In my conversations with industrial companies about inbound marketing, I find my audience agreeing with me up to a certain point and then there is a big disconnect.
I see heads nodding in face-to-face meetings or hear plenty of “Uh-huhs” on the phone when I talk about the benefits of inbound marketing. They agree it helps them get found in search engines early and often, drives hordes of traffic to their site and fills the top of their funnel with qualified leads at a lower cost per lead.
Then comes the silence because they are having trouble connecting the dots between inbound marketing and sales.
I can’t help but think that the person at the other end is silently telling me, “Show Me the Money!” just like in the movie Jerry Maguire.
This is when I have to take a step back and start talking about how the job of inbound marketing does not end with lead generation but extends into setting the table for sales so they can be more productive.
Bruce A. Brien, VP of Sales Enablement at Bulldog Solutions, summarized the problem very well in his recent article where he wrote, “In general, salespeople don’t like leads. I know how strange that might sound, but for most companies, leads mean more work and very little to show for it. Instead, salespeople want opportunities.”
That in my opinion is job #1 for inbound marketing. It needs to do all the heavy lifting for creating qualified opportunities for industrial sales.
It is up to marketing to create relevant content, optimize it for search engines, promote it online via social media and other outlets, score prospects, nurture leads until they are “sales ready” before handing them off to sales. Some of the more middle of the funnel functions are better suited for marketing automation.
Sales is most productive when they spend bulk of their time engaging with leads in meaningful dialogs instead of sparring and posturing with them.
This doesn’t mean sales gets off lightly with a small part to play in inbound marketing. Marketing and sales must be involved from the very beginning and the two need to play as a team for it to succeed.
Let’s look at some specifics on how the two need to work together for inbound marketing to succeed:
- Marketing can only create relevant content by having a clear understanding of the different stakeholders, their pain points and the decision-making process. Sales is on the front line and has first-hand knowledge about all these aspects. They must help marketing create content that the target audience will find relevant in educating, informing and moving them to take action.
- Marketing can analyze site statistics and use other research tools to develop a list of keywords, phrases and terms. However, it is sales that actually hears how customers describe their products and services. Their feedback is invaluable in refining the initial list of search terms.
- Marketing can assign scores to incoming leads based on demographics and site interactions. However, sales has a much deeper understanding of which leads convert better. The two need to work together in setting up rules for lead scoring that closely match reality and more importantly, refine them over time with constant feedback to create a closed-loop system. (See SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation)
- Marketing should create lead nurturing content that matches the prospects’ needs based on their stage and role in the buying cycle. Once again, it is sales that has a better pulse on this since they are closer to the customer.
I’m not implying that inbound marketing alone will do everything needed to generate leads and drive industrial sales. It needs to complement other marketing efforts such as telemarketing and outbound marketing programs. (See my post, “Inbound Marketing Alone May Not Be Enough for Industrial Companies.”)
What issues have you faced with inbound marketing that have helped or hindered your industrial sales?