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How to Sell Inbound Marketing to Your CEO

how to sell inbound marketing to ceo - board meeting

This is a 300-level blog post. If you need a rundown of Inbound Marketing 101, click here for a quick overview.

"Digital marketing ... is it worth it?"

CEOs can be like old grizzly bears fresh out of hibernation: big, scary, out of touch, and difficult to convince not to eat you.

But now you’re convincing them of something new and exciting. You want them to adopt inbound marketing as the company’s primary B2B marketing strategy.

To understand how to sell inbound marketing to your CEO, you must learn the primary tenet of inbound itself: sell it in a way that makes them want to buy in.

That means we’ll be focusing on three selling points:

  • Making their life as easy as possible
  • Why they need it -– benefits for them/the company
  • What they need to implement it

Let’s get started.

Interested in generating more leads for your website? Download the 30 Greatest B2B Lead Generation Tips, Tricks, and Ideas.

How to Sell Inbound Marketing: Getting Prepped

One of the "pleasures" of being a cog in the corporate machine is doing the busywork.

This is no different. Gather supporting stats, write a proposal, back yourself up with as much knowledge as possible.

Detail what will be needed for execution. This includes what kind of talent you’ll need, at least a basic strategy, a budget outline, and necessary tools.

Inbound marketing covers a lot of bases -– you may need a graphic designer, a writer, a manager, a social media expert, an SEO (search engine optimization) guy, and a coffee slave. Depending on the size of your company, you might need more or fewer people than that.

Familiarize yourself with common resources and tools – the biggest CMS, CRMs, and SEO tools are good places to start.

A large amount of prep work is necessary if you want your CEO to take your idea seriously. Here’s why.

  • It shows you’re serious about your proposal. Why should your CEO care if you couldn’t even bother to print out a page of stats? Do the legwork – show you’re willing to do what it takes to push your idea through.

  • You look more prepared, and you are more prepared. Your CEO will have some tough questions about inbound marketing. This is going to be a big marketing change. You have to be ready to put your money where your mouth is.

  • They’ll appreciate that all the info is laid out for them. “Man, this employee is great! They’ve done all the work for me! I’m giving them a $10/hr raise and donuts every morning!”

Maybe they won’t be thinking that exactly, but you’ll definitely earn some exec points for taking that weight off their shoulders.

Of course your CEO will be doing their own research and outlining their own plans after you leave. That doesn’t mean your prep work is useless.

What They Care About

A CEO is naturally going to have different priorities than a marketer.

To get them to care about inbound marketing, appeal to the things they already care about.

Inbound Marketing ROI Statistics

Inbound marketing can be 10X more effective for lead conversion than outbound. (99firms)

Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional marketing. (HubSpot)

Most business see their ROI soar when they switch to inbound marketing. Spending less money to get more customers means more money for your CEO, more money for the company, and ultimately (hopefully) more money for you.


Some of the big KPIs include cost per lead, organic search traffic, and customer acquisition cost.

Inbound marketing’s cost per lead and customer acquisition cost is significantly lower than outbound’s.

See the statistic above, and the fact that businesses save $20k/year on average by investing more in inbound vs. outbound marketing -- B2Bs included.

One of the major reasons inbound marketing exists is to drive more organic search traffic to websites. All inbound marketing components (SEO, PPC aka pay-per-click advertising, blogging, content marketing, etc.) contribute to your search engine rankings.

The better your rankings, the more organic search traffic you’ll get.

Click here to request a free marketing assessment

Leads and Conversions

Inbound marketing produces more leads and conversions at a lower cost. (Remember: $20k/year on average.)

It works by providing information and education that actually matters to your website’s visitor.

If your website can speak to its visitors’ goals, frustrations, and motivations, that visitor is more likely to trust you and give you their contact information …

And come back to you when it’s time to purchase.

Brand Awareness

Of course, brand awareness is always a major marketing goal. Awareness matters a lot to your CEO, as well. (More exposure ultimately means more sales, after all.)

Aside from increased sales, brand awareness also contributes to equity, customer loyalty, retargeting, and it affects KPIs (lower customer acquisition costs).

Inbound marketing increases awareness by putting your brand where buyers are looking. That means a good social media presence, activity on forums and Q&A sites, and making your website a font of knowledge that spills out onto the web.

All of that contributes to your overall B2B inbound marketing strategy.


Not only can inbound give you an exposure boost; it can also impact your online reputation.

As your CEO may know, it’s incredibly easy to acquire a negative reputation, particularly on social media. An angry review and a few unresponsive minutes can completely crash and burn your brand. (Just ask these companies who had unforeseen crises on social media.)

Not to mention, you can quickly build a reputation for being an annoying seller by putting pop ups and banner ads on any site that will have you.

Inbound avoids the annoying interruption marketing, at the very least. It can’t do much about bad employees or hackers, but it can give you the experience to handle an online emergency when one pops up.

how to sell inbound marketing to ceo - businesswoman with big ruler


Can you guess what CEOs love?

If you said “marketing reports,” you were right! (We would also accept "analytics," "data," "measurements," and other related terms as correct answers. A+.)

CEOs value being able to show results to investors, their boards, and other important entities. The good news is: Inbound marketing is chock full of measurable information.

The results of SEO and PPC marketing campaigns, social media efforts, blog posts, and more are easy to acquire and distribute.

And you can view all kinds of metrics – website traffic, conversion rates, impressions, sales, pageviews, link clicks, and more. If there’s a piece of data you want, you can get it.

Business Growth

Inbound marketing can help you grow your business.

Everything we mentioned above -– SEO, PPC, blogging, and more -– attracts visitors, buyers, and influencers.

Growing your business requires some hard work, sweat, and getting the planets to align. All you need is the right person to see your site at the right time.

That’s why inbound marketing emphasizes getting the right content to the right people in the right place at the right time. Inbound is your planetary alignment — if you put the pieces together correctly, serendipity will strike. That's not to say you need to consult an astrologer to get ROI from your marketing. Inbound is heavily driven by data and research, all centered around a well thought-out buyer persona.

Impact of Affordable Inbound Marketing on Bottom Line & Company Goals

Put all of these things together. What do you get?

You get a major impact on your bottom line.

No matter what your CEO is trying to achieve -- more sales, more donations, more signups, more people – inbound marketing will take you there.

That’s one of the greatest things about inbound: no matter your goals, it can work for you.

Why You Need Inbound

70% of B2B decision makers are open to making remote or self-service purchases over $50,000. (McKinsey & Company)

53% of decision makers use search engines as one of their first resources to address problems/opportunities. (LinkedIn)

84% of 25-to-34-year-olds have left a favorite website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising. (HubSpot)

Let’s think about that last statistic for a second. The vast majority of Internet-savvy individuals will leave their favorite site because of intrusive advertising.

Let’s be real: your website is probably not even close to their favorite. Why would they stay on your site if your marketing is intrusive or irrelevant?

Spoiler alert: they won’t.

As for the other statistics, everybody is now online. We immediately turn to Google to research products that can fix our problems or fill a hole in our lives. We go through their buyer’s journey, in which we return to Google multiple times for more information.

Your website is more likely to show up on Google if you blog, optimize with keywords, and fill your site with high-quality content. You're more likely to gain social media followers and engagement if you post frequently, with relevant and useful information.

You have to show up in search, on social media, and start building a treasure trove of valuable content. And those are only three components of many in an effective online marketing strategy.

Why Does Inbound Marketing Work?

Inbound marketing reaches your best buyers where and when they want to be reached. That makes a huge difference in making a sale. If your target is already open to buying from you, all you need to do is be there. To learn more about targeting people who are likely to buy, download this beginner's guide to Buyer Personas.

You'll be doing none of that intrusive, interruptive, irrelevant advertising. You’ll be offering relevant, valuable, sought-after information to your best audience.

Of course, you’ll be working hard behind the scenes to make it look effortless. You’ll be putting those hours into blogging, social media, search, and more to make sure you show up when you need to.

Inbound marketing isn’t a quick or easy solution. It takes time to build, and money to pay the people to work and the tools to function.

Think of it like an apple tree: you have to plant the seed, water it, and nurture it over time to be able to eat the fruit. And, maybe some deer will try to eat it while it’s growing. Then you have dinner until the fruit is ripe.

The data, case studies, and testimonials don’t lie.

Inbound marketing is simply better for your company. At the end of all your research, your CEO should see it, too.

Be diligent in gathering your data and building your case. Doing that legwork can go a surprisingly long way in convincing the higher ups.

Go forth, be persuasive, and good luck.

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(Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2015 and was recently updated.)