As a HubSpot Platinum-level partner, we get this question pretty often. There are plenty of facts and figures that make the case for Inbound marketing for complex industries, but maybe you still question whether it can bring results for your complex industry and business model. Chances are, however, what you really want answers to is:
Can inbound marketing really generate quality leads for my industry?
What’s the anticipated ROI of Inbound, and how fast will I see it?
If it’s such a good idea, why aren’t more competitors doing it?
Bottom line… will it help our bottom line?
If you find your head nodding yes in agreement when you read through the following nine characteristics, you’ll likely experience the many benefits of Inbound marketing.
1. You sell a highly considered purchase
A pack of gum is not a highly considered purchase. A warehouse conveyor system, a compensation study or an emergency response vehicle, on the other hand, are. When it comes to complex B2B industries, it takes a lot of research to make the right purchase decision, and being wrong has serious ramifications.
Good indicators of considered purchases can include the sticker price, the process businesses or individuals develop to support the purchase, and the levels of approval required before it can be finalized.
2. You’re already spending big money on lead generation
Businesses that depend on lots of sales funnel activity because they primarily do project work — or their industry has high customer turnover — often rely on expensive lead generation services that simply pummel a bunch of cold prospects. However, Inbound has a much higher ROI than traditional outbound marketing methods like direct mail, trade shows, and cold calling.
If you know you’re not getting what you need from your old-school marketing efforts, just working harder won’t change your results. You’ll need to conduct an honest assessment of your existing efforts compared to what’s possible with inbound. If you choose to work with an inbound agency, they should help you with this marketing assessment as part of the discovery process so you can determine whether it will bring the results you’re looking for.
3. You have a significant average customer lifetime value
Justifying the amount you invest to attract new customers begins with understanding the true customer lifetime value (CLV). It’s at the heart of a true ROI analysis. Most businesses focus on a new customer’s initial transaction or Year 1 revenues that resulted from their inbound efforts. They’re often surprised, however, when they compare that to their CLV and how much revenue was generated over time. We believe people make better spending decisions when they understand what they’re actually getting with a new customer acquisition.
4. You rely heavily on RFPs
Businesses that rely on requests to provide formal proposals (contractors, original equipment manufacturers, supply chain vendors, consultants, etc.) know that getting on the short lists of companies issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) is the biggest challenge. Companies using RFPs to make important purchases often rely on search to update their lists of potential approved vendors. Inbound marketing can drastically improve search engine results page (SERP) rankings and targeted visibility.
5. You have a meaningful point of difference
To create content that will attract qualified traffic, a business has to possess a real competitive advantage that is relevant and compelling to their target audience. You need to provide something in your product or delivery that reflects greater value to customers, compared to most alternatives.
Your competitive advantage is an important part of your content strategy, but resist the urge to tell everyone how great your company is. Being genuine and transparent about what your business can do for others is refreshing in today’s marketplace and builds credibility. The primary goal is to be helpful to prospects by addressing their pain points and providing solutions. Nothing turns them off faster than an overly zealous sales pitch.
6. You’re willing to hear some hard truths
Okay, so you know your company’s strengths and competitive advantage. But are you and others willing and able to be transparent and honest about the things you don’t do so well?
That kind of admission can do wonders for building credibility and trust, by showing you’re comfortable being completely honest about your place in the world — warts and all.
Knowing and embracing these truths helps inform your decisions and serves as a way to qualify who you’re best suited to serve as you build your buyer personas and strategy. If you explore working with an inbound marketing agency, pay careful attention to their approach. Are they willing to press in and challenge you in this area to help you solidify your position in the marketplace and who to target, or do they only tell you what you want to hear? Transparency needs to go both ways.
7. Your sales don’t have geographic boundaries
Specialty manufacturers and technology providers have long recognized that they have potential customers around the world. If you sell the best industrial dryers, functional ingredients, or methane digesters on the planet, your market should be the whole planet, and inbound marketing makes you visible to potential buyers in every corner of the world (basically, any Internet user) while still allowing you to target specific regions when necessary.
8. You’re ready for a culture shift
Becoming an effective inbound organization is a major shift in how you think about and market your business, and this requires leadership to champion your efforts and encourage the team. Inbound is something you consider carefully, deeply, and with rigorous due diligence. And then when you decide it makes complete sense for your business, commit completely and dedicate your entire team to making it work.
Any departmental divides over whether your company should implement an inbound strategy must be overcome before you can move forward. For example, if sales doesn’t understand the value of inbound marketing, they’ll likely be unwilling to engage and follow up with leads to close the deal. That’s why creating a sales and marketing service level agreement within your organization is essential. With an aligned commitment comes the kinds of results that can change the course of your business. Without commitment, you’re just wasting your time and money.
9. You understand that results won’t happen overnight
Inbound is not something you try for 3 months to see if it works; it’s something you commit to and dedicate your team to. When you have that mindset and the insight to see how and why it works, you’ll get the results that will absolutely change the trajectory of your business. Consider that a typical industrial sales cycle may take months or even years. Likewise, it may take time to build your sales pipeline and see results.
Inbound marketing is not a quick fix; it’s a long-term strategy. Anything that truly has staying power and impacts business for years to come will take hard work, commitment, teamwork, time and, yes, an investment. Pursuing an inbound strategy can’t be viewed as a trial run; steady wins the race.
If much of the above criteria resonates with you and your business model, then you may be a prime candidate for the improved performance that inbound can deliver. If you’re ready to explore what it takes to implement an inbound marketing strategy, check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing below, and reach out to us to explore how we can help grow your business.
Posted by Greg Linnemanstons With 18+ years in senior management roles at Fortune 500® and medium-sized companies, Greg has deep marketing and sales experience with CPGs and manufacturing. He leads strategic initiatives with clients and is involved in developing client inbound marketing plans. Greg holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from Lawrence University.