Inbound Marketing is the future, but are you ready?

There is no question in my mind. Inbound marketing is the wave of the future. Gentle touches mapped to buyer personas and other variables.

But there’s a fundamental problem. Most businesses are not ready to embrace it.

HubSpot has a great blog article about the differences between outbound and inbound marketing.  I suggest you read it for more background on this important marketing direction.

Two excellent books also provide insights - I highly recommend both.

  1. eMarketing for the Complex Sale by Ardath Albee
  2. Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah

The idea of inbound marketing can be summed up with a simple image.  Turn your online presence into a watering hole.

  • Do watering holes need Super Bowl ads?  No.  [Love the talking babies, eTrade, but that $$$$ could be spent in other ways.]
  • Print ads, billboards, etc.  No, no, no.  Do they need to advertise how cool and refreshing the water tastes?  NO.

Animals find a watering hold because it offers them something THEY need.  It’s a virtual magnet to attract thirsty animals.  That, in a nutshell, is the essense of inbound marketing. Offer something THEY, your prospective buyers, really need.

There is a fundamental problem here.  And I had a great conversation about it with the President of Avitage, Jim Burns (Jim is @salesvpi on Twitter, if you wish to connect.)  Jim is one of the sharpest and savviest sales and marketing experts I know. Jim impressed upon me the idea that these concepts espoused by people like Ardath, Brian and Dharmesh are new and very different for most businesses.  CEOs are struggling to deal with this new direction.

Unfortunately, I experienced this firsthand.  I joined as marketing head a software firm in south Florida that produces SaaS ERP and CRM software.  They have great software, delighted customers and a great staff of friendly and very smart people.  But, they also had challenges.

  • The website was 100% product centric highlighting awards they had won
  • They had essentially zero remarkable content
  • They were barely present on social networks
  • They had no marketing automation and a stagnant, rarely updated blog

This looked like an exciting opportunity for me.  We could transform this company into a great firm like HubSpot or Marketo.  I was pumped.  To ensure we were on the same page, I gave handed the CEO a copy of eMarketing for the Complex Sale with a personal, hand written note from me.  But reality slapped me in the face.  Hard!  That CEO never once opened the book I gave him.

I learned the hard way how hard it is to teach an old dog new tricks, no matter how much that dog appears to want to learn.  Every time I tried to move us forward, we moved two steps back.  Delay after delay.  Since we had no remarkable content, I began to create our first piece.  Knowing that animals that frequent the water hole don’t care about water, I downplayed product and company.  The draft content was shared with a board member and UK leader.  Boom! Our ‘watering hole content” got panned by not stressing our water quality.  And since I was not focusing on water quality, I was accused of not really understanding the water industry.    They decided to promote their watering hole, they need to hire someone who’s advertised watering holes in the past — and not me.

They told me “Unfortunately, we weren’t ready to embrace the high touch marketing approach you espouse.”  (What other kind of marketing is there?)

Don’t get me wrong.  Great people and superb products, but not ready for inbound marketing.

The lesson for me was profound.  Even if the  leadership professes its desire to move to inbound marketing, the vast majority are not yet ready.  In fact, sometimes the CEO faces a difficult Board of Directors.  Even if he or she embraces inbound marketing, the board ties his hands.  So enter into relationships with healthy skepticism and ask tough questions.

I should have done so.  Shame on me.

Epilogue: The watering hole content I created turned into the hot white paper Definitive Guide to Making Quota.  It’s been very, very popular.

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Jeff Ogden is President of Find New CustomersLead Generation Made Simple” Check out the online show every Friday at 11am ET, “Laugh and Learn with the Fearless Competitor.” Find New Customers is one of few lead generation companies in New York.

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