How can inbound marketing increase sales?

02.10.17

by Thomas Emmerson

How can sales and inbound marketing work together to generate sales?

Sales teams the world over are hungry for leads. Your business may be looking to the marketing team to create these leads. And aside from bringing in a lead generation agency to help, you may need to look towards a new approach to keep your sales team happy.

Inbound marketing closely aligns the strengths of good marketing, with the needs of a hungry sales team better than most marketing practices. The secret sauce isn't in some new software, or by doing something completely revolutionary. Instead the success of inbound marketing lies in re-aligning the work you're already doing, and saying no to the stuff that simply doesn't work.

The stats are pretty staggering to support this.

38% of sales people say they struggle with prospecting. And whereas a good proportion of getting new business can be attributed to sales, shouldn't marketing also be focused on bringing in new opportunities?

This isn't being helped by traditional marketing. Stats show that 59% of marketers say they provide salespeople with very high-quality leads, but only 25% of salespeople agree.

So why the disconnect?

inbound marketing increases sales

Inbound marketing (especially HubSpot) uses a massively cheesy, but highly appropriate term called 'smarketing' to look at how sales and marketing should work together. A term that is a portmanteau of sales and marketing, to show how closely they should operate. Whereas the word is slightly cringe, the fact it was created at all goes some way in showing how the two have been separate for too long.

Even a great marketing team can struggle to prove their efforts in generating sales. Google Analytics only tracks online activity, so everything up until hitting 'submit' on the enquiry form is covered. But discovering if it was a good quality lead or how much it closed for, are all hollow questions.

So how can inbound marketing help?

Inbound marketing cares about these points. If a campaign generated sales, an inbound marketer needs to know so the success elements can be repeated. If an email generated an ideal opportunity, an inbound marketer wants to repeat that process.

Inbound marketing starts with the customer in mind, by creating highly targeted campaigns that nurture them down the marketing funnel. But at the end of that funnel is a sales person. And the success of the campaign relies on that sales person having enough good leads, and good information on those leads to close the deal.

We've covered the difference between inbound and outbound marketing before so I won't dive into too much detail here. However the core difference from a results point of view is this: outbound marketing relies on volume to increase sales. This means the more people you reach, the more sales you're likely to get.

Inbound marketing differs in that campaigns aren't always focused on increasing volume, they might actually bring in fewer enquiries. The success of some campaigns lie in the quality of the leads they bring.

Once quality has been obtained, then it becomes possible to bring in greater volumes of that quality of leads. Once an inbound marketer knows what works, it becomes easier for them to scale their activity accordingly and laser-focus on the right types of people. They can even build assets that help the wrong types of people self-select out, thus freeing up the time of a salesperson that had previously been the filter of good and bad leads.

Skeptics will wonder what makes inbound so key to this approach. Surely being customer-centric in your marketing is just common sense? The thing about common sense is that it's not all that common.

In reality businesses' are target-centric, strategy-centric and sales-centric. Money keeps them alive so that becomes the focus. Money enables them to create interesting products, develop good marketing, and invest in systems and processes. But because money, targets and sales are the focus, everything must first support them.

Products are developed because customers asked for them, so they're the easiest to sell. Markets are serviced because they are low-cost and require little investment, meaning margins are higher and targets are hit. Strategy dictates that a business steers clear of a major competitor, or shores up its existing position, so systems are put in place to conserve market share.

The only problem with taking this approach is that it is short-sighted and, ultimately, selfish. The business focuses on their goals and simply sees the customer as a mechanism for achieving those goals. Marketing becomes guilty by association because it supports sales until a good sales month means there's surplus cash to invest in something marketing has needed for a while (most likely a new website).

29% of marketers say their top priority over the next 12 months is sales enablement.

Businesses start to look at marketing in the same way. Which avenues are the lowest cost with the largest reach and are easily repeatable? Print marketing, out of home, and radio are often invested in by small to medium-sized businesses because anything else would take time, effort and resources that would be a distraction from selling. A print ad is a one-off cost for design that can be run and run and run - sitting in the background 'marketing' the business, while leads *hopefully* trickle in.

Radio is the same as often the media company will create the advert and recommend slots based on the demographics you're trying to target. Did it work? Who knows.

32% of marketers believe print, outdoor and broadcast advertising to be the most overrated marketing tactics.

This ineffectiveness behind relying on those channels purely for marketing has been highlighted in a previous article that showed the decline of the above advertising options, to be replaced by online paid advertising.

 

Only 11% of marketers believe online paid advertising to be overrated as a marketing tactic.

Part of the reason for this shift is that marketers have more tools than ever before to create campaigns that are measurable, direct and efficient. The measure of success? Sales.

However the approach has to be different. Marketing enables sales to get better leads, find hotter prospects and create new opportunities. This is a shift from the current thinking where sales does all the above, and marketing creates brochures that support sales.

What does this look like?

inbound marketing funnel

Couple the above with a thorough understanding of who your customers are, and the buying journey they go on and you're suddenly able to attract more of the best customers.

Not sure where to start when creating your buyer personas? Download our free guide to begin the journey in aligning your sales and marketing efforts for your customers.

 Download the free guide to creating your buyer personas

 

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