It’s no secret that buyer behavior has changed with the ease of information access we all enjoy through the internet. With a click of the mouse, we can get what we need to evaluate new products and services.
There’s no doubt that shifting some dollars to digital marketing that attracts key prospects is important. However, those who expect an inbound strategy alone to bring the right prospects to their doorsteps, ready to buy, too often miss their sales goals. I’ve seen too many business owners not only disappointed, but frankly perplexed when their inbound strategies fail to deliver the initial meetings and opportunities with senior level decision makers that they dreamed possible.
Let’s take a closer look at why this might be happening and what you can do about it.
One business owner I know created a robust inbound marketing campaign. You name it, he did it…wrote thought provoking blogs and white papers, hosted webinars, launched social media and SEO campaigns. He even commissioned research studies for additional content to support his efforts. He became a recognized thought leader in his industry. He spent a lot of time and money to make this happen. Everyone in his company thought they had achieved success because of the large number of people who were interested in their content. In fact, at one point, 800 people were registered for one of his webinars. Yet, even with this swirl of activity, they didn’t close more sales and, worse, the sales they did close weren’t the kind of sales they wanted. His excitement quickly fizzled when he realized his sales numbers were not going to reflect the amount of time, money and effort he poured into the campaign.
What went wrong?
Well, it wasn’t the inbound program itself. His campaign achieved success in generating awareness of his business, solutions and position as a trustworthy leader in his industry. Creating market awareness is where inbound marketing can shine all on its own!
What went wrong was the business owner’s expectation of what an inbound program could achieve on its own. I’ll explain. If the goal of his program was only to generate awareness and interest, he succeeded. However, awareness was not his ultimate goal…it was just one step to it. His real goal was to leverage the awareness he generated to attract certain high level decision makers at Fortune 500 companies, engage them in one-on-one discussions and have them agree to initial meetings. He had the path to go from no awareness to awareness. There just wasn’t a path to take him from awareness to a secured meeting. Therefore, a critical piece of the process was missing.
Picture a bridge that successfully goes 3/4 of the way across the river. Without the missing 1/4 of the bridge, it’s impossible to get to the other side.
Here’s what he learned.
Upon a segmentation analysis of the hand raisers, he found that the ones who wanted to know more about his services weren’t the ones who had the authority to buy. Most likely, they were the ones assigned to “get more information.” The list of prospects generated from his campaign was filled with coordinators, managers and other industry people who just wanted to learn more. It was rare that any C-suite executives, SVPs or VPs were on the list. Yet, those were the people he needed to meet with in order to start the right kind of relationships for his business. Additionally, the meetings he had with the mid-level managers failed to produce the kind of sale he wanted because the discussion focused on mid-level manager issues, not enterprise issues.
Over the last year, I have heard too many business owners tell me similar stories about the same experiences. Many ended up canceling their inbound programs when canceling was not the answer. In fact, in doing so they actually solved the wrong problem and put a halt to the great results they were achieving with their inbound campaigns.
How can inbound marketing be leveraged to get the right high level meetings?
Here are some ideas:
1. Don’t waste time and money following up with the wrong people. Carefully review the hand raisers as well as the list of registrants who attend your webinars or download your white papers. Before reaching out to them, evaluate whether they meet your criteria for “A” level prospects. If you’re looking at a list of coordinators and managers, when you really need to meet with senior execs, here’s a thought for you. It’s likely the mid-level managers attended for a reason and someone much higher up in their organization has probably expressed a need. Even though the real decision maker didn’t engage with your content directly, you can assume the topic would be of interest to him/her. Pick up the phone and call (and email) that person. He/she is probably the one with money to spend and the authority to say “yes!”
2. Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish. Think about whom you want to attract and make sure your content is specifically targeted to what matters most to him/her. In the example above, the business owner knew he wanted to be a thought leader, but he didn’t define whom he wanted to be a thought leader amongst. The more specifically you define your target, the better chances you have in accomplishing your objective!
3. If your goal is to generate meetings with the right decision makers, your campaign must be designed to achieve it. Know what you need from your sales team before, during and after the campaign. Develop the right sales message for them to use so they’ll be in the best position to be successful. I’ve also seen many business owners opt to have their most junior sellers do the outreach around these campaigns. Scratch that! Who has the ability to have a successful live dialogue with a high-level decision maker and achieve the right outcome? Not the junior level sellers typically. Put your best hunters on it. If they don’t have time to do it right, you can outsource this part of the sales process to a company like ours which has only senior level Door Openers®. These are experienced business developers who can communicate what you do, why it matters and, most importantly, why the senior executives would benefit from meeting.
4. Personalized outreach MUST be part of the plan. All the technology and innovation in the world around lead generation CANNOT replace the power of picking up the phone and engaging your prospects on a one-to-one level. It’s important not to reduce your sales/marketing budget below your ability to truly capture the opportunities you generate with your campaign.
If the goal of your inbound marketing is to get meetings with the decision makers and companies you most want to do business with, be sure you have the straight Path To The Cash! ® If your initiative is missing the link between the hand raisers and those you want to meet, stop and identify the path that will get you to the results you want.