Marketing Used To Be Easy; What Happened To Make It So Hard?
This is a great question to kick off 2017. Marketing used to be easy. You bought some ads, you went to some trade shows, your sales team made some phone calls and you sent out letters from time to time. The results were cloudy, but you did see people responding and your business grew. You might not have known exactly why, but it worked. I know because this is how I used to run marketing at a $20 million software company.
But over the past 10 years or so, things have changed. The way people buy has changed. The way people make their decisions around purchasing has changed. From multimillion-dollar purchases to $50 purchases, it has all changed. It’s this change that has complicated marketing so dramatically, and while inbound marketing matches today’s buyer behavior, the process of delivering that match is complex.
Here are the facts behind the complexity of inbound marketing, what you need to do about it and why you need to start investing more to cover the cost of this extra effort.
Marketing Does What Sales Used To Do
One of the biggest shifts in sales and marketing is the role of the salesperson. Ten years ago, if you wanted information on a product, service or company, you called and spoke to a sales rep. Not today. Now, you Google the business, visit its website and if the business looks good — meaning it gives you everything you could possibly want — you don’t need to talk to anyone. If the business isn’t so good, you simply leave its site and bounce off to the next competitor's site.
It’s not until the prospect is almost ready to buy that they have to call you. People don’t want to speak to or talk face-to-face with other people; it’s uncomfortable for them. Almost all the new tools are designed to keep us from talking face-to-face with each other. Email, texting, social media, apps — most make it easier to interact without having a face-to-face conversation with another person. Sad, but true. Today, your marketing needs to handle 75% to 80% of the buyer journey, with sales coming in only at the end to close the deal, to answer any detailed questions and to help with prospect-specific issues.
If you’re still relying on your sales team to generate leads, nurture the leads and close the leads, you're not positioning your company to grow. The future is passing you by, and it’s just a matter of time before you realize the mistake you’ve made and have to play catch up.
If you doubt what I’m saying (and I know people do), just look at your own buyer behavior. Did you buy anything online last month? Did you do research for a purchase online last month? Do you answer your office phone if you don’t recognize the phone number? Do you watch commercials on the shows you DVR? Do you browse websites on your cell phone? Do you toss out unwanted mail before you even get inside your home? You don’t have to answer — I already know the answers. Your marketing has to match the way people buy today.
People Are Complicated, So Your Marketing Is Going To Be More Complicated
If we were selling to robots, marketing and sales would be easy. You’d present facts and figures, and the robots would logically evaluate all the options and make a decision. Unfortunately, we’re selling and marketing to people. People make purchase decisions emotionally first and rationalize those decisions second. They hate change and will do almost anything to prevent having to deal with change. Both of these aspects of the human condition make sales and marketing complicated.
You have to create a message that appeals to your human prospects’ emotions. You have to give them information to help them feel safe and you have to nurture them over time while they do everything in their power to talk themselves out of buying what you sell and what they need.
This is one reason the traditional salesperson is quickly becoming a dinosaur. People don’t like them, people don’t want to be pressured and people don’t want to have to rely on a salesperson for information. The entire idea of selling something to someone goes against our very DNA. This is why inbound makes much more sense. If I help you, guide you, educate you and advise you, you feel differently about me than if I try to sell you something. You feel safe, you like me and you trust me; you’re emotionally connected to me and you’re ready to consider buying.
Again, I’m sorry, but this means sales-ready opportunities are not going to fall from the sky this afternoon. That’s the reality. The sooner you see this as something you need to get good at, the sooner you’ll be able to attract real leads, nurture those leads until they’re ready to buy and then have a shot at closing them.
Automation Requires Investment
Stop thinking about marketing as a cost and stop thinking about it like you used to. You’re not buying ads, you’re not buying a new website and you’re not attending trade shows. Stop trying to pinch pennies. Instead, look at this more like product development, research or investments in machinery that will pay off for years to come, because inbound pays off every month forever, as long as you continue to invest in it.
You’re going to need technology. You’re going to need automation tools that take the reoccurring tasks associated with the new inbound marketing tactics and make them easier. You want to focus your time on the strategy and let the software do the grunt work. Posting, sending, reporting and updating can all be done by software while you focus on testing, optimizing, analyzing, creating and reviewing what’s working as expected, what’s working above expectations and what’s not working like you expected. This insight is what drives program performance.
Data Drives Ongoing Optimization
The makers of the CRO management platform Experiment Engine report that 80% of the variants tracked on its platform failed to beat the control (80% of B's failed to beat the A's). This means that 80% of your tests or experiments are going to fail. This makes inbound extremely challenging. But failure is not negative. Failure tells you what NOT to do.
For the first time in the history of marketing, we have access to data that shows us what’s working and what’s not working. You have to learn how to find that data, analyze the data, act on the data and then build this cycle of response to data into your daily marketing rhythms. The better your team is at analyzing marketing data, the better your results are going to be. This is one reason most agencies are weak when it comes to inbound marketing results. They’re still learning how to use data to drive their tactics.
You Have To Think Long Term
No one wants to hear this, but inbound is not a short-term fix to a dramatic drop-off in leads at your company. Yes, we can get leads flowing in just a few weeks if assets are available and you have decent website visitor numbers, but building a steady stream of leads doesn’t materialize until all aspects of the program are up, running and optimized.
If you’re counting on inbound marketing to save your month, your year or your company, you might have miscalculated. Instead, start working on this today so that next year your company is killing it. By thinking long term you’re not upset when you get five leads this month, eight leads next month and 12 leads the month after that, because by the time the year is over you’re getting 50 to 60 leads a month and it’s a 10x improvement. But hold on, the growth doesn’t stop. The growth continues and by the end of year two you’re now looking at 120 leads a month or, like us, over 400 leads a month. However, if you bail out after month three because it’s still not producing sales-ready leads like you expected, you’re guaranteeing to NEVER get to the lead goals you need to grow your company. You’re sealing your own fate.
Have we established that marketing is more complicated today than 10 years ago? I hope so, but now it comes down to doing something about it. As I have written about many times, inbound marketing takes time and the sooner you get started, the sooner you get results. If you’re convinced that cold calling, trade shows, direct mail and advertising will continue to produce diminished returns, then you need to move toward inbound and get started as soon as possible.
We’ve seen over and over again that when clients get their marketing machines up and running, the number of visitors increases, the conversion rate increases and the number of marketing-qualified leads increases. As their sales team gets better at managing leads through an inbound sales process, the rate of qualified sales-ready leads increases and the close rate on new customers also increases. This is a long-term upgrade that never happens overnight. Be prepared to rethink everything you do in marketing and sales.
Once you align your sales and marketing processes with your prospects’ buyer journey, you’ll uncover an entirely new way to predict and achieve revenue growth at your business. What’s difficult to achieve is almost always worth the struggle. This is one struggle you’re going to want to take on.
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