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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Nov 14, 2016 9 min read

Which Comes First, Inbound Marketing Or Inbound Sales?

The Order Is Important If You Want Inbound Marketing Leads And Revenue From Inbound Sales

Inbound Marketing vs. Inbound SalesThe challenge is like the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, inbound marketing or inbound sales? You might imagine the answer is just as ambiguous as the answer regarding the chicken and the egg. However, I am prepared to help you make the decision for your company.

The answer has almost everything to do with you and your company, and almost nothing to do with any outside influences or standard practices. It comes down to evaluating your situation and making a solid decision that works for your company.

Here’s how to evaluate the order of inbound marketing and inbound sales at your company.

Evaluate Your Current Situation

To create a “get started” plan and help you make the decision around which comes first, inbound marketing or inbound sales, you’re going to have to evaluate your current situation. Are you closing a significant portion of your sales opportunities? If you’re honestly doing this, filling up the funnel might be the right first step. This means inbound marketing comes first.

Are you struggling to close the leads you have? If that’s the case, tightening up the bottom of the funnel makes sense before you start adding in a ton of new leads. In this scenario, inbound sales should come first. Now you’re shortening your sales cycle and closing more of what you have today. In these simple examples, you should be able to evaluate where your pain is most acute and apply inbound sales or inbound marketing depending on the pain.

Benefits Of Inbound Sales First

Deploying inbound sales first has a lot of advantages. It’s the approach I think most businesses should look at first before making a decision. What’s the point of adding more leads into your sales process if your sales process isn’t equipped to turn those leads into new customers?

Most businesses have some leads coming in, even if those leads are from outbound or interruptive marketing. Starting with inbound sales has a direct impact on all the leads your sales team is currently working on. It can have real revenue impact immediately. If you’re closing 50% of your sales opportunities and with inbound sales you can move that up to 70%, the result is real revenue.

If your sales process is currently 60 days and a redesigned inbound sales process can shorten that to 30 days, the impact is dramatic. You’ll likely double the amount of revenue and new customers because you’ll be closing new customers twice as fast.

It’s not likely that your prospects are referring business to you before they become customers, but with inbound sales that typically improves dramatically. Now your sales process is producing more leads. All these items could drive revenue up for your business in the first 30 to 60 days.

Benefits Of Inbound Marketing First

Most people choose to work on the marketing first. My theory around this is that it seems less risky and less disruptive to the status quo to start with marketing. In addition, no matter how dysfunctional your existing sales process, you’re probably closing some business. By moving more leads through your current funnel, revenue should also increase.

Keep in mind that inbound marketing has a longer runway to produce results. You need to plan it, build out assets, deploy those assets and then optimize the performance of the program. So, while this might seem like a lower risk, it is going to require a long-term perspective to see it through.

Deploying inbound marketing first does give you a chance to get this lead machine up and running before you disrupt your current sales team and sales process with changes that will impact many more people in your company. Once you’re getting more leads, now you tackle closing those leads more often and in a shorter time frame.

Benefits Of Doing Them Both At The Same Time

ThinkstockPhotos-614643896.jpgWhile this is a bigger project and a more significant undertaking, it’s probably the best and fastest way to see major results from inbound. By working with the sales and marketing teams at the same time, you can more seamlessly create the revenue team concept that produces the best results.

As you implement inbound marketing tactics, the sales team also installs inbound tactics, and the entire team works together to see how the prospect experience gets adjusted to deliver more new customers in a shorter time frame.

You get the benefit of improved close rates quickly and you get the increased lead flow at the time the sales team is starting to hit its stride around the new inbound sales process. This approach helps you produce the best results in the shortest time frame.

This also requires the highest level of investment as you fund the inbound marketing work and the inbound sales work at the same time. In our opinion, this fuels the ROI and accelerates the results. What might have taken 12 months could take as little as four to six months for full deployment.

Optimize Inbound Marketing And Inbound Sales

All inbound programs require optimization. Don’t expect to buy services, have them installed and then put them on autopilot. Both inbound marketing and inbound sales need months of adjustments, upgrades, modifications and configuration changes. What’s beautiful about both is all this optimization work is based on performance data, not guesses or opinions.

When we see emails are not working in the sales process, they get adjusted based on click-through and open rates. When we see landing pages underperforming, they get adjusted based on views and conversion rates. When we see your proposals failing to deliver a 95% close rate, we adjust the presentation, paperwork and conversations around that part of the process. The analysis, respond and act part of all inbound engagements is critical to success. Don’t move forward if you think this stage is missing from your effort.

You should be able to see from the information included here that there are no standard deployment best practices. We’ve seen inbound marketing work well as a precursor to inbound sales and inbound sales work well as a lead-in for inbound marketing. We’ve also seen them both deployed simultaneously to great success. In the end, it’s going to come down to you, your goals and your ability to swallow one or both.

As with any introduction or rollout of a new process and methodology, the planning and communication is key. This might include a companywide workshop or at least a review with the management team so you have buy-in and understanding of the new approaches. We’ve done both and they both are successful ways to infuse inbound thinking into your company. Assess your environment and plan accordingly.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Starts With ME!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.