Inbound marketing and sales are not in conflict.
In fact, your marketing and sales teams are more powerful together than apart. They complement each other like the bait and a hook at the end of a fishing line. The bait attracts a prospect with enticing content, and the hook connects with the prospect to snag a sale.
When you’re building a sales pipeline, your inbound marketing team can help more fish swim to you.
Inbound Resources That Help Build Sales Pipelines
You’re wondering how to improve sales pipelines. Creating good content, regularly reviewing data, and measuring key performance indicators will get you where you need to be.
Content Is Key!
Content marketing helps prospects make informed decisions. For example, they may come to your site and read a blog post comparing two software solutions. As a result, the prospect may have more, better-informed questions when you engage them in a sales conversation.
Having content readily available that you can point them to is super helpful for both the salesperson and the prospect. The salesperson can also use content in their sales emails to build trust and expertise.
Having shared content between marketing and sales helps keep the messaging between marketing and sales in alignment. Inconsistent messaging leaves prospects confused and may turn them away from your company.
Data From Marketing
Marketing can provide a ton of useful information, including customer habits and interests, which leads are sales-qualified, what drives site traffic, and what content is and isn’t engaging customers, as well as what drives good and bad leads.
Sales can use this information to make data-driven decisions. This ultimately leads to a healthier pipeline made up of better leads.
KPIs That Inbound Marketing Affects
These key performance indicators (KPIs) are important to monitor:
- Conversion rate: the number of new leads in your CRM or sales pipeline.
- Rate of conversion from lead to MQL: Leads that are deserving of ongoing marketing but may not yet be ready to talk to a salesperson.
- MQL-to-SQL rate: Of those MQLs, which are potentially ready to make a buying decision?
- Website traffic: If you have a goal to get a certain amount of MQLs and SQLs, you need the traffic to support it. For example, if your goal is to get 20 inbound leads a month, you probably won’t hit that goal with 100 visitors.
Which Industries Does Inbound Help?
While we’d like to think inbound marketing strategies fit anywhere, it’s not for everyone. We’ve seen it work well in B2B industries where:
- There’s a considered purchase.
- The more complex the buying decision is, the better. Why? Because we can provide more educational touchpoints during long sales cycles.
- The purchase volume, purchase price, or the revenue coming in for each deal is high.
- There’s a recurring revenue model. An inbound strategy won’t pay off up-front, but long-term, continuous buying will.
What Do You Say to Customers Who Say Inbound Didn’t Work?
Sure, inbound strategies may not work for everyone. However, there may be some reasons why it didn’t work last time. Here are some common reasons inbound marketing wasn’t successful for you in the past:
- Impatience: Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent effort and an investment of time and money. Understand that inbound marketing is a long-term strategy. You won’t get that immediate gratification, but your patience will pay off.
- Bad content: You have to make sure you consistently put out the right message and the right marketing assets at the right time and make sure those assets resonate with people. Thinly veiled sales pitches don’t constitute “educational” content.
- Not being agile: Inbound strategies aren’t the kind where you can “set it and forget it.” You need to develop a long-term plan, but you also need to be agile and make adjustments along the way.
- Poor understanding of the buyer: Inbound marketing strategy is built on the buyer; everything created should be for the person on the other end. Every piece of content should resonate with them and add value for them. Don’t skip creating a buyer persona or tracking your customers’ buyer’s journey.
You could be successful this time around if you:
- Track everything: Metrics tell you how successful your strategy is. Put tracking codes on everything. Set up landing pages. Tracking allows you to know who’s coming to what resource, where they came from, and how long they spend on your pages. Track your PPC and print ad campaigns, too.
- Grab a consultant: You may not be an inbound marketing expert. That’s OK. An outside perspective may help you set up your strategy and keep you from pulling your hair out by trying to do everything yourself.
- Pay attention to your keywords: For example, you may have a less-than-stellar blog post on your site, but it is ranking for some good keywords. It sounds like that post could use a little TLC. Reoptimize it, add a conversion offer (like a free e-book), and rework the copy to be a little more educational. You’ll see some more relevant traffic flow into your site. Oh, and track this, too!
You’re New at ABM With Limited Resources. You Can Do This!
You may be brand-new to account-based marketing (see episode 2) but you’re nervous you don’t have enough resources to do it well.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Begin with the data you have. Gather up your old leads that didn’t quite fit. Pull out the old trade show leads you haven’t contacted in a while. This gets you started on sourcing contacts.
Use this data to find out what these contacts have in common. Perhaps they all came in through the same type of resource. Investigate that content and see how you could build off it. Create a campaign around that one common idea or theme.
Don’t try to bite off too much at once, or you’ll be overwhelmed. Start with what you have, invest in a good CRM, and get sailing!
Quick Wins to Help Drive More Sales Conversations
Get your sales team involved in content production. Marketing can write the copy, but let sales help drive the ship:
- Produce one-to-few or one-to-many sales videos to send to leads.
- Produce marketing videos where your sales team demos a product.
- Give a video behind-the-scenes tour.
- Create blog posts and other content that can answer FAQs on behalf of your sales team.
You’ll also want to pay attention to your social media:
- Get your employees involved in sharing your content on their social media channels.
- Research and make connections with thought leaders, companies in your industry or related industries, and customers.
- Join the conversation already in progress in your industry. Use the hashtags they use. Ask them if they would like to collaborate on content with you.
- Give value to your customers. Don’t simply post without giving something in return. Interact with them!
- If you don’t have much time to devote to your social media, you’re better off skipping it until you have the time. A scattershot effort will be a wasted effort and not deliver the results you want.
Activities That Drive Results
We reached out to Ali Barsamian, the vice president of marketing for VertexOne, an integrated SaaS solution for utilities, for some advice on building a sales pipeline.
It may be hard to drive results when you’re a newcomer to an industry where your competitors have been around for a while. People are less likely to trust a newcomer that hasn’t proven themselves. Two things that can help a company push through this are:
- Thought leadership: VertexOne does a webinar series on a quarterly basis where they bring in thought leaders to speak to a variety of industry topics. While VertexOne has some role in topic selection, this is not a self-promotional event. The webinars are promoted through third-party registration all over the internet. VertexOne gets relevant companies to refer to them. They get form completion data and generate reports for the sales team to follow up on. This helps get leads to turn into pipeline opportunities for lightning-quick ROI.
- Create content for third parties: VertexOne does a lot of blog and whitepaper writing. They try to get these published on a variety of industry-related websites. Their ideal buyers are already on these sites to get education. This content links back to VertexOne’s site, where they track new leads that come in.
What’s Next for Webinars?
Webinars were all the rage at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, virtual conference fatigue has led to decreased attendance.
VertexOne is pivoting to attract more people to their virtual events. This involves creating shorter webinars to make the events more palatable for an industry that is already fatigued.
When Will Inbound Tactics Affect the Sales Pipeline?
VertexOne is in a slow-moving industry, with a sales cycle of 12 to 18 months. While some inbound efforts can bring some immediate results, sales-qualified leads may not show for 3 months. In this time, VertexOne builds the customer journey -- making customers aware of VertexOne’s services, educating them, and getting customers to trust them.
Getting Buy-In From Legacy Salespeople
Inbound marketing can be a tough sell for sales teams trained in old techniques. Without education, legacy salespeople may see inbound leads as less valuable. You can make getting buy-in easier by:
- Educating the sales team on why content that attracts inbound leads is important.
- Show sales how specific content creates value for leads and how to follow up with leads effectively.
- Make sure everyone has clarity on the buyer’s journey and how you plan your content around this.
- Build trust and collaboration between marketing and sales.
Let Inbound Strategy Do Its Thing
Inbound marketing can work for most businesses to help support their sales pipeline, drive new leads, and have more sales conversations. But it does take an investment of time and money to work, whether you do it in-house or with an agency. Let the strategy run its course, but be agile and adjust based on the data.
Also, make sure you have data for everything you do. Consult with inbound marketing experts. This doesn’t have to be a long partnership, but outside opinions may show you a path to success you didn’t know existed. You may be able to avoid some pitfalls you fell into during your last inbound marketing efforts.
Looking for Lead-Generation Tips?
Do you still have questions about how inbound marketing can help build your sales pipeline? We have a resource for you:
Looking For a Deeper Dive?
For a deeper dive into the topic, watch the video version of this article above. Josh Curcio, COO and partner at protocol 80 (and self-proclaimed HubSpot expert), and Holly McCully, inbound marketing consultant at p80 (and niche inbound strategy expert), talk about how inbound marketing can build your sales pipeline.
They talk with Ali Barsamian, the vice president of marketing for VertexOne, an integrated SaaS solution for utilities. Ali shares her thoughts on how to improve sales pipelines.