As businesses become increasingly digital creatures, the term ‘inbound marketing’ is becoming more crucial for businesses wanting to be seen and heard in the internet age.
Companies are aware that they need to have an inbound marketing strategy, but the details on what it looks like and how to implement it can be fuzzy.
HubSpot chief operating officer JD Sherman explains the buzzword, its origins, and where it’s heading.
The traditional sales playbook
Sherman explains that in the traditional sales playbook, a sales strategy would involve hiring public relations experts, hiring salespeople, buying lists of potential prospects, and paying for advertising – but this strategy is no longer as effective as it used to be.
The typical sales playbook strategy would be to find ways to interrupt people, he says, referring to how classifieds interrupt newspapers and television ads interrupt programmes.
Sherman calls this outbound marketing – renting someone else’s space so one could interrupt their viewers.
“Modern human beings don’t like to get interrupted, and they have ways now to block us out,” he says.
Flipping the script
This led to the development of an entirely different strategy – inbound marketing.
“The new playbook of inbound marketing is creating content myself, whether it’s a blog, a podcast, or a video."
"I’m going to own that asset, and I’m going to use it to draw prospects to me,” Sherman says.
When you draw people to your business based on the content you create, those people are going to be better contacts and higher-qualified leads.
Giving to get
Sherman says the original idea of using blogs in sales and marketing was a give-to-get relationship, where sage advice was offered in return for engagement with the prospects through calls to action.
“The art is to figure out what that give-to-get relationship looks like,” he says.
“You want to turn it into a situation where you’ve earned their trust, and they’re asking you questions.”
Inbound marketing vs content marketing – what’s the difference?
“Content marketing was the first term for blogs and written content, and has been around for a while,” Sherman says.
Inbound marketing strategies can involve multiple facets like a blog, a website, social media, analytics, marketing automation, and customer relationship management.
Most businesses have now gotten to the point where they understand that what they need is an inbound-driven marketing sales playbook - but what that looks like also evolves over time.
“The way people consume content has also changed, as people move from how to rank on Reddit and Digg to how to be found easily on Google and social media today,” Sherman says.
Inbound marketing today – deep engagement
Sherman says it’s entirely possible for businesses to put together an inbound marketing strategy across multiple products and services.
The difference with HubSpot’s platform is that it gives marketing and salespeople a 360-degree view of the prospect and their customer journey, so the strategy can be tailored to them.
“I know if they’ve engaged with my brand on social media, how many times they’ve been to the website, whether they’ve been to my pricing page, if they’ve clicked through the emails I’ve sent them and forwarded them to other people, if they filled out a survey using my integration partners, if they watched my video, how long for, and which sections – and this is all in one database,” says Sherman.
“That’s really powerful for our marketer and their sales partner,” he adds.
Hubspot’s Connect programme also allows companies to link up existing services their customers are using, like SurveyMonkey and Zendesk, and integrate the information into their prospect’s experience into the timeline.
Unifying the customer experience
Marketers and salespeople are no longer the sole source of information and point of authority on their products, and have a very different customer journey to engage with than they did a decade ago.
“As a salesperson, I need a whole different set of tools to operate in this environment,” Sherman says.
“Marketing and sales need to come together because of the way the modern human works and lives and shops and buys.”
Companies therefore need to extend the inbound helpful process all the way down to the end of the sales cycle.
Sherman says that the traditional sales and marketing playbook isn’t ‘totally screwed up’ as there is still some return on investment on it, but he poses this question to those who swear by it:
“Do you want to continue to rent your audience or do you want to own them?”