Inbound marketing has gone from industry buzzword to well-established discipline, and for good reason. Inbound has changed the ways industrial companies present their products and services, use social networks, get found in online searches, nurture prospects, and stay connected with customers.
The HubSpot inbound methodology showcases three simple stages of inbound marketing. As your target progresses on their buyer journey, you build trust, credibility, and momentum. They move from prospects to customers and eventually, your brand promoters. Delighted customers fuel your business growth.
An inbound marketing plan can help you power up your lead generation engine and drive high-quality deals with the customers you want most.
So does that mean your B2B marketing plan should focus solely on digital techniques? Should you invest it all in web design and online tactics, and not bother with earned media, trade shows, and PR? Not so fast, marketing pro.
The results that complex industrial companies can achieve with inbound marketing can be downright amazing. But for some businesses, even greater power lies in creating synergies between traditional and inbound marketing tactics. Inbound leader HubSpot itself admits that traditional executions — in support of inbound — play an important part in its account-based marketing efforts.
We work with complex industrial clients in fields from equipment manufacturing to supply chain and logistics — industries that share long histories of relying on traditional strategies. Over the last decade+ we’ve helped dozens of industrial clients craft marketing strategies to carry them forward into the future with inbound. Here are some of the key conclusions we’ve arrived at in the process.
Transitioning from Traditional to Inbound Marketing Demands Patience
By now, few marketing departments have weathered industry’s changes without incorporating some digital marketing into their outbound marketing mix of print ads, trade shows, catalogs, brochures, and sell sheets. That doesn’t mean they’ve actually transitioned to an inbound approach, but they’re in a good place to start.
That’s because a quick way to launch a holistic transition toward inbound is to use your existing content as the basis for your fresh digital content. Break it out into user-friendly content pieces, optimize it for search engines, and promote it across channels to help your potential customers find it.
Read More: Inbound Marketing for Industrial Manufacturers
The fact is, it's often helpful to keep doing what you're doing while gradually introducing new inbound operations to your marketing efforts. Depending on your industry, trade publications and industry listings can be crucial to being found by new customers, so be sure to integrate those tactics into your plan. For example, link from trade publication listings and business directory websites to your key online content, like a website page that showcases your capabilities. Let those traditional tactics serve as distribution channels for your inbound content.
Organization-Wide Adoption is a Must, So Prepare for a Little Internal Friction
One issue that ocan arise when a company moves toward an inbound growth approach is that some part of the organization resists the change. A little empathy goes a long way here. Imagine how counterintuitive it feels, instead of brainstorming a trade show display, to be thinking about search terms and questions your prospects are asking on Google.
Consider the sales team that’s always been comfortable with cold calling and outbound sales.
An inbound program integrates and aligns sales and marketing teams around shared goals.
As an agency, we help teams work together and measure the effectiveness of what they’re doing collectively. We know that sometimes, a “sales pitch” for inbound lead generation is what it takes to bring a sales director on board.
We’ve also seen, when leadership recognizes the value of executive coaching in navigating transition, the switch is often smoother and more successful. But organizational buy-in makes a difference.
We’ve Made the Inbound Transition & Understand What it Takes
Many moons ago, Weidert Group, then a traditional marketing and advertising agency, went all-in with inbound marketing. We started with ourselves (no client wants to be a guinea pig). There were internal adjustments, but we rolled out a successful inbound plan, attracting more traffic to our website and converting leads into clients.
But before we could introduce inbound services to our clients, we knew we needed to get really good at it. We ironed out wrinkles, failed fast and upward, and figured out the most effective ways to get what we needed from our own inbound program. We learned:
- When and why to choose inbound over traditional methods
- What outbound tactics could be more effective when integrated into inbound
- How to educate and get teams on board with inbound marketing
- What resources you’ll need from your leadership, organization, and partners
- What to measure to ensure ongoing growth and success
- How frequently to blog and produce other content for optimal impact on website traffic
- Where different audiences participate in social media, and how to meaningfully engage with targets
- Hundreds of other experience-based insights, which all enhance our inbound services for clients
Tips for Making the Move to Inbound Easier
Gradually introducing inbound elements to your current marketing tactics can complement your traditional efforts, demonstrate the value of inbound, and clear a path forward. Imagine you’re a B2B specialty manufacturer about to sponsor a tradeshow. You’re ready to set up a booth and present new product collateral to showcase your capabilities. Here’s how you might add in some inbound thinking:
- Promote the show on your social media channels, industry forums, and online networking groups. Let them know what you’ll be up to at the show, and share your booth number.
- Send an email to contacts who are likely to attend. Encourage them to visit your booth. Include a link to downloadable content on your website, so those contacts can get a head start seeing what you have to offer.
- At your booth, create an opportunity for visitors to sign up via email to receive an advanced content piece, like a case study or cost-savings worksheet.
- Feature signage that promotes a key conversion offer on your website’s home page, or create a scannable QR code to take users directly to a landing page. It’s like an interactive billboard with an immediate reward.
- Create brand and/or product video to play at your booth, and add it to your website’s content library, too. Repurpose clips on social media, YouTube, etc. Think of it like a TV commercial you can put in people’s paths to get serious longevity and value.
- After your tradeshow, follow up with nurturing emails to your new contacts. Publish a wrap-up blog post — unlike a press release that expires on a wire service, it can live forever on your blog. Go ahead and connect with media outlets; just drive them to your website instead of an external press release.
Choosing the Right Agency to Help You Navigate a Change
Today, there are basically three types of agencies out there:
- Relative startups grounded in inbound marketing execution
- Traditional firms that evolved into inbound marketing agencies
- Bandwagon jumpers that know inbound is effective, but don’t put in the effort to plan and execute it correctly
How can you tell the difference? You’ll see it when reviewing strategic plans they create for clients.
New inbound startups and digital “dabblers” rarely have experience in all facets of inbound marketing. They may lack the deep experience in understanding target audiences, customer motivations and behaviors, or in aligning marketing and sales teams.
Mature agencies that evolved and grew into inbound agencies present plans that are rooted in the sales process. They understand that the ultimate end goal is generating and converting high quality leads — and that means helping buyers find what they’re looking for. It’s not about quick-fix, shiny objects; it’s about solid long-term strategy and guiding prospects through an effortless buyer’s journey.
There are lots of terrific agencies, both inbound-only and formerly-outbound, who work hard to execute a superior strategy and grow your business. But if you’re making an outbound-to-inbound transition, or you see an ongoing need for traditional tactics, be sure to ask about their breadth of marketing experience, their experience with companies transitioning to inbound, and how they work with marketing and sales teams.
Ask about proven successes, since these are key qualities you’ll rely on moving forward. And if you’re ready to do more than dip your toe into inbound marketing, be sure to check out our complete, step-by-step guide to getting started with your own inbound program. Just click the link below.