inbound marketingAre you tired of being badgered by sales people before you are ready to buy?

In some organizations, the primary role of marketing is simply to help sales make a deal.

How do you help them make a deal? You negotiate amazing offers like price reductions and special financing. You create flashy sales collateral. You book fancy events and cold call to get them appointments.

Now I’m NOT saying we should stop supporting sales or that we should stop helping them to close deals. And I’m not sure traditional marketing is dead, but it ain’t what it used to be. So here are some facts to help support a move to an Inbound Marketing strategy…

Recently the Corporate Executive Board’s Marketing Leadership Council released the results of a study they conducted among 1,900 B2B buyers. It found that on average customers are ready to speak to a sales person after they have completed 60% of the information gathering required for their purchasing process.

And before you say “not in my industry,” MLC states that there was very little variation across industries. They call 60 “the most important number in marketing” and they just might be right!

What does this mean for marketers? They suggest we invest in conversational channels like twitter and blogging and also look at customizing messages for various buyer “personas” like the ROI-minded, the risk-averse, the innovator and the buyer seeking a long-term relationship.

This is all music to my ears. I have been stating as often as I can that the customer is now fully in charge of the process. And I truly believe that putting customers first is the biggest challenges in marketing. But I really think this survey further highlights the need for an Inbound Marketing Strategy.

This recent post from written by MarketingSherpa‘s David Kirkpatrick covers Hubspot CEO (@bhalligan) Brian Halligan’s presentation “Killing It: How Inbound Marketing Can Help Your Company Crush the Competition.”

Brian’s main points:

  • The traditional marketing playbook is dead
  • (Inbound) Links are the new currency
  • We need to stop creating “offers” and create insights for our buyers
  • If we create insightful content and optimize it for SEO, then it will get shared…a lot
  • Personalization will drive higher conversion in the middle of the funnel
  • Hire people who are D.A.R.C. (Digital, Analytical, who understand how to achieve Reach, and create Content)
  • Crush the competition with better business results for less money spent on marketing
Then they followed it up with this further justification for Inbound Marketing where they pointed to Marketing Charts report of online shoppers. The study shows that 50% of shoppers spend 75% of their time doing online research.
So maybe MLC’s 60% number was conservative. And although this survey reflects consumers, I would argue that the buying process for B2B is more complex and lends itself even better to online research.
Additionally, the changes in this survey from 2010 to 2011 are profound. It would be hard to argue that the B2B process isn’t experiencing a similar transition to people doing more online research.

So what are the major takeaways?

I would start hiring the right people who understand the digital world, can analyze keywords and can create web optimized content. Then I would stop spending all my money on traditional push tactics and create a content strategy to maximize the inbound marketing potential.

But when I talk to many marketers about these changes and the implications for a need to shift our budgets to inbound marketing and towards a more holistic content strategy, I have to say most of them look at me like I’m crazy!!!  I think we have a long way to go…

What do you think?

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Vice President of Global Marketing for SAP where he leads content strategy and serves as the managing editor of the company’s award-winning Business Innovation thought leadership blog site. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

6 Comments

  1. kenny said…

    absolutely. Marketers and sales people have to invest in conversational marketing . However marketers need to also go beyond twitter and facebook. For example:In the space i focus on.

    IT technology buyers are simply not on facebook and twitter. Even if they are they do not spend much time on those platforms.

    IT marketers should go where the majority of their customers/prospects hang out and spend time. Allways on and stop trying to get people to register for whitepapers so sales can cold call them :)

    Great stuff as usual on your blog.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Hey Kenny, Appreciate the support as always. I do know plenty of IT buyers on Twitter and Facebook but I agree with your point that it is certainly not the primary research tool for everyone and we should be where they are with the content they want.

      Love the term “conversational marketing” too!

      Always on, Inbound, right content, right place is definitely the way to go…

  2. Shane G said…

    Thanks for the article, there was a lot of good food for thought. I also like the term “conversational marketing”. I understand trends may be shifting, however I truly still believe in the overwhelming power of personal greed. Therefore, in my opinion I think a tempting/free gift or offer is still going to carry a lot of weight.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Shane,

      Yes I think the power of a good offer will always be there. But I think we should start ceasing any push-based marketing of offers where the conversion rates are declining and opt-out rates are increasing.

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