The term "inbound marketing" is getting a lot of play these days as B2B marketers grapple with labels and learning more about how marketing practices are evolving — including the dynamics of content marketing. I'm not getting into what all that means now, but invite you to be part of The Great Marketing Conversation, on January 24th, if you'd like to delve into the nuances. With Robert Rose, Mike Volpe, and Marcus Sheridan, we're bound to stir up quite a discussion.
What I do want to talk about in this post is what happens when your inbound content marketing works. Have you thought about it beyond the idea of getting prospects to come to you? Do you have a response plan? Is your sales team on board?
The whole point of inbound marketing is getting prospects to find and interact with your company. But it's what you do once you make that happen that can determine the success or failure of your contribution to revenues.
Here's the thing:
Generating inbound prospects who are more highly qualified and sales ready is the goal. But when you change the buying experience, you need to consider how the underlying processes on your side must change as well. Not just for marketing, but for sales.
What companies haven't yet quite grasped is that by changing the buying experience, they've also changed their buyers' expectations. And you can't stop those changes at the handoff and hope to be successful if your salespeople try to continue on in the way they've always done. It just doesn't work that way. This is where sales enablement needs to be orchestrated to keep the brakes off momentum.
Consider this scenario:
- You've worked really hard to understand your buyers and develop content focused on their needs, problems, goals and aspirations. (not your products)
- A prospect is following you on Twitter, visiting your blog and following the links you share socially.
- One day he goes online to search for specific information and comes across a search result for an eBook you published six months ago that they weren't aware of. So he visits your site and fills out the form to download it. He doesn't hesitate because his experience with your company has been great thus far.
- An inside sales rep sees the activity and calls the prospect to follow-up. Unfortunately, she starts off the conversation with a monologue about your company and products and tries to push the prospect into a demo.
- Your prospect extricates himself from the call and goes dormant.
Yes, this still happens. Happened to me just the other day from a company I thought knew better. And the account exec couldn't even tell me what I'd downloaded, just that they knew I'd downloaded something.
The problem is that all the work marketers do on the front end will be wasted if they don't create a response plan and enable sales (both inside and direct) to continue the dialogue without disappointing prospects.
Follow-up by inside sales is fine. But remember that they need to be able to have a business-relevant conversation with the prospect. Following up on a content download isn't a sales call, but a relationship building experience. The sales rep should be able to discuss the topic the prospect expressed interest in and offer additional content the person may find relevant. Along the way, the rep can subtly learn more about the buying stage the prospect is in.
Inside sales follow-up should be treated as a form of progressive profiling, unless there are buying indications that indicate it's time for escalation.
This means that marketers need to think beyond their lead generation strategy to create a response plan that coordinates with nurturing and how they'll enable sales to meet those expectations your brilliant content is setting. If you can't keep prospects engaged once they come to you, what's the point?
Things to think about include:
- The process in response to specific content downloads and lead gen offers
- What additional content offers relate to a download?
- What conversational prompts will be helpful to ensure relevant follow-up conversations?
- What questions need to be asked/answered to help you be more relevant as the relationship continues? Focus on need first, not budget.
- Should the reponse to a download be a call? Or should that download activity serve to trigger an auto reponse email to be sent with a related content offer?Or, perhaps it's indicative of which lead nurturing track the prospect will find most valuable.
The concept of inbound marketing is great. But the strategy must be planned beyond the "getting found" part to what comes next.