ahhh... now it's time to talk about inbound lead generation, but I'm going to flip it on its head a little... because even though inbound has its own place in the spectrum of growth, it's evolving, and no longer the conventional cookie cutter formula that once reigned supreme.
The old days:
- Attract more traffic: SEO 2.0 (white-hat, keywords), blogs, social media
- Convert traffic: Content offers, landing pages, forms
- Close customers: Email, CRM communication, sales hand-off
- Attract more traffic: SEO 3.0 (pillar content), blogs, social media, videos (ads, hacks, how-tos, explainers, etc), Adwords, social ads, sales calls
- Convert traffic: Content offers, webinars, memberships, embedded website assets, LinkedIn, Prospects tool (tells you who is visiting your site without converting on a form), landing pages, forms
- Close customers: Email, CRM, sales hand-off, predictive lead scoring, cross-collaborating (alignment), automated lead distribution, sales alerts
Many of these services are one-time deals, or visit-as-necessary. But the key to long-term measurable success is maintenance and freshness.
The challenges you face today may involve inbound marketing. Lead generation could solve many of the sales woes you're facing. However, inbound isn't a cheap investment, and there are often other, lower-hanging opportunities out there that will generate quick wins and make investing in inbound a lot easier to do.
Want to assess your growth goals to see what the best foot forward is for your company today? Schedule a free consultation!