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.

Find New Customers helps companies like yours (with 50 to 5,000 employees and complex products) implement lead generation programs to improve the way you find and acquire high quality sales leads using best practices in online lead generation. Quality leads matter. In fact, a recent study found that sales teams with fewer, high quality sales leads closed more than sales teams with more leads of dubious quality.

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7 responses to “Inbound Marketing is the future, but are you ready?

  1. Hi Jeff, good post and unfortunately a good dose of reality for you.

    My view is that inbound marketing is a great concept. But, like the early adopters of spreadsheets, IM practitioners are finding it very susceptible to GIGO: garbage in/garbage out. Frequency is important and process is important. But at the end of the day, what can you say that is interesting and compelling. Here’s a big surprise: most things interesting and compelling don’t begin and end with your product message.

    • Thanks Paul. I agree with you 100%, especially “most things interesting and compelling don’t begin and end with your product message.” However, many business leaders are wrapped up in their product and industry, they are unable to grasp this important concept. Their statement to me was they need someone better versed in their product and industry. (I’m pretty well versed in it, but I don’t wear product and industry on my sleeve in marketing.)

  2. Hi Jeff - Inbound marketing is truly revolutionary and Hubspot deserves credit for leading the charge. They’re awesome and they know how to deliver content. If anyone needs an example - they are it! One particular problem I see is that social media et al is unfolding in parallel with demand generation. Most companies I talk with really do not yet understand how to build demand gen processes, much less even know the term! As the other comments indicate, most businesses already have issue with messaging and content. Now, add to that the issue of managing traditional outbound with inbound. Work you’re doing along with many thought leaders are making a difference and I find helping those that struggle is an opportunity.

  3. Jeff,

    I’m just starting in a somewhat similar situation, however; I’m a consultant and their new VP of Marketing “gets it”. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Congratulations, John. I’m really glad your VP of Marketing “gets it.” It is a very unfortunate and painful situation to work for someone who pays lip service, but does not really get it. Unfortunately for me, I believed the words I was told, and found out too late.

  4. Hi there, very good point. However Inbound Marketing in Ireland has been around your years. But it took place down in the pub and not online. How many times are you speaking to someone in the pub and start a question “Do you know someone who can…”. That is still happening put the person who you are asking is not the 6 foot blond but Google.

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