This is a guest post from Todd Hockenberry, owner of Top Line Results (@TopLineResults), a sales & marketing consulting and services firm that specializes in working with manufacturing companies. Todd is an expert at both sales and marketing and sees around the corners that most don't know exist yet...
While reading some of my favorite blogs, I came across the following trends that lead me to believe that the inbound networking movement is a significant opportunity for small businesses and solopreneurs. The trends...
Trend 1: Outsourcing, while nothing new, continues to grow and is expected to keep growing according to this survey by Deloitte.
All of these categories are areas where companies outsource a significant amount of business. The number of companies planning to outsource more of their sales and marketing support is more than double than the companies currently doing it.
Trend 2: Data shows that the size of the average business is getting smaller. The distribution of businesses by size shows a relatively few giant corporations, a narrower center made up of a shrinking number of mid-sized firms, and a large and rapidly growing number of small, micro and one person (solopreneur) firms.
Trend 3: Large companies are employing less people full time and more people on a contingency basis. The contingent share of the work force working at larger firms (those firms with over 1,000 employees) has grown steadily in the last few years.
The US Census says that large firms (1,000 or more employees) employ around 53 million Americans. Some quick math says that these large firms have added about 2.7 million total contingent workers - in the US - over the last seven years. Another survey, a recent Aberdeen study showed that 26% of the total corporate workforce is contingent.
Trend 4: One more seemingly obvious (to most inbound marketers) and at the same time obscure (in its depth) trend is toward the use of big data by small companies.
I will use an example from politics. It seems that politicians segment and use persona development as well as any inbound marketer I know. As crazy as it sounds, it seems my beer choice factors in to who I might vote for...
Voters are micro-targeted by the car they drive, the soft drinks they buy, where they eat, where they shop, what they watch on TV, music, radio... you name it. This shows that there is almost an infinite number of ways to chop up data and develop target personas, so that very niche businesses can target very refined prospects.
When you put all of these trends together, you can start to see the potential of inbound networking:
- millions of people are starting solo or small businesses (me being one of them),
- companies are outsourcing work to these soloprenuers at rates that will only increase,
- and data is available to help these solopreneurs define and attract their target personas, no matter how niche.
Inbound marketing is necessary to help make the right connections! These small businesses/soloprenuers/contingent workers need to market their services and get found by prospects. Companies need to find these people because these companies are not hiring full time employees as often and want to hedge their bets by hiring small businesses/soloprenuers/contingent workers. Data exists to target to very specific markets for these small businesses/soloprenuers/contingent workers.
Inbound networking will be necessary to help these small businesses do inbound marketing cost-effectively! Think about all of these small businesses and the challenges they have to just stay afloat, let alone devote enough time to do inbound marketing aggressively. Content creation will be a constant challenge. Very few very small businesses will be able to build enough authority and relevance with the search engines in order to get found by enough prospects.
In order to establish themselves, solopreneurs and small businesses will need to work together with complimentary businesses. They'll need to create an inbound marketing network effect by helping each other attract a larger audience, then cross-marketing and cross-selling each other's services.
There are certainly many trends that are driving the rapid growth of inbound marketing and inbound networking. How are you going to take advantage of them?
Great social media checklist
infographic from HubSpot customer and partner: The Whole Brain Group
Mary Planding, owner of Inbound Marketing Squad (@inboundsquad), told me today that she's attended 10 small business networking meetings in the last several weeks. She's sharing the concept of inbound networking with the people she meets.
As a result of her conversations, she's refined her explanation of inbound networking: the why's and the how's. Similar to High Mobley's guest post last week, she's written an excellent article about why very small business owners (VSBO) should join an inbound networking group.
Here's some excerpts:
- "Most VSBOs rely on word-of-mouth referrals for the bulk of their business. They also admit those referrals aren't enough to grow their business to the level they want or need."
- "How can you leverage the power of a marketing agency's expertise to grow your business without going broke? How can you take advantage of the most cost-effective marketing strategies out there, without having to become a full-time marketing guru?"
- "When the power of inbound marketing is combined with the reach of business networking, you get — inbound networking."
- Instead of going for it all by yourself — imagine being an active member of a content rich website focused on the ideal buyer you're trying to reach. Imagine that the other chosen members of this content rich website have complimentary, non-competing businesses.
- Each of you regularly: contributes content to this website, shares one another's content with your social networks, and cross-promotes each other's products and services.
I believe Mary has put together the best explanation and business case yet for inbound networking. Not to mention a cool graphic. (See above.) Go read the entire article. Also notice the call to action and the application form she created, so businesses can apply to be a member of one of her groups. Nice inbound marketing, Mary!
This article is a guest post by Jeff Coon (@milwaukeedesign), a Partner and the Creative Director at Stream Creative (@streamcreative), an inbound marketing firm and Silver HubSpot Certified partner. Jeff recently encountered a small business using 'inbound networking' to generate sales. I asked him to write up the story and share via the Co-Grow blog. Hopefully it inspires all of you inbound networkers...
While vacationing in northern Wisconsin, I took the opportunity to interview the property manager at the resort where we were staying. I interviewed him in order to understand how they're using traditional networking in conjuction with online networking to fill their cottages.
John and Jami Burger have been managing The Estrold Resort located in St. Germain, Wisconsin for over a year. Before that, John was working for Aimbridge Hospitality at the Aloft Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida. Prior to that, John managed several lakefront properties in northern Minnesota, after getting his degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Collaboration with your competition can create business opportunities for everyone. In an industry where you'd think business owners would be competing against each other for guests, John stated that it's just the opposite. "We all share a common goal, and that's to get people to St. Germain, Wisconsin." John regularly refers guests to other resorts when The Estrold Resort is full and other resort owners return the favor. John and Jami support the local Chamber of Commerce, working at local events and helping to promote the St. Germain area. Everything from volunteering at the local Bingo games to participating in the annual "Bikini Run" - a snowmobile race featuring men and women sporting bikinis and battling the winter cold to raise money for local charities. John said that it's these community events that help keep their brand name out there, while giving John and Jami the opportunity to network with local business owners.
In addition to their offline networking, John and Jami are very active in online networking and marketing - specifically Facebook and blogging. The Estrold Resort will soon be publishing their YouTube Channel that will feature virtual tours of their cottages. John recognizes that guests want to see what the cottages and resort have to offer before booking, and these social media sites make that very easy to do at a cost that's more an investment of time than money. Letting your customers create content and market your small business for you In John's words, "We like to create vacation envy." By hosting daily events on the resort for families to participate in, such as a fishing contest, a scavenger hunt, movie night, S'mores night - just to name a few, guests have the opportunity to meet other guests and it creates great photo opportunities for both the guests and for The Estrold Resort. While we were vacationing on the resort, John let me know that he received a call from a Facebook friend of mine. This gentleman saw the photos I was posting on my personal Facebook page, which led him to investigate The Estrold Resort as a potential vacation spot for him and his family. That's social commerce in action! You'll never find John without a digital camera on hand. He's great (and discreet) at capturing moments that showcase all of the great things that happen on the resort. John then posts those photos to The Estrold Resort's Facebook Page, which creates great visual content for guests and potential guests to engage with.
John has generated more leads by co-marketing and blogging with industry partners. Besides showcasing the resort and activities, John also uses their Facebook page to post last minute openings, post snow and fishing reports for outdoor enthusiasts and promote other community events. One of those community events was the "Only Fools Run at Midnight 5K Run/Walk" held in Minocqua, Wisconsin - an event he found out about via the Chamber of Commerce's Facebook Page. John posted a message on the Chamber's Facebook wall letting runners know that The Estrold Resort would pay for the race entry fee for any runner staying at their resort. Within 24 hours, John had someone take him up on his offer. "Covering a race fee in exchange for a weekend booking worked out really well for the resort and came via a marketing channel that was free of charge," stated John. In addition to Facebook, John's wife and business parter Jami, writes for the local snowmobiling blog. On behalf of the resort, John and Jami take photos of the snowmobiling trails and report on the conditions of those trails. The results of their blogging efforts helps drive traffic to their website and increases the resorts brand awareness. "Snowmobilers don't always believe the official snow reports. They want to see what the trails look like first-hand and we show them that and give an honest evaluation of the trail conditions - and the snowmobilers appreciate that" said John.
John and Jami recognize the power that social networking offers and plan to do more of it - including a YouTube Channel, Facebook Ads as well as looking into the adoption rate of LinkedIn in the northwoods of Wisconsin to see if that's a viable option for their business.
John has shifted to marketing his small business online - instead of traditional advertising - to conserve resources. In the past, The Estrold Resort has paid for ads in local print publications but have discontinued some of those efforts due to the lack of response from those investments. John plans to shift those dollars over to online marketing where he can better track and monitor the results. John admits that he could do a better job of tracking the results but with a two-person staff it's sometimes hard to find the time. "When I was working for very large hotel chains, we had a small staff dedicated to this. Now, it's just Jami and I doing everything" laughed John.
This is a reality that most small business owners can relate to. Having limited resources is really one of the main factors in the resort's decision to pick Facebook as their main marketing platform. "It's really easy for me to do a status update or upload a photo to our Facebook page. Much easier than making changes to our website. Plus, it offers a much more engaging experience for our guests" said John.
Online or offline, John credits much of their success to networking and collaboration with local business owners and guests. John sums up their collaboration by saying "You get more bees with honey than vinegar." A sweet message for all small business owners to live by.
How is your business collaborating with other local businesses? What have you found to be successful? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
A long time ago, when we were onboarding our first customers at HubSpot, someone asked one of our consultants to visit their company, talk with their executives and come up with an internet marketing strategy for them. His response was, "No. Here's the damn [inbound marketing] process. Just follow it." While his response probably could have been slightly softened, it is true.
Joel Gerdis at the Content Squad describes the 'value of an internet marketing process' in a bit more detail.
Let's take the mystery out of SEO and inbound marketing. When you work a real strategy and comprehensive plan you have set goals, expectations, and benchmarks you want to achieve. This is where it gets exciting for businesses when you tell them, "here is the process and here is what you should expect in two months." When two months have passed and the goals are nearly achieved, are reached, or are exceeded, clients' eyes get a little bigger and trust is developing. Every month you are getting valuable analytics that verify you are on the right track and the process is refined to improve the results. Where is the end of the refinement? There is no end to the refinement. You continually analyze the data, your effort, and make subtle changes that can have significant results for the program.
When a client works with an agency with defined processes and those processes help the client achieve their sales and marketing goals, things go swimmingly. The Content Squad knows because they achieve it with their clients, by following the right processes.
Today, more than 350 business owners and marketers attended the first session of a two day workshop to help them set business, sales and marketing goals. Tomorrow's session will teach them how another business used the 'inbound marketing process' to exceed their goals handsomely. If you haven't written your goals, created a plan to get there and adopted the processes to implement the plan, you're a step behind the rest. You should tune in and learn the process.
Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Tracy Lewis (@Tracy_J_Lewis). Tracy is a rockstar consultant at PR 20/20, the first (and one of the foremost) inbound marketing agencies. Tracy is involved with client services, business development and account management activities. She is also the community manager for Marketing Agency Insider, the hub for a more open and collaborative agency ecosystem. I'm a big fan of Tracy, PR 20/20, Marketing Agency Insider and their leader, Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer). I asked Tracy to summarize PR 20/20's new ebook, The B2B Marketer's Guide to Going Inbound, in the guest post below.
The marketing industry is changing, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. As Paul Roetzer points out in his book, The Marketing Agency Blueprint, this evolution stems from:
Change Velocity: Technology has changed the way that people access and consume information (e.g. mobile devices, social networks, etc.). It also provides marketers with more channels to engage target audiences.
Selective Consumption: The core concept behind inbound marketing, selective consumption simply means that buyers are now in control—choosing when and where they want to interact with brands.
Success Factors: A greater focus needs to be placed on outcomes, not outputs. With the sophistication of today’s tracking and analytic systems, marketers can tie campaigns to bottom-line results.
These factors are demanding marketers to reevaluate how they approach campaigns, and commit to activities that drive real business results—mainly leads and sales. Instead of relying strictly on old-fashioned marketing tactics (such as direct mailers and ads), which are increasingly ignored by consumers, it’s time for marketers to go inbound.
Inbound Marketing for the Complete Buying Cycle
It’s common for B2B companies to have buying cycles that span weeks, months or even a full year. So, how do you keep these people interested and engaged all the way through purchase? Effective inbound marketing:
Fills the top of the sales funnel with leads from search engines, content and social networks.
Nurtures leads in the middle of the funnel through targeted content and automated follow up based on each lead’s interests and behaviors.
Works closely with sales to improve lead quality, relay key lead details and ensure a smooth handoff.
Analyzes everything to optimize campaigns and prove ROI.
Inbound marketing is all about turning visitors into leads, and then leads into sales in the most efficient, cost-effective manner. The most successful campaigns are highly integrated, blending data analysis, content marketing, social media, email, mobile, technical know-how, and more.
Want to Get Started?
For a detailed look at the strategies, tactics and tools needed to run modern marketing campaigns, download our free ebook, The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Going Inbound. With the right skills and knowledge, you can develop inbound campaigns that span the entire buying cycle from focused lead generation to close, and beyond.
At HubSpot, more than 900 agencies have decided to invest in learning inbound marketing the way that HubSpot teaches it. I would hazard to guess that there are several hundred more agencies who have decided to launch 'inbound marketing services' without partnering with HubSpot too. Some of our new partners launch inbound marketing services with more vigor than others. Some add it to their current offerings. Some take a right turn and begin exclusively offering inbound marketing services to clients. Some try to meld inbound with outbound. Some take 12 months to learn before they start offering inbound services. No matter what they do, many agencies are offering inbound marketing services these days.
Yesterday, I was copied on an email that said, "We have changed our minds and have decided to expand into offering inbound marketing services. We plan to add search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media management services (SMM) to our offerings. Can we resume our conversation?" First, I looked at their website, assuming they were already offering lead generation and marketing automation services. They weren't. A bit frustrated, I was very tempted to write back and say, "THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF INBOUND MARKETING. SEO, SEM and SMM is 1/4th of the process. You must then help your clients turn that traffic into leads, turn those leads into sales and use analytics to help them continuously improve results." Luckily, one of team members responded first with, "When would you like to schedule a call?" Argument averted.
The other day, when I announced that I am launching an inbound networking group for marketing agencies, John McTigue left a comment that got me thinking: (Minor edits.)
"I would actually be even more interested in getting together some of the best minds in the business to create a special consortium, like the W3C, to help drive best practices in digital marketing. [The group would] provide thought leadership. With HubSpot's backing in spirit, this could become a go-to resource for anyone interested in doing things the right way. By becoming a member and participating, each network agency would have the opportunity to raise their profile. The goal would be greater awareness of best practices from an independent body."
Years ago, when HubSpot launched the Inbound Marketing University and the inbound movement began in earnest, I had suggested we develop an inbound oath. We never did that. Today it feels like the inbound marketing agency migration is in full swing, and more and more agencies have adopted the moniker, 'inbound marketing agency'. The time to create an oath feels like it is now. There are way too many agencies saying that they are inbound agencies without really understanding how to produce a measurable, predictable and improvable ROI for their clients. There's lots of agencies giving it a bad name. They are..
- selling 'inbound marketing' projects or short term 'inbound' engagements,
- espousing content creation without knowing how to use it for lead generation and nurturing,
- letting clients pick and choose services instead of making the right tactical recommendations at the right frequency in the right sequence,
- selling it evangelically instead of based on client goals,
- not involving clients in their service delivery processes,
- making it seem like a mystery instead of transparently reporting results...
- and many many more bad agency habits.
There are even many agencies that are making it up as they go along, just like agencies usually do. So, before the term gets watered down and means nothing, the ones that "do things the right way" should probably help to establish best practice.
What do you guys think? Should we create this oath? What should be on it?
I'm excited that the first 'inbound networking group' launched their website and has begun processing member applications. I asked High Mobley & Larry Holmes, founders of TheBusinessAdvisors.org to write up their thoughts on inbound networking and why they're starting their group. Their article is below. If you're an owner of a B2B company and want to use inbound networking to reach business owners and entrepreneurs near Las Vegas, Nevada, you can apply to join TheBusinessAdvisors.org.
When Pete Caputa, Director of HubSpot's Agency Partnership Program, began writing about the concept of Inbound Networking recently, I got very excited. It's sort of a mashup of inbound marketing and referral networking, pioneered by HubSpot and Business Networking International (BNI), respectively. I got excited because I'm a fan of both. Inbound marketing is the most effective approach I've seen to online marketing, and I'm a big advocate of both the inbound marketing methodology and HubSpot's all-in-one marketing software. But inbound marketing is difficult for very small businesses (VSBs). To be successful with inbound marketing, very small businesses must invest significant time and/or money. So, I'm excited to combine business networking with inbound marketing, so we can reduce the effort, while improving the lead generation results.
We've started our Inbound Networking group and site at TheBusinessAdvisors.org. Our group will be made up of businesses who sell to other businesses, often referred to as B2B. We’re providing our members the ability to implement inbound marketing for their business with the guidance of an online marketing agency. By pooling resources, we can offer this at an affordable price and a much lower time commitment. Our members will work together to build a following of their target prospects: local business owners and executives. By working together, they'll build their following much larger and much faster than any one member could achieve alone.
Why is Inbound Networking such a big deal?
To see results from inbound marketing within a reasonable time frame, a business owner should write several blog posts per week, as well as launch and promote one or two landing page offers per month. That's an onerous pace for the typical small business owner, even if she has a small staff or other assistance. Plus, she would need to spend a lot of time over the first few months reading documentation, taking training classes, and consulting with experts to learn how to use inbound marketing software and tactics.
You might suggest that a business owner should pay someone to help her or just do the work for her. Unfortunately, for an inbound marketing agency to provide these services to a company, they typically need to charge $2,000/month or more. There are more affordable options for content creation and graphics work, but then the business owner would need to proof and edit the blog articles herself and manage another contractor for the graphics work. Some agencies will start at lower fees, but spending less than 20 or so hours per month on inbound marketing delays traffic and lead growth. While many companies devote the time and money needed to achieve great inbound marketing success, many companies don't ever get started.
Enter Inbound Networking for the win!
So what's a small business owner to do if she wants to use inbound marketing but has neither the time nor the budget to do it effectively? Inbound Networking puts many of these small business owners together to create one web site where they can collectively publish lots of great content. For example, an Inbound Networking group of 20 members - who each write just one post per month - would publish five new articles a week to their group blog! That kind of frequency makes for a very strong site in the eyes of search engines. But, it's not just search engine rankings that benefit from the group collaboration of Inbound Networking. By promoting one another's blogs and landing pages, each member gets exposure to a much larger social media following than she could hope to accumulate alone. If each of these 20 group members has a social media following of just 250 people, then there are 5,000 potential customers on social media who could see the links to the blog posts and landing pages of all the group’s members! The reach of the group starts to grow even more rapidly once they begin employing opt-in email marketing and automated lead nurturing to further promote each other's content and offers.
The Inbound Networking Takeaway
It comes down to this: A group of small companies with a common target market are far more effective together than they are individually. Inbound Networkers have access to more inbound marketing resources at a lower cost of both cash and time than any single member could manage by herself. Even more importantly, they can produce better results more quickly by working together.
As Director of HubSpot's Partner Program for Agencies, I have the pleasure of working with lots of great marketing agencies.
In the past six months, one relatively new partner has done extremely well. Based on their marketing and sales success in the last few months, I asked Bob Ruffolo, CEO of IMPACT Branding & Design, if I could interview him and share some of his secrets to success. In the past 6 months, his team has accomplished the following feats:
- Grown traffic 7x to 14,000 visits/month.
- Grown leads 9x to 450 leads/month.
- Switched the majority of his clients from one time project clients to recurring revenue retainer clients.
- Acquired 6 new retainer clients from inbound leads.
IMPACT is an 11 person inbound marketing agency, founded in 2009, based in Wallingford, CT. The following is what I’ve learned from talking with Ruffolo.
As inbound marketers know, blogging has become an essential tool for attracting more and more traffic and leads over time. Not only will blogging generate more indexed pages for the search engines and attract inbound links to help increase search engine authority for a site, but it also provides shareable content to help attract followers and traffic from social media sites. However, this can’t be achieved without high blog frequency. IMPACT has been publishing blog posts every day for the past six months and has attracted over 300 new blog subscribers in less than six months, as can be seen in the graph below.
Blogging consistently is only half of the battle according to Ruffolo. In order for blog articles to be optimized for the search engines and social media, they've invested time in coming up with powerful blog titles that are designed to attract attention. This means carefully integrating keywords and phrases into the titles for search engine optimization and catchy titles that make the content more share-worthy via social media. It also means including calls-to-action on each blog post, so that each post generates leads.
Build Lots of Offers and Landing Pages
As soon as Bob's team started their inbound marketing, they committed to creating lots of offers. While the blog is the engine for traffic acquisition, offers and landing pages have been key for lead generation. Knowing that most site visitors aren't ready to talk to a company about hiring them, they spent time creating a variety of offers that appeal to visitors at all stages of their research and buying process. Once the offer is created, the next step is creating a lead generating landing page that entices visitors to submit their contact information, thereby becoming a lead. “They need to feel as if they’re missing out on a great opportunity if they don’t download the offer,” said Ruffolo.
IMPACT has created 4 different types of offers: ebooks, whitepapers, free demos and free consultations. IMPACT has seen a high visit to lead conversion rate for the landing pages where they give away their ebooks and whitepapers, when compared to the conversion rates achieved on their demo and consultation request landing pages. While they've also acquired new clients via their ebooks and whitepapers, their biggest new client came directly from a consultation offer. Below is a screenshot of a landing page with an ebook offer.
Promote Offers via Website, Blogs, Social Media & Email
Impact continuously promotes more than 50 landing pages, and has improved overall submission rate to 25% last month, meaning 1 out of 4 people who view one of their landing pages, completes the form and becomes a contact in their marketing database. IMPACT has been successful promoting their offers because they promote them continuously through multiple channels including: their website pages, blog posts, social media, email marketing and even networking events and tradeshows. By promoting offers daily, IMPACT has generated over 200 leads in a 6-month period from Twitter alone. Blogs have been another effective resource for promoting their offers as well. They also employ email signatures and email campaigns, driving traffic to their offers, helping to further nurture and educate their contacts. And while email blasts are effective in generating leads, this method should be approached with caution. After promoting some demo and consultation offers via email, Ruffolo discovered that promoting offers through email has proven to be effective as long as the offers are educational. Below, you can see the variety of landing pages and offers that have strong visit-to-lead conversion rates. Because they have high conversion rates, IMPACT promotes these offers more frequently.
Analyze for Continuous Improvement
According to Ruffolo, one of the best methods for generating effective offers is to analyze what’s already working. Through HubSpot’s software, Ruffolo and his team continuously track and measure the success of their landing pages and blog articles. They closely track which traffic source and marketing tactic produce the best leads and new clients, using the Sources report in their HubSpot portal. Below is a screenshot of their data from that report.
IMPACT reviews data for each activity they do, especially each blog post and each offer. Choosing blog articles to write is a simple process. They look at which ones are getting the most views and write more articles that are similar in style and topic to those. Landing page conversions require a little more thought and creativity. The IMPACT team is constantly reviewing their landing page conversions to determine which are doing great and which may need a little tweaking to reach peak performance. In the past six months alone, IMPACT landing pages have generated 2,827 leads from a total of 14,812 views, good for about a 20% conversion rate. Overall, as can be seen from the screenshot above, IMPACT now generates 400+ leads per month through their website.
Align Sales with Marketing
In order to develop an effective marketing plan, IMPACT has learned that it’s critical to trace every sale back to the marketing activities that generated and nurtured the opportunity. Ruffolo says he works hard to integrate the marketing and sales process, as it enables his team to shift their marketing focus to the right channels.
It’s equally important to trace a lead's website activity and how it relates to the sales process. Ruffolo also shared with us a behind-the-scenes look at his sales process. "Kevin Linehan, our channel account manager from HubSpot, helped me set up the customer settings needed to successfully integrate HubSpot and Salesforce,” said Ruffolo. “I was then able to see new leads as they came in, what offers they converted upon, pages they viewed and when and how often they revisit our site. This has helped me prioritize my sales efforts on the best leads and given me great data to improve my connect rate."
IMPACT also uses automated lead nurturing to move leads into a buying process more effectively. After modifying its lead nurturing campaign based on click through rates and close rates, IMPACT generated more sales ready leads, making Ruffolo's sales efforts even more productive. Ruffolo indicated that his team went through a process of categorizing all of their offers, so they could correlate what stage of the buying cycle someone would be if they downloaded it. From there, it was easier to identify what message to send to get the lead to re-convert and become a more educated, more sales ready lead. "All of our lead nurturing emails were aimed at pushing them further down the sales funnel," said Ruffolo. “We found that after two or three conversions, our leads were coming through a lot more sales ready."
Ruffolo added that as his team went through some of their more advanced offers, the forms on the landing pages got longer as a result. “We were capturing more information,” said Ruffolo. "We added a question to determine whether they needed a service like ours and also a field that asked them how many employees work at their company. If their company needs our services and had 50 to 200 employees, we followed up quickly and persistently in order to schedule a conversation.”
Adopt a Consultative Sales Process
Once a sales-ready lead was generated, a member of the IMPACT team is tasked with reaching out and connecting. If they did not connect on the first dial, they stay persistent, employing a BASHO sequence, which consists of continuous voicemails and emails. Once that connection is made, an Inbound Marketing Assessment (IMA) is scheduled, where the goals, challenges, timeline, and budget are discussed, among other things. “We know that we’ve completely qualified the opportunity when the opportunity believes we can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals. We don't move on to our next step until we've accomplished that,” said Ruffolo.
The next step usually consists of a demonstration of the inbound marketing methodology and HubSpot, where Ruffolo would highlight the inbound marketing process and also educate the prospect on how IMPACT's services will help them overcome their challenges and achieve their goals. From there, responsibilities of both parties are clearly defined, and a customized program is created that caters to clients specific needs. Once the agreement is signed, the IMPACT team goes to work.
In the month of May alone, IMPACT brought on five new retainer clients. Implementing inbound marketing and a needs-based sales process has helped IMPACT grow recurring revenue by over 350% in a six-month span.
One story, Ruffolo enjoyed telling me was about a recent client addition. After going through the entire sales process, the prospect indicated that while it all sounded great, he just couldn’t afford it at the moment. Three months later, the prospect called back and was ready to get started. “Within one meeting, we had a contract and were ready to get started,” said Ruffolo. “That proves that inbound lead generation and the retainer sales process really works.”
Another recent client that just began working with IMPACT, started from an inbound call. The prospect called IMPACT and after talking with Ruffolo, told him that he had received a quote from another firm, but decided not to hire them. The other agency had included an infographic about inbound marketing in their proposal that was originally created and published by IMPACT. The prospect said that he'd rather work with the "inbound marketing expert" who created it. They then hired IMPACT.
Ruffolo is extremely thankful for his success to date. He exhibits an uncommon humility for a business owner who has achieved rapid success in a short amount of time. I'm particularly impressed with his ability to take training and coaching and execute on a plan flawlessly. While we've provided a roadmap for IMPACT to follow via HubSpot's program for agencies, Ruffolo and his team have picked it up and applied faster and better than anyone else I've seen recently. When talking to him again last Friday, I learned more about the next steps for his firm: he's adding staff, focusing on producing successful results for clients, and continuing to analyze and improve his sales, marketing and services delivery processes. I'm sure I'll be interviewing Ruffolo again. Until then, I'd recommend watching IMPACT closely. I expect great things.
I've been speaking with many of HubSpot's top partners about joining my inbound networking group for inbound marketing agencies. As I've discussed it with more people, I've been refining how I explain it. I've also been searching for that big hairy audacious goal that gets me and my future members excited, committed and motivated.
Here's the story I've been telling...
I want to create an alternative HubSpot universe. Currently, HubSpot generates 50,000 leads per month through HubSpot.com. I don't know the exact count, but there are 20+ marketers who pull this off. They are a highly coordinated, highly skilled, finely tuned marketing machine. Minus a few segments we can't serve effectively ourselves, all of those leads go to our direct sales team. HubSpot's direct sales team is also a finely tuned, highly skilled, highly disciplined sales machine.
The alternative universe I want to create is a world where 100s of marketing agencies work together to generate 50k leads/month and the leads go directly to them. Right now, HubSpot's 20ish marketers create 50+ blog posts and 15+ ebooks and webinars per month. Imagine what several hundred marketing agencies could produce if they worked together to create and promote their content. The problem is that marketing agencies are doing this on their own sites and they don't have the authority, the following, the reputation that HubSpot has. Their content doesn't get as much of an audience. They don't have 100s of employees, 100s of partners and 100s of thousands of fans, blog and email subscribers who share their content. They don't have a huge machine built.
There are 10s of thousands of small marketing agencies in the US alone. Many have taken to the web - trying to break through the clutter and noise - and establish themselves as thought leaders, above the competition. Very few do. Most struggle. Some even give up. But, what if a few 100 of them decided to leave the rest in the dust by working together? How successful can these few hundred be?
Stay tuned: I'll be announcing the first few members soon. If you're interested and we haven't talked yet, leave a comment on this post. If you've reached out to me and we haven't spoken, I'm sorry. Please be persistent. I'm prioritizing my 1:1 conversations with top HubSpot partners first.
All star inbound marketing agency, Adhere Creative, has a great post today about how 'content marketing' is the new SEO. I 100% agree that 'technical SEO' is all but irrelevant for everyone except high traffic sites and that most companies should just focus on creating lots of great content. Another steller inbound agency, Synecore, posted a great story about a company who built up traffic to 100k visits/month through content marketing and very little technical SEO. I'm seeing agency after agency and marketer after marketer embrace inbound marketing through content. Many are public about their successes. This is a marked difference with what I'm hearing from technical SEO experts. Technical SEO experts are very private about their successes and failures. But, if the recent horror stories I'm hearing from technical SEO experts keep at the current pace, we should all be ready to call it a game soon.
Both of these articles talk about the importance of keyword research and some link building as part of the content marketing strategy, which are certainly 2 SEO strategies. But, while many SEO companies still put a large emphasis on all forms of link building, content marketers seem to universally suggest 'guest posting' as the best form of link building.
In their list of 5 great tips, Adhere includes 'collaboration' as a suggestion for generating links as well as growing social media reach:
Even though the old days are over, the new SEO landscape is still competitive. You need allies who will partner with you and endorse your brand through guest-posting opportunities, social media promotion, and co-branded marketing campaigns. Partner with like-minded companies with complementary products or services. You have a similar target market, why not work together to reach them?
Sounds like inbound networking to me. Seeing all of these great marketing firms get it, makes me very excited about building an inbound networking group for inbound marketing agencies.
In a blog post, Rich Mcelnany asked the question, "Does Inbound Marketing Mean I Can Give Up Those Chamber Meetings?" I 100% agree with his answer, "But I don't think I'd ever recommend foregoing those person-to-person connections at industry events and local networking meetings." I'd take it a step further and recommend that businesses learn how to mix their 1-on-1 networking activities with their online marketing, in order to achieve greater lead generation results.
When introducing the concept of inbound marketing to people who are unfamiliar with it, I've heard lots of different uninformed objections:
- My target audience is not online.
- All of my customers hear about me from other customers.
- I prefer introductions from people who know me.
- I only want local customers.
- People who find me through my website never end up doing business with me.
My next two questions are, "Do you get most of your business from referrals?" and "Do you get enough referrals, consistently enough, to get to your revenue goals?". The usual answer is "yes" and "no". So, we then introduce them to inbound marketing.
Unfortunately, many times, people see "inbound marketing" as something entirely different from their 1-on-1 networking, designed to produce a different and separate stream of leads. That's the wrong way of looking at it. Companies should see the two as inter-twined. When combined, they both will have better results. Imagine, for example, the following scenarios:
- Your best customer subscribes to your blog, leaves testimonials on blog posts and shares their comment on social media with the people who are connected with them.
- A person finds you from a google search, downloads your whitepaper and shares it with their boss, who happens to know you already from a previous employer. They hire you.
- You send an email to your list of trusted contacts and 20 of them decide to forward it to other people. 1 of the people who receives it eventually becomes a client.
- You blog about a local networking event and then share it with the people you met there, as well as the organizers. Some of them subscribe to your blog and the organizer invites you to join a private dinner with all of their event sponsors.
- You see a friend ask a question on Linkedin Answers and you leave a link to a relevant blog post written by someone who has helped you with the same problem. They hire that person and both thank you for making the connection.
All of these things have happened to me or to someone else I know who has successfully combined inbound marketing with business networking.
As a final thought, I'll share some data. As I shared in a post a few weeks ago, I had stopped blogging a few years ago. In the meanwhile, I've been very busy. We've signed up 900 marketing agencies as customers and partners of HubSpot. The only online activities I've been involved with personally are my twitter account and occasionally posting to the HubSpot Partners forum. When I relaunched my blog, I leveraged those two things to drive traffic. In the graph below, you can see the impact that social media can have when combined with a blog when combined with my real world connections.
And I'm just getting [re]started. Once my inbound networking group for inbound marketing agencies is up and active, we'll be showing the power of real world networking combined with inbound marketing.
How have you combined inbound marketing with business networking?