The sales process is slowly slipping away. Instead of finding out about your business from trade shows, direct mail and expensive catalogs, prospects now conduct their buying research online. They are spending more time on their own learning about your services and products rather than being escorted through the process by a salesperson. In fact, according to a white paper authored by Google and CEB:
“B2B customers reported to being nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point. More accurately, 57% of the sales process just disappeared.” – The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing
Here are even more scary stats for sales people to swallow:
- 57% of salespeople believe buyers are less dependent on salespeople during the buying process. (HubSpot, 2016)
- 40% of sales people say getting a response from prospects is getting harder. (HubSpot, 2016)
- 34% of salespeople say closing deals is getting harder. (HubSpot, 2016)
By the time a prospect is ready for a hard sell, they’ve likely already made up their mind. So, you need to get involved in the process earlier. An inbound marketing strategy can help guide the customer’s decision along the way, showing why your business is the best one to fit their needs. If your company hasn’t yet embraced inbound marketing, that simple reason is why you can no longer afford to wait.
Sales & Marketing: Joining Forces
The idea of sales and marketing teams having to work together is nothing new, but this alignment is absolutely essential now. Here at SPROUT Content, sales enablement is now one of our most valuable consultative services. We help enable the efficiency of sales teams by training them in the methods of inbound marketing. Just one way that we help sales teams is by conducting an inventory and audit of all sales collateral to identify any gaps. This includes email sequences and sales workflows, which if done properly, use the right emails and the right actions to the right prospect at the right time.
Content marketing is a big part of sales. While the salesperson may not be penning your latest whitepaper, they are likely generating the majority of your content. According to Ducurated’s 2016 State of Sales Enablement report, marketing typically produces about 30% of company content, while sales is responsible for about 40%.
Your sales reps produce many email templates each year, some of which are really good and improve the speed of prospecting, but others are not so effective, which can destroy credibility. Conducting an audit of these email templates and identifying trends in the highest performing content can improve a sales team’s performance.
Competition comes from all corners today. No longer do you just have to worry about the business down the street that sells the same types of product you do. Today, you must compete for the customer’s attention while they are constantly bombarded with ads. Due to information overload, that customer is getting pretty good at ignoring sales pitches. In fact, 91% of people say ads are more intrusive today than they were two years ago (HubSpot, 2016).
In order to reach those potential customers, you’re going to have to work a whole lot harder and spend a lot more money to be heard using traditional marketing tactics like advertising and direct mail. Inbound marketing allows you to keep your customers engaged without hefty advertising bills. That’s not to say it’s any easier than traditional tactics, but it’s certainly a strategy that cannot be ignored.
Inbound Marketing is an Investment, Not an Expense
One of the biggest obstacles to developing an inbound marketing strategy is budget. It’s true that your marketing has to be categorized as an expense on your financials, but it’s time to start thinking about your content as an asset that drives business rather than an expense that you can cut in order to save money. If you’re worried about costs, you are more likely to try to rush to get results from inbound marketing, which won’t be effective. You’ll be less likely to test and experiment with different formats of content, which could ultimately be a step backward for your business.
Luckily, today’s marketers have access to more data than they sometimes know what to do with. You can easily justify an inbound marketing campaign when your analytics show an improvement in:
- Visitors and sources
- Webpage activity
- Keyword rankings
- Form submissions
- Conversion of leads to sales
In order to consider content as an investment, it must be aligned with your business goals. You need a clearly mapped out strategy for your content so that you don’t rely on pure hope for the right people to find it.
Now that you know you can no longer afford to go without an inbound marketing strategy, the next step is to determine whether to develop that in-house or outsource it to an agency.