Back in 2013, I was the marketing manager at a small manufacturing company. One of my responsibilities was lead generation. Soon after taking the position, I realized the lead generation approach in place was not yielding results. I made it my mission to find a better way.
That mission led me to inbound marketing and I have never looked back. My marketing passion was reignited. I couldn’t read enough about it and was very anxious to start implementing the tactics. After all, we needed leads and we needed them now.
That’s where the horse enters this story...you know, the one that always has the cart put before it?
It is easy to get excited about the results that are possible when implementing an inbound approach. More leads, measurable results, happy leadership...the list goes on. But inbound marketing isn’t something you can just implement. There is work that needs to be done on the front end to ensure you are able to generate more leads, provide measurable results and make leadership happy.
If you fail to complete that work and build a strong foundation, the likelihood of success diminishes greatly. I learned that lesson first hand.
So, even though you’re excited to get started, make sure these things are in place before you begin.
1. Develop Clear Buyer Personas
Think of it this way, the fuel that powers inbound marketing is content. If your content doesn’t resonate with your target audience, the chances it will be effective are slim at best.
If you don’t have buyer personas in place, start by identifying their demographics...title, age, male/female, level of education, years of experience, etc. Then, move on to the data that will help shape your content.
- What problems are they facing?
- How do they spend their days?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What does success look like for them?
- What questions are they asking that relate to your product or service?
- Where do they go to learn or find information?
- What motivates them?
- What events would spur them to change the status quo?
Once you’ve compiled this information, you have a starting point. Use what you’ve learned to shape your blog editorial and premium content calendars. It will also impact your lead nurturing programs, email marketing and social media campaigns.
Moving forward, keep in mind that buyer personas are not meant to be created and put on a shelf. As you learn more about your prospects and begin to create content, you may learn that some of your assumptions aren’t exactly right, and that’s okay. The key is to always be learning and adjusting as necessary.
2. Get Sales and Leadership Teams On Board
This was my biggest hurdle. While I was super excited and 100% on board with taking an inbound approach, no one else was. They didn’t really understand what inbound marketing was and there’s always some reluctance to anything “new.” This made it really hard for me to make progress. I ultimately found myself starting and stopping and not really going anywhere.
Keeping the need for better lead generation at the center of every conversation, I was finally able to convince the director of sales that he needed to learn more. By continuing to keep the focus on the results, the sales team and leadership started to take an interest.
In the end, it took an inbound agency (Weidert Group) to fully convince leadership that inbound was worth the investment in technology, content and people.
Before you can successfully implement an inbound approach, make sure everyone is on board.
3. Create Alignment
Since the beginning of sales and marketing time, there has been a disconnect. Sales doesn’t like marketing, marketing doesn’t like sales. In many organizations, the two teams operate in silos instead of working together toward the same goal.
For an inbound marketing approach to be effective, that has to change. Sales and marketing teams need to work together and rely on one another to achieve success.
A clearly defined service level agreement or SLA can help bring that alignment to your team.
Part one of your SLA should include lead definitions. Specific definitions for qualified leads, marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads should be spelled out so there are no questions.
In conjunction with the definitions should be defined goals. Work backwards from your revenue goals to determine the number of each type of lead you need to reach those goals.
From there, determine when and how handoffs occur. When an inbound lead comes in, where does it go? Depending on the structure of your team, define what happens to each type of lead. Also determine how each lead is managed. For example, how many emails and calls do they receive over what time frame?
Metrics also need to be identified, agreed upon and reviewed on a regular basis. Without alignment, an inbound marketing approach will yield little success.
Containing your inbound marketing excitement can be a challenge. Before you create your first call-to-action (CTA) or publish your first blog post, make sure you build a strong foundation.