Inbound marketing strategy is more than just creating content and sending email campaigns. One of the best parts of my job is watching companies’ positive transformations when they begin taking an inbound approach to marketing. It can be challenging to change the way you’ve been doing things for so long, but my most successful clients are the ones who embrace the inbound mindset not just in the marketing department, but across their whole company.
Making the commitment to inbound marketing represents a shift in your company’s culture. Everyone in your business has knowledge and expertise they can contribute to the process. Your entire organization begins to think differently about why your company is remarkable rather than simply focusing on what your company does. You finally begin to separate your business from the competition. It’s very exciting to watch this transformation take place.
Here are three major shifts that take place when a business implements an inbound marketing strategy.
Shift # 1: Creating an Inbound Mindset
When we interview our clients at the beginning of an engagement, they are so full of passion and knowledge for their industry. But all of that expertise is stuck within the walls of their company. At the kickoff meeting, we introduce the opportunity to share this knowledge with the world through content creation as part of the inbound process. The clients instantly begin identifying opportunities and brainstorming topics. Their mindset has already begun shifting: “What can we help people learn or do?”
Developing Buyer Personas
Inbound marketing begins with creating your Buyer Personas — your ideal customer. This process aligns your entire company with a deeper understanding of who your customers are, what their pain points are, and how you can solve their challenges.
When we start talking about Buyer Personas with our clients, they immediately recognize who their ideal customers are, and they’re able to talk about them with a real sense of certainty. I find this process fascinating: watching an entire company learn and grow from a dialogue that should have taken place years ago and now will happen every quarter. It gets everyone in the company thinking: who do we really want buying from us? Are these the customers we want to focus on?
Discovering what makes your company remarkable
Most likely your company has always tried to get new customers by talking about what you do rather than why you do it. Full service, years of experience, and great customer service don’t make your company remarkable. Creating a “remarkable statement” during your inbound marketing kickoff provides your customers with an understanding of what they can expect when they do business with you, and what your employees are expected to do to provide this remarkable experience. I like Finley Engineering’s remarkable statement:
100% - Our promise that from the beginning of your project to the very end, you’ll have a partner that does what we say we’ll do.
It could have been “A full service engineering firm servicing 11 states with 30 years of experience.” But they chose instead to highlight their integrity and commitment. Reading that statement, it’s clear to their customers and employees what they stand for.
Visualizing your company with inbound marketing
Inbound marketing requires input from everyone to be most successful. When the kickoff meeting is complete, your employees begin to visualize your company with an inbound approach to marketing and sales. They are eager to provide blog ideas to share their expertise to drive traffic to your website. They actually become your biggest advocates because everyone is now involved in business development. It takes all of the guesswork out of marketing and puts a stop to crazy, reactive marketing ideas that aren’t measureable and don’t provide ROI. Trust me, we have heard them all.
Shift #2: Aligning Sales & Marketing (Smarketing)
Sales and marketing people don’t trust each other, nor do they know how to work with each other. According to a Corporate Executive Board study, 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe each other are negative. An inbound program is finally the opportunity to bring sales and marketing together. This shift is all about aligning your sales and marketing teams so that they can achieve more results for your company—together.
Creating a Service Level Agreement
The term "smarketing" refers to alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication between the two.
One of the most effective ways to get Sales and Marketing on the same page is by creating a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. An SLA is an agreement between Sales and Marketing that outlines both the marketing goal (such as number of leads or revenue pipeline) and the sales activity (such as following up with leads generated by marketing) that each team commits to in order to support the other. The point is to have measurable goals that each team agrees to hit so there's mutual accountability and transparency.
The SLA should be the result of the two departments collaborating with each other to determine what the collective goals should be. For instance, Marketing might have a mutually agreed upon number of monthly leads to hit, and Sales must agree to follow up with a certain amount of those leads. Then sales and marketing can stop distrusting each other and instead work together to achieve common goals.
Shift #3: Learning to Always Be Helping
The old model may have said “Always Be Closing,” but companies today should Always Be Helping. With an inbound marketing culture, everyone in the company realizes that they should be helping their Buyer Personas solve their pain points.
Creating a remarkable customer experience
Every interaction someone has with your company is a chance for you and your team to create a remarkable client experience. Inbound marketing can help you foster that mindset within your employees. By making everyone aware of who the Buyer Personas are and what the company’s goals are, people become more motivated to help and engage.
This shift can also help grow your base of raving fans. When customers’ interactions with your company are positive, they become your promotors and your advocates. The motivation to delight customers by truly helping them is part of the cultural shift an inbound program can create within an organization.
The transformation is amazing to watch. Companies discover obvious solutions for clients, identify clients who are not a good fit, and begin to foster relationships with newly identified prospects that were discovered in the kickoff meeting. Every employee is excited about their role in helping the company grow, because each one now has a part in the way your company sells. This is an empowering shift for businesses, and it’s what motivates me to keep doing what I do.