Great Inbound Marketing - The Silo Busting Imperative

Posted by Ed Marsh on Dec 10, 2012 7:30:00 AM

"Drop your business card in our fishbowl for a chance to win an iPad"

b2b marketingHave you seen one of those signs at a trade show recently? I can't think of any more explicit manifestation of what's so completely sideways in B2B Sales & Marketing. I mean seriously.

But let's back up. There once was a time when the T-Rex of the biz dev world was the rainmaker direct sales pro. Strutting his/her stuff with a massive rolodex and easy demeanor they knew that everyone else knew they were the force that sustained a business. And marketing....marketing was the red-headed kid brother that was tolerated, every once in a while got picked for a team of pickup ball, and was expected to offer quiet admiration most of the time. In other words marketing had the easy task of generating leads - leads which then the big dawgs would massage and either dismiss or convert to revenue.

And in that world, B2B buying processes relied on the direct sales folks. This reliance was so ingrained in the system that normally direct sales became involved in the buying process when it was less than 30% complete. So T-Rex had plenty of opportunity to thrash its tail and gnash its teeth - controlling much of the dynamic of the B2B purchase because ultimately they controlled the required information on solutions.

Meteor strike or the internet?

But along the way T-Rex became extinct. Everyone realizes that except for those direct sales folks who still think they are the T-Rexes of the business world...and some traditional business owners who haven't looked up from running their companies.

inbound marketingToday direct sales is an afterthought. The coveted information which they used to control is now available anytime, anywhere. Buyers no longer need them, and therefore (surprise here for anyone?) they'd rather not deal with them. The typical B2B purchasing process now doesn't involve direct sales until it is more than 70% complete. The folks at Square2Marketing have distilled this evolution down into a simple graphic.

The glory days of direct sales are over.

So how do we sell now?

Obviously this evolution begs this critical question. If you can't send your warriors forth to battle for sales (now they may be negotiating terms of transactions based on decisions made before they were even aware of the project) then you must sell using other methods.

The answer lies in how buyers buy...and it's all about the web. 92% of all B2B purchases begin with an internet search. It stands to reason, therefore, that the fundamental objective of your marketing must be to present as compelling a presence as possible when folks search for solutions which you can provide.

But more than that, you must replicate the direct sales engagement virtually. Your on-line presence must fulfill all the functions your direct sales T-Rex did in the past. Building credibility, forming bonds of trust, educating prospects on your solutions, distinguishing your offering from competitors', supporting justification analysis and preempting concerns and hesitation must all now be largely achieved through a virtual dialog with prospects.

There's an app for that!

The good news is that you someone's already thought through this for you. Inbound marketing is the solution that you haven't hear of but have been desperately seeking.

The premise of inbound marketing is simple. Market and sell to folks they way they want to buy. The execution (at least if you are interested in doing it right for maximum effect) is complex - not because of any particularly complex element but because success takes an artfully integrated effort across a multitude of tools, disciplines and channels.

The easy, hard and 'I'm not sure you're up for it' steps

Deciding to change is easy. And when your banker or accountant keeps banging on you about slowing growth you'll be thrilled to have an answer. 

Implementing the change is much harder. Again, not because any piece is terribly complicated, but because there are many moving pieces and lots of work to be done.

But the real impediment? The one I'm not sure you can overcome? Your departmental structure and mindset are so ossified into Sales and Marketing silos that I am not convinced you can change. But now that marketing must do most of the selling and controls 70% of the buying process, you don't have a choice.

Are you up to it?

Learn more about the evolving roles of Sales and Marketing.



About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
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Topics: small business marketing, thought leadership, small business internet marketing, b2b lead generation

Our B2B Marketing is solid - we already do all that "content" stuff

Posted by Ed Marsh on Nov 26, 2012 7:30:00 AM

The Paradox of Content Marketing Success

Content marketing is gaining traction.  

In practice that is unalloyed great news for B2B marketers. Those who embrace best practices and diligently craft a fabric woven on a warp of amazing content will generate really remarkable results.

But as a buzzword it has potentially disastrous potential. Well meaning but ignorant interpretations abound and self-anointed experts are being birthed at an alarming rate.

content marketingEach "expert" who fails to effectively structure an inbound marketing program jeopardizes the future viability of a company which will move forward to compete in increasingly competitive markets at a distinct disadvantage. And in each case that will be tragic because the desire was there, but opportunity will have been squandered through poor execution.

Collectively the risk is even greater. A small number of companies that have realized the potential of well crafted inbound marketing will proselytize regarding the benefits of inbound marketing. But a much larger group that casually implemented a poorly conceived or incomplete program, and received commensurate returns, will join in a chorus of frustration - discounting the potential for B2B marketing success.

"We're already doing that"

If you sell to businesses you've certainly heard this before. And you've probably thought to yourself. "No way. You don't even have a clue what I'm talking about."

Now there are two possibilities in that situation. The prospect may be right. Perhaps they're doing something that is similar to what you propose, in a way that is good enough for them. Alternatively, you could be right. They may be just blowing you off, or perhaps they think they are leveraging a similar solution to good effect without really understanding the nuance or even the foundational principles of the concept.  

So assuming you have at least adequate sales skills, and still can't overcome the myopic intransigence of the prospect, what's at play?

If you're selling to huge companies you could simply be bumping into junior execs or administrators who validate the "Peter Principle" or are protecting their turf. But if you're speaking to senior executives in SMBs, you're probably caught in a sensitivity trap!

Extroverts, sensitivity and recognition of threats

What we're really talking about here is a threat. In the case of a company adopting a comprehensive, strategically sound inbound marketing program the threat to which they would respond would be one of diminished marketing effectiveness, stagnating sales and enterprise decay.

But what if......the sort of person most likely to boldly start, grow and manage a business is the sort least likely to intuit or even account for subtle and uncertain threats? That's precisely one of the hypothesis of Susan Cain's (@susancain) book Quiet. Controversial? Certainly. Conclusive? Perhaps not. Make sense based on personal experience? Probably. The hard charging business founder who has launched despite the horrific odds and persevered through situations which would have brought others to their knees simply can't afford to worry about ghosts behind trees. And therefore they overlook potential legitimate threats too, and discount seemingly insignificant differences in approaches to problems.

Inbound marketing's "Achiles' Heel"

Therein lies the biggest risk to inbound marketing success. When executed properly the payoff in B2B marketing success is huge. But if it's not done right, the payoff is negligible. And too many extroverted, 'insensitive' (don't get pissed off, read the book instead to understand) types can point to a couple activities (maybe occasional press releases published on a website under the title of 'blog', or a company LinkedIn page or Twitter handle) and dismissively assert "We already do that."

But you can be different! Seriously! Don't let your hard charging business blinders obscure the seemingly minor details that are critically important. In inbound marketing "the Devil (really) is in the details." 

And a good place to start is with an easy to digest overview of how your business sales and marketing environment is evolving. Understanding where we came from, where we are and where we're going is critical to mapping the route to success. And a step by step strategy goes a long way toward demystifying something that is far more complicated than you imagined.

So change your tune! Instead of "We already do that" try responding with "We have to do that!" and embrace the potential of B2B marketing success.



About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
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Topics: small business marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing, b2b lead generation

The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Going Inbound [Ebook]

Posted by Tracy Lewis on Jul 24, 2012 10:19:00 AM

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.

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Topics: inbound marketing, b2b lead generation

I Can't Believe You Still Spend Money on Brand Awareness

Posted by Pete Caputa on Aug 29, 2008 8:50:00 AM

It's absolutely ridiculous that the marketing departments of soooo many b2b companies are not developing online lead generation processes that produce sales ready leads; that they don't practice measurable marketing.

Historically, sales has always had a funnel. Marketing should have a funnel too. Brian Carroll has a great post about building a marketing funnel:

Most organizations don't have a marketing funnel; they have a sales funnel that looks more like a bucket with lots of holes in it where leads leak out. Marketing needs to create its own funnel to understand whether leads are sales ready or not.

The purpose of the marketing funnel is to bring leads into one spot and qualify them. By qualifying them, I mean that the leads are ready to talk to someone from a sales perspective. Then there is the hand-off process between marketing and sales. I find that connecting the marketing and sales funnel together is really a big challenge. You have to understand your sales process to know at what point the sales team views a lead as an opportunity and begins actively pursuing it.

Lead generation really is about building relationships. It's how can I help my sales team build relationships with the right people and the right companies. The marketing funnel creates sales-ready leads and nurtures the leads that aren't sales ready.

The bigger and better you make your marketing pipeline, ultimately the bigger and better you make your sales pipeline. In the end, this isn't about generating more leads; it's about generating actionable leads.

A company where the sales teams and marketing teams work together, should have a combined funnel. It should look something like this:

For those of you who do better with words, you should know exactly how many visitors to your website convert into leads; how many of these leads your salespeople convert into opportunities; how many of these opportunities your salespeople convert into clients. You should also be able see at a much more granular level... what marketing activities, campaigns and referring sources those customers originated from, as well as what marketing activities made them "sales ready". That's closed loop marketing.

If you're a b2b marketer and you're not trying to figure out closed loop marketing, I personally believe you should be fired. You should be fired today, if you're still asking for $ to build your brand while your sales team is primarily cold calling prospects. It's absolutely amazing that more CEOs don't demand a measurable ROI from their marketing teams. It's absolutely amazing to me that marketers don't demand that their organizations committ the time and resources to create compelling content and participate in the conversations happening in their marketplace on social networking sites.

Brand awareness should be a side effect of a great product, great marketing and great customer service.

However, your marketing activities should be measured based on leads generated, leads qualified and customers acquired. Not some fuzzy notion of brand awareness.

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Topics: closed loop marketing, brand awareness, brand building, sales funnel, marketing funnel, business to business lead generation, social network marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, online lead generation, b2b lead generation, content creation

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