After reviewing the 5 Pros and Cons of Inbound Marketing, you may wonder if inbound marketing strategies will work for your company.
Stepping back, “inbound marketing” is a strategy to attract customers to your brand or offering with information that is relevant and useful to them. The intent of most inbound marketers is to generate qualified leads while at the same time promoting the company’s brand and reputation.
While there are no cookie-cutter characteristics that automatically make a company a good fit for inbound marketing, some companies and industries are inherently more suited than others based off of their business model, sales cycle or selling process.
Here are several key characteristics to help you make that determination:
1. Does your potential customer spend time online?
This may seem obvious, but if your potential customers do not spend time online, inbound marketing probably isn’t right for you. The buying process does not have to take place online (you don’t have to be an ecommerce company), but the more time that your customers spend online, the more opportunity there is to reach them with inbound marketing initiatives.
The good news is that most people do spend time online. Overall, 81% of buyers conduct online research before making online purchases- This includes everything from toys and athletic apparel, to professional services in the business to business space. A study from the Acquity group states that in the B2B space, 94% of buyers do online research in some form (including Google search and customer reviews).
2. Does your customer go through a “considered buying process”?
What steps does your customer take to make their final decision? Generally speaking, there are three steps to the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
For example, the graphic below illustrates a sample buyer’s journey for the simple purchasing decision of a doctor visit during an illness.
It is important to note that different stages of the buying process require different approaches and content.
In the awareness stage, a potential customer identifies and prioritizes their goals or challenges. Content such as informative blog posts can help a customer more thoroughly understand their needs, zero in on what is important and potentially learn something that will help them in the consideration stage.
Once the customer has a clearly defined goal or challenge and has committed to doing it, they will move on to the consideration phase. This is where they may do additional research and evaluate the various options available to them. More in-depth content, such as white papers or webinars may provide the level of detail needed at this stage.
In the decision stage, the buy has chosen a route or category from the various options available and is in the process of narrowing down their final list in order to make a decision. Calls to action and making it easy for your customer to engage are critical at this stage. Tools like calls to action, request forms, an email address, a ”get started” button -- or even a good old-fashioned phone number are critical so that when a buyer is ready to make a decision, you are available.
The theory behind inbound marketing states that customers are more likely to think favorably of your company and choose your solution if you provide them with content that is valuable in the awareness and consideration stages of their journey.
If your sales cycle is anywhere between 1 week and 12 months, you are in the sweet spot for inbound marketing. It is important that your customers don’t make their purchasing decisions too quickly so that your content has time to be discovered in the first place and then to resonate with and influence them.
3. Do you have the necessary resources?
Resources are broken into three parts:
Upfront: Inbound leads, on average, are 61% less expensive than leads generated through traditional/outbound marketing methods (e.g., Advertising, PPC, Cold Calling, etc.). Still, inbound strategies require a significant and sustained investment of time, talent, and money. Even with impressive results, it is important that your entire team recognizes that the costs involved (either internal labor, hired guns -- or more likely, a combination of both internal and external resources).
Timing: A typical inbound campaign can last anywhere from six months to one year. In the best cases, this investment will start to pay off within the first few months, though typically predictable and sustained results take longer. That said, it can be likened to a retirement fund: incremental and consistent smaller investments allow you to reach your goal over time.
Skill: Ask yourself: do you have the ability and focus to create content that is both compelling and informative? A diverse staff is needed to create and deploy an inbound strategy. Things to take into consideration are: who are you writing for (buyer persona), where is that buyer in the process (buyer’s journey), what problems are you solving for them? What are you ultimately trying to get out of it?
DIY: Assuming you do have in-house talent, figure 80-100+ hours for the initial definition of buyer personas, development of a content strategy, planning a campaign, and initial content development -- then 20-30 hours/week (minimum) for ongoing execution.
Hiring an Agency: 70% of B2B marketers say their firms are not producing quality content. If that sounds like your firm or if you don’t have the time, experience or staff needed to create and deploy an inbound strategy internally, it may be worth hiring experienced professionals (like us!).
Agency Cost: The cost of hiring an agency to design and execute an inbound agency campaign can range greatly depending on the scope of the engagement and the goals at hand, but back of the napkin calculations would be in the $3,500-6,000/month range (give or take). For your firm to be able to afford this sort of marketing spend, its annual revenue should be no less than the $3-5M range. For firms under that range, creative DIY programs, or collaboratively working with an Agency and taking on more of the day to day work to lower the cost may be the right call.
Much like web design and development, SEO, digital strategy and any other specialized skill, the question often boils down to this: what can you do yourself and what do you need help with. A good friend of mine once said to me: “I’d spend $1 to make $2 any day of the week.” and I replied, “well, I guess it’s just a matter of knowing where to spend that dollar, isn’t it?!”
4. Does your website work for you or against you?
One last note: even the best content is pretty useless if it can’t be found. Is your website optimized to rank well in search engines? Do you have a keyword strategy? Do you know who you are targeting in the first place?
Once discovered, does your site easily allow you to collect information from a potential customer in order to create a lead? Can someone share a page with a friend or colleague easily? Can you create content quickly and revise it easily? Does one good piece of content frictionlessly lead to another? Is the site well organized? Does it work on mobile? What does your website say about your brand and culture?
There are a lot of moving parts to a website and inbound is just one of them. Again, DIY is great if you’ve got the time, but if you struggle with your website, it might be time to factor a redesign into your marketing mix as well because driving traffic through an inbound strategy to a website that doesn’t represent your brand well may be self-defeating.
Inbound marketing can be an extremely effective way to enhance your brand, promote your business, become a trusted resource for potential customers, and when they are ready to buy, be the company of choice. But make sure you know what you’re getting into, manage internal expectations, have the resources in place -- and know that it’s a long game.
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