If you’re a B2B marketer, chances are you’re a one-person department and marketing may not be your only role. In most small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies, the marketer wears many hats.
Maybe you’ve even found yourself in the first-ever marketing role for the company. Regardless of your situation, one thing is true—you know digital marketing today means more than having a website. In fact, you know that your buyers are changing how they do business with you and research supports your assumptions:
- 93% of the B2B buying process begins with an Internet search. (Pinpoint Market Research)
- 76% of B2B buyers leverage three or more information channels when researching a purchase. (Blue Nile Research)
- 50% of B2B buyers require six or more touches just to become a qualified sales lead. (Forrester Research)
- More than 40% of B2B buyers had their first contact with a solution provider after downloading content from their site. (Demand Gen)
- It takes 3-6 months to nurture a lead to a qualified status (Forrester Research)
- More than 90% of B2B buying purchases start with content engagement. (Demand Gen)
Here’s the question you are likely facing: how am I going to develop, implement and manage all of the elements of a true, strategic digital marketing program?
Inbound Marketing is Complex
One reality is clear: managing an inbound marketing program isn’t as simple as managing a social media channel. Inbound digital marketing, when implemented correctly, involves a depth of strategy based upon business goals.
A specific skill set is needed for the hundreds of tactical elements involving website user experience (UX) and usability management, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEM (search engine marketing), social media posting and monitoring, Email campaigns, content development in various forms (blogs, white papers, videos) for each stage of the buyer’s journey, lead nurturing behavioral insight management and continual analysis of data to refine the program for higher conversions. Add to this constant testing and refinement, as well as alignment and coordination with sales.
It simply isn’t humanly possible for one person or even a department of a few to be expected to manage an inbound digital strategy, along with implementing the tools and systems necessary to support the program.
The depth of knowledge and experience for each of those various functions is essential for the success of the strategy. For example, I see a lot of companies hiring a social media manager with the expectation that they can implement an inbound program. Where the social media manager may be exceptional executing the tactics associated with social media, that doesn’t mean he or she has the skills or experience in research, analysis, development of a strategy, etc.
Work with a Strategic Partner
Feeling overwhelmed with where to start or even manage an inbound marketing program? You’re not alone.
- 63% of companies outsource all or part of their marketing automation strategy planning.
- 51% use a combination of outsourced and in-house resources.
- 12% outsourced all to a specialist.
- 37% uses in-house resources only.
-- Ascend2 “Marketing Automation Trends Survey” (2016).
When searching for an inbound marketing partner, consider the following tips:
- Understand the difference between a traditional marketing agency that says they do digital marketing and an inbound marketing agency that practices the principles and methodology of inbound marketing.
- Seek an agency that has a depth of inbound marketing experience. How many clients have they developed and managed an inbound program for?
- An SEO agency is not an inbound agency. SEO is inherent in inbound marketing, but inbound marketing is not inherent in an SEO agency. SEO agencies have only one single focus, SEO, which will only get you one level of results.
- Focus on data and conversion rate optimization. How will you know your program is successful? What data will be captured and analyzed? What plan is in place for generating higher results based upon conversion rate data?
- Strategy first, not tactics. If the agency only listens to what you want and doesn’t share with you what you need based upon your goals, then you won’t be happy in the long run with the results. Seek a strategic partner that understands strategy and has a holistic understanding of the entire business cycle.
- Don’t work in isolation. Yes, you need help filling the gap, yet you can’t remove yourself from the inbound program. It’s vital that you take an active role in the oversight and execution of the program. Simply handing over the program and expecting not to have any involvement is unrealistic—no one knows your company and buyers better than you.
- Practice what they preach. Understanding and leading an inbound marketing program means that the partner you work with should be using the same principles to grow their own business. Don’t take for granted that simply because they’re selling inbound, they actually use inbound.
Final Coaching Moment
According to Gartner research, “by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.”
For B2B companies, that means now is the time to position yourself ahead of your competition by building your online brand and capturing online leads. For marketing directors, that means you can lead your company to achieve sustainable future growth by strategically incorporating an inbound marketing program using an experienced strategic inbound marketing agency as your partner.