Today, buyers have widespread access to information through the web. As a result, interruptive “outbound” tactics are losing their effectiveness. In this new buyer-centric world, the best way to engage with prospects is on their terms. The “inbound” approach to demand generation enables target buyers to find you organically, converts site visitors into revenue and aligns sales and marketing efforts.
Get Buyers to Find You
Since buyers use google to research, compare, and eventually purchase goods and services, search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential demand generation tactic. The popularity and specificity of Inbound links determines your search ranking. In order to rank higher on the results page, it's important to create quality content and participate in relevant social media discussions on a routine basis. In terms of SEO strategy, The Long Tail Theory describes how targeting long-tail keywords yield the best results. Targeting a small population of individuals looking for very specific topics will allow you to rank higher for the things that matter to your company (and your customers).
Creating a content production team will help keep your posts smart and consistent across platforms. A good content production team will include a journalist (expert staff writer) or someone capable of delegating writing responsibility and editing content before publication. The best way to ensure that your posts provide real value to visitors is to form a thought leadership committee of knowledgeable employees who can be interviewed as subject experts on a weekly basis. When you have quality information, you can turn a one-hour interview into multiple blog posts, e-books and social media messages.
Converting Inbound Interest into Revenue
In order to convert inbound interest into revenue, both marketing and sales play a key role.
Marketing’s role can be expressed in four practices:
- Do not pass all the leads to sales! Demand generation is the goal, but not every lead is qualified. Define what constitutes a quality lead and filter each new lead based on that standard criteria.
- Avoid the lead scoring trap. Use the buyer’s journey and buyer personas to develop a buyer matrix and prioritize leads based on their lifecycle stages.
- Use the buyer matrix to determine when to pass leads to sales. Define the stage in which this handoff should happen for each persona, then measure the lead conversion success over time so adjustments can be made to improve success.
- Become a buyer matrix expert through microsegmentation. Adding another matrix to a row can help account for complex behaviors, such as having multiple “influencers” or industries for a single buyer persona.
Sales’ role in converting inbound interest into revenue can also be broken down into four practices.
- Scrap the elevator pitch and lead with context. Rather than sounding robotic and reading from a script, be educational, insightful and personable.
- Call low, then call high. If the person you reach is not a decision maker, ask questions to develop more buyer-specific context. Then call “high” to the decision maker using this information to personalize the experience.
- Prioritize prospecting by level of engagement. Customers that have interacted with content most recently should take priority over last touch.
- Specialize sales by inbound vs outbound. Dedicate half your sales team to inbound leads and the other half to outbound leads. Think about having your top salesmen rotate inbound leads to help develop tactics that work best.
Aligning Sales and Marketing: The SMarketing SLA
Develop a sales and marketing Service Level Agreement (SLA) to establish concrete connection between departments. Account for different lead qualification levels by focusing less on raw numbers and more on their implied dollar value. Use the buyer matrix discussed earlier and:
- for each buyer state, calculate the average rate at which leads become customers
- for each segment, calculate the average purchase price for each customer generated from these classes of leads
- multiply conversion rate by average purchasing price.
These numbers will allow marketing efforts to be tied to revenue rather than raw numbers.
A sales SLA will define strict parameters for an effective interaction with leads. Because timing is imperative, the SLA defines when to follow up with a new lead and the number of times a lead should be touched. Analyze each buyer persona by touches and profitability. Whichever call attempt volume yields the highest profit will establish the sales SLA standard call cadence. A daily dashboard helps ensure no leads fall through the cracks.
Create a graph displaying marketing’s “planned lead value generated” and compare it to the actual lead value generated. You can also draft a “Do Not Be On It” dashboard listing any salesperson in violation of your key SLA measures. Make sure to distribute these reports daily to hold both departments accountable.
At the End of the Day
The "inbound" approach to demand generation allows buyers to find you, results in less expenditure on cold call lists and other interruptive outbound tactics, and positions you as a thought leader in your industry. Once established, marketing will usher leads down the funnel and pass them off to sales at the right moment, maximizing customer acquisition. If sales and marketing goals are both tied to revenue, the teams will operate like a well-oiled revenue machine.