Inbound marketing has become a staple ingredient in many a successful marketing plan, and rightly so. There's not much to dislike about this process - it can be extremely efficient, cost effective, credible and ultimately super-successful if done correctly.
However, there is one important point that I think gets overlooked a lot:
Inbound marketing excels at generating leads, not deals. It's an excellent foot in the door, but no more than that
Therefore, although it's important to have an effective inbound marketing strategy in place - it's an excellent way of generating leads after all - I think it's important to also understand that it's part of a wider whole - there are many other factors to take into consideration when we look at actually closing deals and bringing on new customers for our business.
First, you need to be able to clearly convey your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) to your prospect - in person. When your prospect is dealing with half a dozen or more prospective suppliers, you'll want to make yourself stand out from the rest of the pack by having a clearly defined and understandable USP.
"And even today, there is no better way of winning a customer than being able to convince them that you are the right person for the job - face to face or even over the phone."
To get a better idea on how you can do this, please have a look at this post. It talks about how you can clearly define your USP and give your target market exactly what they need in more detail.
"After all, the chances are that your competitors are also attracting good quality inbound leads and that the leads will be talking to multiple possible providers."
How are you going to be able to persuade them to come on board with you? Well, I'd say that having a good grasp of fundamental sales skills is a good place to start.
Learning a bit more about how you can handle objections, use questioning techniques and so forth can really help you when it comes to actually trying to bring customers on board. You can read more about how to do this here.
Most Importantly, It's All About The Quality And Timing Of Your Response
Now this is really important. Let's say that your inbound marketing process has done it's job and you have a lot of leads coming through your landing pages, lead scoring work and so forth. That's all well and good, although the way you handle them will define how successful you are in terms of bringing new customers onto your books.
It's all about how you respond to these leads. Here are a few figures taken from the Harvard Business Review site. In a survey of 2241 US-based companies (referenced below), they came up with the following results:
- 37% responded to their lead within one hour
- 16% responded within one to twenty four hours
- 24% took more than 24 hours
- 23% never responded at all
- The average response time (from companies who responded within 30 days) was 42 hours
- Companies that contacted the lead within one hour of enquiry were nearly 60 times more likely to convert than companies that waited 24 hours or longer
"So, as you can see, it's really important that your business isn't one of the companies above that is slow to respond - your chances of conversion are much, much better if you are quick to respond."
You might find this post useful, which explains how you can respond perfectly to an inbound lead (via email).
A important point
Although I am saying that inbound marketing is essentially a good lead generator and that you have to take care of the points above to actually make a sale or close a deal, I want to stress the following point.
The fact is that nowadays, customers will have completed the vast majority of their decision making before they even talk to their short-list of preferred suppliers. While that means that the point above - especially the first and second - are crucial to get right, it also means that;
"A good inbound marketing campaign can go a long way in setting you up as a preferred parter."
It does this because good inbound marketing campaigns:
- Generate trust and goodwill
- Educate and inform your prospects
- 'Catch' prospects at the right time
Therefore, it's crucial to have an inbound campaign working for you - as I said above, it's a great first foot in the door.
- You also still need to be able to sell - just because you have the lead and they understand your USP, you're not guaranteed to win the business. Having a good handle on basic sales skills will help you here
You need to be able to achieve the above quickly - leaving it for more than an hour before responding will severely hamper your chances of conversion. You need to be able to get on the phone and respond as per the first two bullet points above quickly
"In short, a great inbound marketing campaign will do nothing for your service based business if your follow up process is lacking - I think it's really that simple."
Hopefully you've found this post useful - if you have any questions about it, drop me a line and I'll do my best to help.
Also, you can get to the Harvard Business Review info I mentioned above here.
Thanks for reading,
By Alan MacDougall
Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.
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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.