Is Inbound Marketing Right for You? (5 Questions to Ask)
June 21, 2016
By Amber Kemmis
Inbound marketing has grown significantly in recent years. As an inbound marketing consultant, I’ve seen a lot of companies and marketers jump on the bandwagon, which is extremely exciting, but I must be completely honest -- not all those who try it succeed. Just as traditional or outbound marketing doesn’t always yield success for all companies or campaigns, inbound marketing doesn’t work for all, either.
Whether you are in construction, in healthcare, or have a eLearning app -- whatever you do or industry your company is in -- there are common reasons that inbound marketing is a great fit and will provide the ROI you expect. But there are also reasons why inbound marketing isn’t the right move for you. So, what is it that makes a company a good fit for inbound marketing? To understand this, let’s first take a quick review of what inbound marketing is.
What Is Inbound Marketing and Its Benefit?
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting customers to your website by providing valuable content and making the company easily findable through online channels such as search engines, social media, email, and even paid channels. Inbound marketing utilizes a variety of tactics and tools, but all of these things have a common goal to provide prospective customers with content or an experience they’ll enjoy or find useful enough to seek it out on their own.
In comparison to outbound marketing, inbound marketing, when it's the right fit and executed properly, helps to gain higher marketing ROI, better educates prospects to reduce friction and time spent in the sales process, and ultimately provides a better customer experience. But as great as inbound marketing sounds, it won’t work for all companies. Asking the following questions will help you to know if inbound marketing isn’t the right fit for your company.
1. Are customers (influenced) online?
Over 80 percent of shoppers, according to Adweek, research online before making a purchase, and a survey from Braxton revealed that 94 percent of B2B buyers, specifically, also research online when purchasing. In a world that’s connected through digital, it’s inevitable that most customers will research their purchases online at some point. But, statistics don’t always reveal the whole picture. In this case, there’s a lot that can happen between researching online and actually purchasing. This is especially true in the B2B space, where several factors come into play such as a long buying cycle in which months of offline and somewhat uncontrollable influences could impact the buying decision; instances when the person researching online may not even be the decision maker; and cases in which networking and industry influencers may have a bigger impact in a purchase following face-to-face interaction such as a tradeshow.
Word of mouth is still, even in today’s digital world, the most influential element on a buying decision. So, if your company has a buying process that is more complicated and goes beyond online research, you may not see success with inbound if you can’t intertwine the strategy with key influencers or factors of the buying process that are offline.
2. Is the whole team on board?
Unfortunately, this is probably the No. 1 reason inbound marketing doesn’t work. If your company is at all torn on the idea of inbound marketing or isn’t completely aware of what is required to make inbound a success, it probably isn’t right for you. Inbound marketing requires the minds and efforts of several people throughout the organization. For example, if you offer consulting and advisory in engineering, you’ll likely need consultants to commit some time to developing content because they are the experts. Like with other company initiatives, you’ll also need the support of the entire executive team, from finance to sales and regulatory.
Before you jump on board to inbound, consider who at your company will need to be involved and determine how much of their time and effort you will need from them. You can help to answer this question by first determining the goals you want to reach with inbound marketing. Then, work backward using existing website performance metrics, an inbound assessment, and industry marketing growth rates to determine the activities, resources, and people needed to make inbound a success. Inbound marketing certainly isn’t something that can be successful within the marketing department alone, so you have to consider early on what and who you’ll need in terms of resources.
3. Do you have the money to invest in inbound?
Although marketers have reported that inbound marketing’s cost per lead is 61 percent less than outbound, this doesn’t mean that the upfront investment of inbound marketing is lower than outbound. The cost of inbound, as indicated in the last section, will depend on your revenue goals. Regardless of the exact amount it will take to make inbound marketing successful, your company should expect to invest a good amount of your marketing budget to see effective results with inbound.
4. Do you need a miracle overnight?
If desperate times call for desperate measures, inbound marketing isn’t the measure you want to take when you need results fast. Although some activities such as paid campaigns help you to see inbound ROI sooner, you shouldn’t bank on fast results if you need an overnight miracle. Yes, inbound marketing can help to grow leads and customers, but it isn’t an overnight type of thing. It requires a lot of time and effort in great content, a well-optimized website, and a search engine strategy, just to name a few strategies. All of these things take a bit of time, but long-term, sustainable results make having patience worth the ROI.
5. Can you provide content that prospects will appreciate?
There are more than 2 million blogs written per day. As more and more companies subscribe to inbound marketing or digital marketing in general, the amount of blogs and content will grow even more, which means that your company can quickly go from the one and only source in the industry to one of many. Your company must be able to provide insights and expertise that prospective buyers can’t get anywhere else. It isn’t enough to have content ⎼ that content has to be really good.
Depending on your company, industry, and competition, providing really good content may mean that you have to be innovative, cutting-edge, and well ahead of the curve. For example, if your company sells a product in an industry that hasn't changed in decades and it’s literally all been said before online, you may not have much opportunity to create content that will be valuable to prospects. At the end of the day, you just have to ask yourself, “Can I provide valuable content that prospects will appreciate and need?”
Inbound marketing is extremely effective for most companies. It does, however, require that your company is completely aware and ready for what is necessary to make inbound a success. The results of inbound marketing are promising, but don’t let that blind you. Your company needs to weigh the questions above before jumping into an inbound marketing strategy.
About the author
Amber Kemmis was formerly the VP of Client Services at SmartBug Media. Having a psychology background in the marketing world has its perks, especially with inbound marketing. My past studies in human behavior and psychology have led me to strongly believe that traditional ad marketing only turns prospects away, and advertising spend never puts the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Thus, resulting in wasted marketing efforts and investment. I'm determined to help each and every one of our clients attract and retain new customers in a delightful and helpful way that leads to sustainable revenue growth. Read more articles by Amber Kemmis.