Is Inbound Right for Your Business?
If you’re familiar with inbound marketing and the HubSpot platform—a powerful digital marketing system that automates the lead nurturing process—you’ve likely done some research to understand how it can work for you. There are countless benefits for your business development efforts and bottom line, and it’s an approach worth getting excited about. But before you dive in, it’s important to be realistic about whether you have the right business, customers, and bandwidth to succeed with inbound and make it work for you. It takes a lot of work to successfully strategize, launch, and manage an inbound campaign and all the high-quality content and digital marketing tactics it requires. Here’s what you need to consider before getting started:
1. Are your potential customers online?
Inbound is a closed-loop marketing approach that begins with digital marketing. It utilizes SEO and ad placements across search engines, social media, and sometimes industry-specific websites to drive increased web traffic to your conversion-optimized site. Optimized pages are designed to capture visitor information that you can use for future lead nurturing and closing sales. An additional advantage of inbound marketing is in its final ROI reporting, attributing closed deals to the ads and pages a customer visited along their journey to closing, and allowing you to continually improve your ongoing marketing efforts.
Takeaway: You must be able to access a healthy majority of your target audience online to succeed with and get the most value out of inbound marketing.
2. Do your leads typically have questions about your offerings that need to be answered before you can close a deal? Do you typically try to educate them on the larger landscape of the problem you solve (and why you’re the best solution) before they consider a purchase?
Inbound marketing is a powerhouse approach for warming up leads by shepherding them through the buyer’s journey with nuance based on their interests and the manner in which they interact with your digital content. Businesses use inbound landing pages to carry leads through each of the following stages:
- The awareness stage: When leads are just beginning to recognize the extent of their problem and need for a solution.
- The consideration stage: When leads understand their problem and are ready to research their options for a solution.
- The decision-making stage: When leads have multiple solutions lined up, and they’re ready to make the final call on your business versus a competitor.
The ability to automate this journey is an incredible boon to any sales team selling a product or service that typically requires a warm up and education. Similarly, inbound tools can be very valuable in upselling existing customers on additional products or services. They can also be used to nurture newly closed customers with post-purchase content to further develop those relationships and ensure retention rates.
On the other hand, if your product or service is wildly simple and requires little upfront or retention effort, you may be better suited to invest your marketing dollars elsewhere.
Takeaway: Inbound marketing is most valuable to businesses with leads who need at least some degree of warmup or education ahead of closing.
3. Do your leads take a week or more to close? Do they have a fairly significant customer lifetime value?
While there are exceptions, inbound marketing works best for businesses whose leads take at least a few days and up to several weeks or months to make a purchase decision. Because when it comes to longer buyer journeys, it’s critical that you make the effort to educate leads on your offerings and position your brand as a trustworthy and reliable solution if you want to beat out your competitors for the sale. Auto-feeding them strategic, lead-nurturing content is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do that.
As an example, take IT firms and fintech startups selling B2B services. They typically have a lot of success with inbound, as they can use nurturing automations to educate leads on the problems they solve, how they’re different than competitors, and why they’d make a good partner. On the other hand, while a company selling a B2C product like an iPhone case could certainly benefit from marketing automation, the nurturing efforts that inbound marketing excels in would likely be lower on their list of business development priorities than getting strong reviews of their products online and optimizing e-commerce pages for repeated sales.
Takeaway: If your customers have a relatively high CLV and require a bit more time and education to close, inbound is likely a good investment of marketing dollars.
4. Do you have the bandwidth, resources, and runway of time needed to see results?
Inbound should be seen as an investment—not just of marketing dollars but of time. Before switching on your marketing automations, you’ll need to strategize, create high quality content to attract and nurture leads, plan a digital ad campaign, and build out your marketing automations. After your automations are switched on, depending on the length of your sales cycle, you’ll need another month or two to start seeing results, as leads will need the appropriate amount of time to be warmed up.
A successful inbound campaign also requires an investment of your team’s hours or those of a partner agency. In the long run, inbound can significantly reduce the amount of time your sales team spends pursuing cold leads, but first it takes a fair amount of upfront teamwork to pull off a successful inbound campaign. As you dive into content creation, strategic digital ads, and marketing automations, it’s critical that you consider the time your team has to:
- Develop audience insights or buyer personas to inform the inbound strategy and content.
- Create (or approve) content. Even when working with an agency, make sure your team has a couple hours a week put aside for interviews, information sharing, review, and feedback.
- Design (or approve) landing page layouts to host inbound content.
- Research (or approve) pay-per-click keywords and content topics.
Takeaway: It takes a lot of work to develop the assets required for success with inbound. If you team doesn’t have the bandwidth itself, that’s okay! That’s what an inbound agency is for. Whatever your approach, just make sure your team is realistic about their availability to ensure your inbound marketing goals are successfully met.
Inbound marketing isn’t always the best-fit investment for every single business, but for those that align with the criteria above, it can pay off in a huge way. If inbound looks right for your business and vice versa, here are a few resources to better understand inbound and how to succeed:
- Learn the basics of inbound for B2B with our inbound marketing primer.
- Understand exactly how to speak to your customers’ questions or concerns by mapping buyer personas.
- And make sure you recognize the stages of their journey to buying your product or service.
- Develop an inbound strategy.
- Only invest in content that will be two times as good as your competitors’.
- And make sure that your content aligns with your overall B2B sales strategy.