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Around 10 years ago, “SEO” was the buzzword (or buzz initialism) when it came to selling marketing to businesses. When a bright-eyed, naive Charli Parkes walked into her first job in an agency 7 years ago, new clients said to her on multiple occasions, “I don’t understand what SEO is, but I’ve been told I need it.” As SEO and the digital marketing industry has matured, the term you might hear more often not as “something you need to look at” is inbound marketing. 


While it’s true that inbound marketing can be a very effective approach that helps to attract and convert leads into customers, it’s not right for everyone. With that in mind – here are a few things you should consider when you ask yourself the question “is inbound marketing right for my business?”

 

What is inbound marketing?

We’ve definitely covered this on this blog before – but for thoroughness, let’s give a brief definition. Inbound marketing is an approach that’s been around in its most realised form since 2012. As grass roots marketers became more and more frustrated with the costs, risks and having to play the numbers around outbound marketing, they began to develop a methodology, largely built around the concepts of SEO, to draw customers to them, instead of the other way round. Combining SEO with content marketing and a hefty handful of conversion logic, inbound was born. Put simply, inbound marketing is the process of attracting your ideal customers to your website, having them engage with your content, converting them to leads, and then nurturing them into becoming customers. 

 

It is not a short-term play

The first thing you need to know about inbound is that it’s not a get rich quick scheme. As a methodology it requires a lot of research and planning upfront, ongoing content production, testing, refining, and other time-intensive activities such as setting up nurture programmes to really succeed. This amount of effort needs to be sustained over a period of months, possibly even years, for you to start seeing a decent return. It is much more of a medium to long-term strategy, and for that reason many businesses, including some of our customers (on our advice) run a blended approach which doesn’t mean they are solely relying on inbound leads. I’m not making it sound particularly attractive, I know, but I’m a big fan of “you get out of things what you put into them” – and that definitely applies to inbound. The better your research and planning, the more content you write and the more unique and insightful it is, the better results you’ll get. That being said…

 

It doesn’t work for every business model

I’ve seen many an overly cheerful American from HubSpot or similar proclaim something along the lines of “you might be thinking that inbound isn’t for you, or you can’t write content for your industry. You’re wrong! You just need to find your niche.” Barf. While I do agree that content marketing can work for most businesses, the inbound model can’t. Some businesses’ core customer base just don’t hang out in the places where inbound needs them to be hanging out – search engines, social, etc. For other businesses, their product or service range is wide, complex and has a very long sales cycle, which again doesn’t make them a great candidate for inbound. Or the flipside could be true – their product is a very simple supply and demand type offering, for example a locksmith – so leads don’t necessarily need to be nurtured. Side note – if you’re a locksmith you’re better focusing on local SEO and maybe PPC. You can have that tip for free. 

 

It helps you engage with the modern B2B buyer

The last point was decidedly negative against inbound, so I’m going to balance it out. The inbound marketing approach perfectly aligns itself with the modern consumer. The average B2B buyer is 57% through their purchasing decision before they engage with a sales rep, and you have around 12% of their mindshare as a supplier. With a powerful research tool at their fingertips at all times – the internet – your customers are free to peruse a whole load of solutions. You need to find a way to stay front of mind, and to position yourself as the true trusted advisor and the most perfectly placed solution out of the lot. Through producing the right content, which stems from doing thorough research about your ideal customer, you can engage them early on in the sales cycle and keep them engaged throughout, hopefully pushing up that percentage of mindshare a bit. 

 

It’s an effective way to get warm leads

On a related note – with the right strategy and the right content driving it, meshing with the right business model, inbound can easily begin to generate leads at scale. Once you’ve got a content engine going with well-defined funnels and automated emails, you can nurture people into becoming qualified leads and engaging with your sales team, with very little “human” intervention in the early stages. An inbound lead which has been carefully nurtured and engaged with multiple touch points on your site is so much further down the buyer’s journey than a lead from a cold call (see previous section). And because you can drive everything with automated emails – once it’s set up, you can just let it run, monitoring and refining when you need to. It also gets around a number of potential data challenges, as people have to proffer their data to you to download certain content, at which point you can obtain consent. 

Inbound marketing can help you transform the way you think about marketing and leads in your business – whether you go the whole hog or adopt a blended approach. If you’d like to talk more about whether inbound marketing is right for your business – get in touch

The post Is inbound marketing right for you? appeared first on Inflowing.

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It seems there’s always one particular thing the marketing world is all abuzz about. About 7 years ago it was inbound marketing. A bit more recently, it’s been all about account-based marketing (ABM). Now, AI and chatbots are entering the conversation a bit more. But that’s one for another time.

Whether you’re a firm follower of the zeitgest or you’re only just catching on, there’s no denying the merits of inbound marketing and ABM as strategies in their own right. But where they really become powerful is when you understand how they can fit together to make a really strong marketing approach that’ll have you batting off leads left, right and centre.

Firstly, in order to understand how these two strategies fit together, it’s first of all important to identify how they differ. 

How they’re different Targeting 

Inbound is about personas. One of the first steps you take in an inbound marketing strategy is to create generalised profiles of your ideal customer. What’s their job title? What their challenges? Their hopes and dreams? You then use this insight to create content that will reach these people and help them to address their challenges and achieve their goals. They “self-select” based on how well your content fits their situation. ABM is about the organisation as a whole. You’re identifying specific accounts (organisations) you think will be a good fit for your product or service. This can be dictated by industry, size, turnover, and a number of other factors – sometimes it’s a bit more arbitrary. However you arrive at your list, it’s about creating content specific to that organisation, their challenges and objectives, and engaging as many people as possible to build a presence within that account. Some very intensive ABM campaigns only target one account. It’s not a numbers game, it’s personal. 

Content

Because of how and why you’re trying to target people with each strategy, the way you produce content differs too. Content for inbound marketing is usually driven by a combination of keyword and persona research – you use what you know about your ideal customers to find keywords that they’re likely to search for, and you produce content around that. With ABM, the research phase is likely to be longer, more in-depth, and obviously, more specific to each business. 

You’re producing content which speaks specifically to that organisation, so it’s usually highly personalised. With ABM-at-scale, that usually means using some sort of personalisation engine to add things like the company name, industry, size and logo into a page or post. When ABM is focused on one to say five companies, you’ll often start bringing in specifics – recent news stories, snippets from their annual report, and other information you might have about them to really make the content chime with them and help them see your solution and their business aligned.

How they work together Intent

Whether you’re producing content for an inbound or ABM campaign, the idea is still to get your ideal customer to engage with it. Whether that’s a specific persona or an entire organisation, that content should be relevant to them and their challenges. That means that there can be some crossover between the two strategies – ABM content can be repurposed and through an inbound lens and vice versa. 

Usually with ABM, you start with reaching out to people in roles most relevant to your product or service, and then expand out into the wider business, reaching more influencers and decision-makers. It is important to remember the distinction between the two though – when you’re executing an ABM campaign, try not to focus on which job titles are engaging with your content. You’re taking a different view here – the more people on the bus, the better. It doesn’t matter if they’re not in a direct position to invest in your services – they’re engaged, and it’ll make it easier to engage the most relevant person once you reach them.

Your campaign is not a vacuum

Just because you’re painstakingly pushing highly personalised ABM content under the nose of certain contacts, doesn’t mean they’re not going to come across any of your other content. Humans are inquisitive beings, and chances are if you’ve started getting highly personalised communications and LinkedIn connection requests from someone at a business, you’re probably going to want to check them out. 

For that reason it’s very handy to be able to understand how ABM contacts interact with your other content and move around your site, just like you would with contacts who find you via your inbound campaign. Tools like Albacross can help with that – using IP matching to help to identify people from a particular organisation coming to your site and examine how they move around. It’s common to use these tools in an ABM campaign to understand where to direct personalisation efforts – if an organisation is coming to your site, personalise content for them. If an organisation isn’t, do some targeted paid ads or similar outreach. 

You sometimes see this flipped on its head too – an ABM target might present itself when they find your site via inbound. You see an organisation coming to your site and interacting with your content, so you start to build a personalised campaign for them. That’s why it’s useful to think about inbound and ABM as having some crossover, rather than as two distinct campaigns or strategies.

I think the most important takeaway I could offer here is that it’s really useful to think about inbound and ABM as a blended approach – after all, as a business you’re likely to be operating in a number of vertical markets, offering a range of products and services that better suit each approach. But they’ll always be crossover – people find and interact with your content outside of the ways you intend them to – and you should take advantage of this where possible to get the most out of the content and activity you’re executing. 

If you’d like some help building either an inbound or ABM strategy, or a blend of both – we have experience running both strategies successfully for a range of businesses, and can help you to build an approach that works for you and gets results. Just get in touch.

The post Inbound and ABM: How they work together appeared first on Inflowing.

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Apparently, 42% of UK businesses outsource their marketing. That doesn’t surprise me. Marketing is a multi-faceted practice – especially if you throw both traditional and digital marketing into the pot. It can cover everything from PR and events to SEO and PPC, and even vendor management if you’re a reseller. And then you have to throw in the high level stuff like strategy. It is very rare that you find a marketing person who can cover off multiple disciplines, and I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to find one who covers off all of them. Unless there’s some sort of marketing super robot I don’t know about. So, you either have to recruit one or two marketing people and then outsource the rest, or recruit a whole host of marketing people. 

While we marketing people are certainly delightful to be around – recruiting a whole team of us to cover off multi disciplines can get expensive. Many businesses will find that outsourcing is more cost-effective – but that’s one for another time. 

If you are outsourcing your marketing – whether that’s part of it or all of it – then there are a number of things you should think about before you do so. 

Experience in your industry

Honestly, any good marketer worth their salt should be able to turn their hand to and apply their knowledge to a range of businesses, whether they’re familiar with the industry or not. But I’m not going to pretend that previous experience in the industry isn’t a serious advantage – particularly in B2B, where things can get super specific. Seems an obvious one really – if an agency has previous experience in your industry, whether that’s with other clients, or they’ve actually worked in the industry – then you go into the relationship with confidence that they know what strategies and tactics work best. Also, there should be a baseline of knowledge around your products and services there too. 

Do bear in mind though, that agencies and professionals with experience of other industries might be able to bring a fresh perspective to yours – maybe shake up the status quo a little and get you to stand out. How much experience in your industry factors in will depend on the more general career experience of the agency and the team in question. As I said – the most seasoned marketers have a toolkit of skills that they can apply to any business. We’re quite a versatile lot – we have to learn to adapt to ever-changing technologies, tactics and methodologies, so we should be able to adapt to different industries too. We’re chameleons, like Madonna.

Beware of the fluff

I’ve covered this in more detail in a previous post – but it certainly bears repeating here. Unfortunately, as marketers we do have a predisposition towards the sensational – the best looking design, the nicest copy, the best email subject lines. But you need a marketing partner that’s grounded in reality. They need to be able to provide you with all the wow-factor stuff, but also deliver results. Avoid agencies who will not commit to timescales, objectives and numbers like the plague . They will try to blind you with pretty things and continue to take your money until you’re left wondering what you’re getting out of this relationship. I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence, but we humans are emotional beings, and sometimes if we’re being shown something that absolutely knocks our socks off, all logic can go out of the window. Marketers know this – and some spurious ones will use this to try and put the blinders on you. Get down to brass tacks with these people – make them give you numbers and propose objectives – if they don’t commit, kindly thank them for their time and move on.

Are you a good fit?

Before this post gets too long and I start breaking out the Beyoncé GIFs, I’ll get to the point. I think this is one of the most important points you should consider when it comes to selecting an agency or partner to outsource your marketing to. As I’ve said, realistically, any top-class marketer should be able to a) turn their hand to most industries and b) commit to (and deliver) some kind of results. So that leaves you with whether or not you’re a good fit. I don’t just mean can you go and have a few drinks and a laugh together (although that does help). You need to ensure that the way you work, and the way your marketing partner works, mesh together well. If you like to be reactive and agile in your marketing, but the agency rigidly sticks to a plan they refuse to deviate from, then it’s not going to work. If your time and attention is in high demand, but if they can’t be proactive, use their common sense and make things easy for you, then it’s not going to work. An outsourced marketing team works best when they’re like an extension of your business – it should be effortless. Like Beyoncé (too late).

If you’re a B2B organisation looking to outsource any or all of your marketing – we can help. We’ve spent years on the client side carefully considering all of the above, enabling us to develop an approach that works. Let’s chat – we’ll see if we’re a good fit.

The post 3 things to think about when you outsource B2B marketing appeared first on Inflowing.

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We get it. We do. As a hard-working member of an in-house marketing team, the words “we’re thinking of bringing in an agency” may be tinged with a sense of doom and dread. It’s common for internal marketing teams to request more resource from the powers that be – usually in the form of a new hire. The truth is, recruitment costs, and commissioning an agency to outsource some activity is often posed as the alternative. 

I think the majority of marketing people are a bit like me – very protective over the brand they look over, and unwilling to let go of some of the responsibility to an external force. I was much the same for my years spent in-house – this combined with my natural proclivity towards having control over absolutely everything meant that no matter how busy I was, I clung to everything with a death grip.

I learned my lesson – and although I’m now on the darkside, the agency side, I’m here to tell you that trust me, we can all be friends, and we can all work together to make your business successful.

And guess who looks good when the business is successful? That’s right, you.

New perspectives

Marketing people usually work better when they’ve got other marketing people to bounce ideas off of – I know I do, and many of my peers do. No matter what you’re marketing, you’re marketing it to humans – so it’s useful to get the perspective of humans during the process of trying to put together a campaign, email or tweet. Bringing in an agency gives you access to a perspective from outside of your business – they usually bring with them years of experience in marketing for various industries. And you bring expertise of your business and your industry. Together, that can make for creative dynamite and campaigns that might not have been possible previously. 

Getting shit done

One of the worries around outsourcing any part of your department or role is that the external force will try to oust you – to convince the business that they’re cheaper and more effective, and you’ll be sent packing. Well, that’s not how we like to do things. Sure, we will happily help smaller businesses with no marketing resource by being their virtual team. But in bigger organisations with an established marketing resource, we need you, marketing people, on the inside, helping us get shit done. For an MD or business unit leader of a 200+ seats business, marketing isn’t the only thing on their list of priorities. As an external entity, if we don’t have a conduit – that can make getting stuff pushed through the business difficult for us. Having access to a champion of marketing on the inside is invaluable in these larger organisations – and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Making you look good

As I’ve already alluded to – as an external party, a marketing agency usually has little agenda other than getting results for your business, which in turn forges a long-term partnership. Certainly we as an agency sign ourselves up to strict KPIs and objectives – more traffic, more leads, more customers. We’ll set these with you, making it a shared goal, and 99% of the time, when those goals are met, guess who looks good? It’s not us – it’s you. The senior leadership will likely have little to no interface into the marketing agency – but they do with you. You can take credit for everything we do – we won’t mind – because we came up with the strategy and put together the activity together. And yeah ok, we were down in the engine room shoveling coal – but you were steering the ship.

Embrace the agency

I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to accept help – you don’t need to be all things to all people as a marketer. We’re all on the same side – we want to work with you to grow your business. We learn from you, and you learn from us, and together we can really come up with some great strategies and campaigns that will stand out. 

No matter what you need help with – content, inbound strategy, running an ABM campaign – Inflowing will happily work with internal marketing teams to understand your goals and challenges. Let’s see how we’d work together – get in touch for a quick chat.

The post Should internal marketing teams feel threatened by agencies? appeared first on Inflowing.

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Getting people to care about things can be really difficult. We’ve all spent hours extolling the virtues of our favourite bands, TV programmes, films and brands of microwave in the pub, but we often find our friends are set in their ways and unwilling to step out of their comfort zone.

That can so often be the case with sales and marketing, especially in a day and age where people are continually bombarded with messages from hundreds of brands every single day, both in their personal and professional lives. Your aim is to stand out – to speak to them and their specific challenges. If your prospective customer is left thinking “why should I care?” then chances are you haven’t hit the mark.

So, how do you stand out? How do you make people care? Well, you do some content marketing.

Here’s why you should care about content marketing (can you see what I’m doing? Clever, eh?).

What is content marketing?

Before we begin, perhaps it’s useful to define content marketing. To borrow a definition from the Content Marketing Institute (they would know) – “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience”. This content can take various forms – blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, social media posts, videos, podcasts… I could go on. With content marketing, so often it’s not about the form, it’s about the function – message over medium, as it were. It doesn’t matter how you’re saying it, it’s what you’re saying that really matters.

Telling a story

Everyone loves a good story – and at its core, content marketing is about telling a story. If you approach your content like that, then you’re on to a winner. Whether it’s your story, your customer’s story, or a story about your industry as a whole, sharing well crafted content that is valuable and relevant – and above all engaging – to your core audience is what it’s all about. If you look at marketing through the “telling a story” lens – you can help your customers build a picture of you and your brand across multiple channels – whether it’s your blog, YouTube, social media, or even more traditional direct marketing. Because you share content they care about, and they enjoy reading, they’re engaged with you as a brand. Nifty, eh?

Becoming a trusted advisor

Consumers are savvy – and it doesn’t matter whether they’re in a B2C or a B2B setting – they’re primed and ready for all the sales tactics you can throw at them. By the time they actually place an order, your customers have no doubt interacted with your brand multiple times across multiple channels. In a crowded market and a crowded online space, you want to stand out as someone they can trust. Providing them with useful content that speaks directly to their challenges builds you up over time in their mind as a trusted advisor. They already think of you as someone they can come to for advice, so the logical next step is to explore some of your solutions.

Creating a premium experience

Sorry, but having a good product and good price just won’t cut it any more – your customers want an experience. A study by the Temkin Group in 2018 found that 86% of buyers were willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Obviously, customer experience comes down to more than just some good marketing, but I don’t think I’m stretching too far here when I say that people want to buy and continuing buying from brands they like. As in, brands they enjoy interacting with – and that includes, you guessed it, content. If you continue to provide value to your customers through the content you share, even after they’ve placed their order, the more likely they are to become loyal customers. And if you really nail it, they might even become brand ambassadors – they’ll share your content and sing your praises.

Is there anybody in there?

To end on a slightly more practical note, the honest truth is that if you’re not actively and regularly contributing content to your space – whether that’s your website, social media feed, blog – it kinda sorta looks like you’ve gone out of business. As I’ve already alluded to – as many as 90% of consumers factor online content into their purchasing decisions. If they come looking with some interest at your brand, only to find you haven’t updated your blog since Christmas 2016, then they’re going to get a little suspicious about you generally. Does this mean you’ve gone out of business? If you can’t even update your blog, will you even respond to their enquiry? That’s why it’s a good idea to not just buy in to the concept of content marketing, but to set a process and procedure around it to make sure your online presence is well fed, and your stall looks open and inviting to prospective customers.

I hope I’ve made you care about making people care through content. And remember – it’s not just about signing up to the idea, it’s about committing yourself to process and executing a killer content plan that’ll engage your customers and elevate your brand. If you’d like any help with that – check out our content marketing packages, from just £1200 month. Not only do you get keyword research, planning, reporting and strategy support – you get impeccably written content like this resplendent blog post.

The post Why you should care about content marketing appeared first on Inflowing.

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For anyone outside of marketing, defining the differences between inbound and content marketing might get a little confusing. They both involve writing really good content. They both involve sharing that content with your ideal customers. So what gives?

Rather than focusing on how they differ in terms of tactics – which is where they have a lot of crossover – it’s better to focus on where they differ in terms of objective. That is, what you’re looking to achieve by investing time, money, blood, sweat and tears into them.

With that in mind, I’m going to take you through the difference between content marketing vs inbound marketing, and how to know which approach is right for your business.

Content marketing – the foundation

I’ve sort of started off by positioning content marketing and inbound marketing as two sides of the same coin – but this isn’t necessarily true. I prefer to think of content marketing as the base on which good inbound marketing is built on. The objective of content marketing is to tell a story about your business or your industry and share it with your ideal customers. I think that there are benefits to all businesses of doing content marketing.

Telling a story

To be successful in marketing in 2019, you need to be invested in some sort of content. Content is how you tell the story of your brand – and it’s how you get people engaged with your business. Whether it’s blog posts, whitepapers, LinkedIn Pulse articles, videos, podcasts or a well curated Instagram account, beautifully crafted content that provides value and insight to your customers is the currency the marketing world currently runs on.

To my mind, every business should be doing a bit of content marketing. You don’t have to be the New York Times trying to push the boundaries of journalism and uncover stories no else has, but there’s a lot of value in providing your organisation’s take on topics closely related to your customers and their challenges.

Having a digital pulse

In a world where every one of your potential customers carefully researches any purchase before they make them, they’ll be on your website and social media looking for signs of life. That is – if you haven’t tweeted since 2017 or uploaded a blog post since 2015 – to a potential customer this looks like a red flag. In a world where customers want instant gratification – if you’re inactive on social media, does that mean they’re not going to get a response from you? If you haven’t updated your blog in years, have you gone out of business? While I wouldn’t encourage writing content for the sake of it, as I’ve already said, there are other benefits to sharing content regularly – so letting potential customers know you’re still knocking around is an added bonus.

Inbound marketing – ramping it up

Producing and sharing the right content with the right people is doing content marketing – using this content to move and nurture people through a marketing funnel to becoming a qualified lead is inbound marketing. Inbound is a way of framing content marketing so that all the good things that come with it – telling your story, building trust, creating awareness – are all harnessed to constantly move people to the next action. The objective of inbound marketing is to use a range of tactics (including content) to move people through a series of desired actions until you can deliver them into sales like a delicious warm Texas BBQ stuffed crust pizza.

Defining the journey

We’ve banged on about the inbound journey more than enough on this blog – details here, here and here – so I won’t go over it again in massive detail now. Basically, with inbound, you’re thinking about the journey of the customer as they interact with your content and simultaneously moving through your sales funnel. The main stages are awareness (when a prospect becomes aware of a potential problem), consideration (they’re considering solutions to that problem) and decision (they’ve decided your product or service is a solution to their problem, and they’re shopping around for providers). You’ll want to produce suitable content for each of these stages – and you can move people from stage to stage using various tactics, including producing whitepapers or guides they can download in exchange for their details, and subsequent nurturing emails, messages and other content. Inbound is taking content marketing and making content do the work for you.

Linking with sales

Inbound requires you to be wearing your marketing hat, but you should probably be wearing some sales socks. Not only do you want to make your visitors feel all warm and fuzzy with your amazing content, you’ve got to have that eye on the next stage of the buyer’s journey, thinking about how you might use the content you have to drive them through. This is where sales come in – the best inbound marketing campaigns get salespeople onboard early. What kind of content would they find useful in closing customers? What do they want to send to people who are engaged with them, but not quite ready for an appointment or a demo? Content marketing sits fully in the domain of marketing – but to execute a truly successful inbound marketing campaign, you need to think like sales a little bit.

Which one is right for you?

I said earlier in the post that it’s my long-held opinion that every business should do a bit of content marketing – the frequency, medium and focus will depend on your business. Inbound, on the other hand, isn’t for everyone. To be successful, inbound requires a lot of website traffic, and relevant website traffic at that, which can take years to build up. It requires a tight link between sales and marketing, which again can take years to build up. For some businesses, outbound is still the channel that works, and converts, and if that’s the case, content marketing can be a great addition to that approach.

Whether you want to elevate your business with content marketing, or you’re looking to really drive lead generation with inbound marketing – we can help. Inflowing provide amazing content and meticulously planned inbound campaigns for a range of B2B organisations – from start-ups to billion dollar global businesses. Let’s chat about how we might help you – get in touch to book a friendly, no-strings attached call.

The post Content marketing vs inbound marketing – which is right for you? appeared first on Inflowing.

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You’ve probably gone merrily through life thinking that there is only one type of lead. For some people, the word “leads” conjures up images of salespeople with a rolodex full of physical pieces of card with contact details on. That’s where the phrase “top pocket” comes from – meaning to literally pop someone’s business card in your top pocket and keep a lead all to yourself. Sneaky.

You won’t be surprised to hear that this traditional and rather “static” view of leads doesn’t translate particularly well to the world of digital marketing and lead generation in 2019. Leads are no longer just someone’s contact details in black and white – they’re much more dynamic. The customer is getting smarter – so your approach to them needs to be smarter.

With that in mind, I’m now going to introduce you to the two types of leads you need to know about when it comes to marketing in today’s landscape – marketing leads, and sales leads.

Why do we have different types of leads?

It’s all down to the buyer’s journey. Remember when I said the customer is getting smarter? Well, they now have a tool which helps them get infinite amounts of information about your company and your product before they decide to place an order with you – you might’ve heard of it, it’s called the internet.

Because of this, your customer has loads of interactions with your company before they even consider a purchase. They look at your website, open your emails, click on your social media posts. If you’re playing in the inbound space, they might download a whitepaper or a guide. These are all very valuable interactions that are very useful to know about before they fill in a form or pick up the phone. That’s where marketing vs sales leads come in.

Marketing qualified leads

Marketing leads – or “marketing qualified” leads – are just that. Leads which have been deemed ‘qualified’ by marketing. Usually, what happens is, your marketing team or agency, or whoever does your marketing, will design a funnel or campaign which drives prospects towards a particular goal. Could be a particular product or service, or just wanting them to get in touch. They will then use a marketing automation system combined with lead scoring to assign a point value to each interaction. You’ll agree on the number of points per interaction, and the threshold, and once a contact has reached that threshold, they’re deemed “marketing qualified”. That means they are primed, warmed and ready for a lovely little chat with sales. Your marketing team or agency are happy because they can see their activity is working, their messaging is point and targeting is right, and your sales team are happy because they’re getting toasty warm leads which are much more open to a conversation than your average cold call contact.

Which leads us nicely onto the other type of leads.

Sales qualified leads

Sales qualified leads are the next step on the journey for your prospect. Once they’ve been nicely warmed by marketing, it’s time to hit them with a well timed sales call. The advantage here, as I said before, is that the salesperson knows the lead is interested in your product or service, and if marketing have done their job right, is armed with loads of other juicy tidbits like what pages of your website they’ve been visiting and which email campaigns they’ve opened. This visibility makes the whole process smoother and the conversation (hopefully!) easier. Don’t let your marketing function off the hook here though – they can still support sales at this stage, whether that’s with battle cards, case studies, or product collateral to share. Leads are usually deemed sales qualified when it’s been determined that they’re a good fit for your product or service, they’re looking to replace their current service, you’re talking to the decision maker, and finally, they’re ready to buy. After that you usually move on to producing quotes and other activity which pushes leads over the line into customers.

We’re better together

You might have noticed that key part of operating a leads model in this way is a joined up approach to sales and marketing. I know from experience that in many businesses, there’s a definite distance between the two. And that’s just in businesses that have a dedicated marketing resource. But the truth is, to get better visibility of your prospects and to really supercharge your lead gen, you need this link to be strong, and for sales to have a solid understanding of what marketing (whether that’s internal or external) is sending to them.

Whatever your business’ current approach to sales and marketing, viewing leads in this way can only lead to better, more valuable conversations. If you’d like help and advice on how to join up your sales and marketing efforts, or you need some marketing to support your sales efforts – we can help. Simply get in touch and we can chat through your goals, challenges, hopes and dreams and help get you where you need to be.

The post Sales leads vs marketing leads – what you need to know appeared first on Inflowing.

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For anyone outside of marketing, defining the differences between inbound and content marketing might get a little confusing. They both involve writing really good content. They both involve sharing that content with your ideal customers. So what gives?

Rather than focusing on how they differ in terms of tactics – which is where they have a lot of crossover – it’s better to focus on where they differ in terms of objective. That is, what you’re looking to achieve by investing time, money, blood, sweat and tears into them.

With that in mind, I’m going to take you through the difference between content marketing and inbound marketing, and how to know which approach is right for your business.

Content marketing – the foundation

I’ve sort of started off by positioning content marketing and inbound marketing as two sides of the same coin – but this isn’t necessarily true. I prefer to think of content marketing as the base on which good inbound marketing is built on. The objective of content marketing is to tell a story about your business or your industry and share it with your ideal customers. I think that there are benefits to all businesses of doing content marketing.

Telling a story

To be successful in marketing in 2019, you need to be invested in some sort of content. Content is how you tell the story of your brand – and it’s how you get people engaged with your business. Whether it’s blog posts, whitepapers, LinkedIn Pulse articles, videos, podcasts or a well curated Instagram account, beautifully crafted content that provides value and insight to your customers is the currency the marketing world currently runs on.

To my mind, every business should be doing a bit of content marketing. You don’t have to be the New York Times trying to push the boundaries of journalism and uncover stories no else has, but there’s a lot of value in providing your organisation’s take on topics closely related to your customers and their challenges.

Having a digital pulse

In a world where every one of your potential customers carefully researches any purchase before they make them, they’ll be on your website and social media looking for signs of life. That is – if you haven’t tweeted since 2017 or uploaded a blog post since 2015 – to a potential customer this looks like a red flag. In a world where customers want instant gratification – if you’re inactive on social media, does that mean they’re not going to get a response from you? If you haven’t updated your blog in years, have you gone out of business? While I wouldn’t encourage writing content for the sake of it, as I’ve already said, there are other benefits to sharing content regularly – so letting potential customers know you’re still knocking around is an added bonus.

Inbound marketing – ramping it up

Producing and sharing the right content with the right people is doing content marketing – using this content to move and nurture people through a marketing funnel to becoming a qualified lead is inbound marketing. Inbound is a way of framing content marketing so that all the good things that come with it – telling your story, building trust, creating awareness – are all harnessed to constantly move people to the next action. The objective of inbound marketing is to use a range of tactics (including content) to move people through a series of desired actions until you can deliver them into sales like a delicious warm Texas BBQ stuffed crust pizza.

Defining the journey

We’ve banged on about the inbound journey more than enough on this blog – details here, here and here – so I won’t go over it again in massive detail now. Basically, with inbound, you’re thinking about the journey of the customer as they interact with your content and simultaneously moving through your sales funnel. The main stages are awareness (when a prospect becomes aware of a potential problem), consideration (they’re considering solutions to that problem) and decision (they’ve decided your product or service is a solution to their problem, and they’re shopping around for providers). You’ll want to produce suitable content for each of these stages – and you can move people from stage to stage using various tactics, including producing whitepapers or guides they can download in exchange for their details, and subsequent nurturing emails, messages and other content. Inbound is taking content marketing and making content do the work for you.

Linking with sales

Inbound requires you to be wearing your marketing hat, but you should probably be wearing some sales socks. Not only do you want to make your visitors feel all warm and fuzzy with your amazing content, you’ve got to have that eye on the next stage of the buyer’s journey, thinking about how you might use the content you have to drive them through. This is where sales come in – the best inbound marketing campaigns get salespeople onboard early. What kind of content would they find useful in closing customers? What do they want to send to people who are engaged with them, but not quite ready for an appointment or a demo? Content marketing sits fully in the domain of marketing – but to execute a truly successful inbound marketing campaign, you need to think like sales a little bit.

Which one is right for you?

I said earlier in the post that it’s my long-held opinion that every business should do a bit of content marketing – the frequency, medium and focus will depend on your business. Inbound, on the other hand, isn’t for everyone. To be successful, inbound requires a lot of website traffic, and relevant website traffic at that, which can take years to build up. It requires a tight link between sales and marketing, which again can take years to build up. For some businesses, outbound is still the channel that works, and converts, and if that’s the case, content marketing can be a great addition to that approach.

Whether you want to elevate your business with content marketing, or you’re looking to really drive lead generation with inbound marketing – we can help. Inflowing provide amazing content and meticulously planned inbound campaigns for a range of B2B organisations – from start-ups to billion dollar global businesses. Let’s chat about how we might help you – get in touch to book a friendly, no-strings attached call.

The post Content marketing vs inbound marketing – which is right for you? appeared first on Inflowing.

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If you’ve read any of the content on this blog, you’ll know that we are massive proponents of a strong relationship between marketing and sales in a business. It’s not just because marketing departments tend to be smaller and if you buddy up to sales you get more people on a night out (although that is true) – it’s beneficial to the wider business too.

If you’ve any hope of really nailing your sales and marketing strategy – it has to be joined up. Doing one without the support of the other is a bit like putting together a big bit of IKEA furniture on your own – sure, you might get there in the end, but it’s going to be frustrating along the way, and the end result might not be as sturdy as it could’ve been.

Right, I’m going to stop talking about IKEA furniture before I start getting horrifying flashbacks. Without further ado, here are 4 reasons why your sales and marketing team need to coordinate efforts.

A consistent message

Obviously, it can be very confusing for a customer or prospect if they’re receiving one line of messaging from your marketing output, and one from sales reps. I’ve worked in a business before where some salespeople actually referred to the name of the business differently to marketing. This is a pretty fundamental problem with inconsistency that can be addressed with the right communication and collaboration between the two departments (not to mention a proper brand strategy). It’s not just about things like names either – it’s about being sure that marketing and sales are presenting a united front to their audience – that they hammer home the same features, benefits and USPs so that they stick in the customer’s head. I’ve seen success in the past with providing marketing-driven battle cards into sales – a pretty standard document, granted, but it’s very useful in giving sales a marketing approved approach to speaking about the features and benefits of your product or service.

No duplication of efforts

Another common problem. Sales don’t know marketing are hitting the prospect base with an email. Marketing don’t know that a salesperson behind on their target is hitting a section of that prospect base with their own email blast. I’ve seen it happen so many times, and it can hurt both the sales and marketing efforts if the customer or prospect feels they’re being constantly bombarded with communication from you which doesn’t look or feel consistent (see above). This duplication of activity makes a strong case for having a clear process of feeding sales with leads – they shouldn’t have to send out their own email campaigns if you’re serving them properly, and they should also understand that if there’s an appetite to do a particular campaign, that they should go through the right channels. It is very difficult to break the habits of individual salespeople, and it can also be difficult to ask a busy marketing team to be tactical when they’ve got a plan to stick to. That’s why it all comes down to having a solid process to build on.

Better leads for everybody

As I covered off in my previous blog post, there’s a clear benefit to having a distinction between marketing qualified and sales qualified leads and a process that logically moves people from one to the other. I’ll try not to repeat myself here, but being able to give sales a complete picture of how a prospect has interacted with your website, campaigns, messaging, etc before they get them on a call is invaluable. For marketers, seeing this journey and having that feedback loop from sales helps them see what’s working and what isn’t, allowing them to refine their strategy and get even more MQLs into sales. Sales can stop wasting their time on cold leads, marketing can stop wasting their time on activity which doesn’t generate decent leads. It’s a win-win. It also leads to easier reporting, and can help both departments point to gaps and areas where they need more resource or need to dedicate more time and focus.

Focus on results, rather than activity

When sales and marketing speak to each other, they can start measuring together. Whether that is a common language of MQLs and SQLs as I mentioned before, or pipeline growth, value, velocity or closed revenue that you often see in an account-based marketing (ABM) approach. Whatever your marketing approach – great communication between sales and marketing will lead to the metrics that matter. That can only ever be a good thing in my book.

Time to team up

Whether you’ve got a dedicated marketing team or your marketing effort is more agency-based, having them sync up with sales just makes sense from a commercial and strategic perspective. If you’d like more help and guidance on how to effectively integrate sales and marketing, the Inflowing team have worked with businesses large and small where we’ve overseen a successful relationship between sales and marketing. Just get in touch to find out how you could move your marketing forward.

The post 4 reasons sales and marketing need to speak to each other appeared first on Inflowing.

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You’ve probably gone merrily through life thinking that there is only one type of lead. For some people, the word “leads” conjures up images of salespeople with a rolodex full of physical pieces of card with contact details on. That’s where the phrase “top pocket” comes from – meaning to literally pop someone’s business card in your top pocket and keep a lead all to yourself. Sneaky.

You won’t be surprised to hear that this traditional and rather “static” view of leads doesn’t translate particularly well to the world of digital marketing and lead generation in 2019. Leads are no longer just someone’s contact details in black and white – they’re much more dynamic. The customer is getting smarter – so your approach to them needs to be smarter.

With that in mind, I’m now going to introduce you to the two types of leads you need to know about when it comes to marketing in today’s landscape – marketing leads, and sales leads.

Why do we have different types of leads?

It’s all down to the buyer’s journey. Remember when I said the customer is getting smarter? Well, they now have a tool which helps them get infinite amounts of information about your company and your product before they decide to place an order with you – you might’ve heard of it, it’s called the internet.

Because of this, your customer has loads of interactions with your company before they even consider a purchase. They look at your website, open your emails, click on your social media posts. If you’re playing in the inbound space, they might download a whitepaper or a guide. These are all very valuable interactions that are very useful to know about before they fill in a form or pick up the phone. That’s where marketing vs sales leads come in.

Marketing qualified leads

Marketing leads – or “marketing qualified” leads – are just that. Leads which have been deemed ‘qualified’ by marketing. Usually, what happens is, your marketing team or agency, or whoever does your marketing, will design a funnel or campaign which drives prospects towards a particular goal. Could be a particular product or service, or just wanting them to get in touch. They will then use a marketing automation system combined with lead scoring to assign a point value to each interaction. You’ll agree on the number of points per interaction, and the threshold, and once a contact has reached that threshold, they’re deemed “marketing qualified”. That means they are primed, warmed and ready for a lovely little chat with sales. Your marketing team or agency are happy because they can see their activity is working, their messaging is point and targeting is right, and your sales team are happy because they’re getting toasty warm leads which are much more open to a conversation than your average cold call contact.

Which leads us nicely onto the other type of leads.

Sales qualified leads

Sales qualified leads are the next step on the journey for your prospect. Once they’ve been nicely warmed by marketing, it’s time to hit them with a well timed sales call. The advantage here, as I said before, is that the salesperson knows the lead is interested in your product or service, and if marketing have done their job right, is armed with loads of other juicy tidbits like what pages of your website they’ve been visiting and which email campaigns they’ve opened. This visibility makes the whole process smoother and the conversation (hopefully!) easier. Don’t let your marketing function off the hook here though – they can still support sales at this stage, whether that’s with battle cards, case studies, or product collateral to share. Leads are usually deemed sales qualified when it’s been determined that they’re a good fit for your product or service, they’re looking to replace their current service, you’re talking to the decision maker, and finally, they’re ready to buy. After that you usually move on to producing quotes and other activity which pushes leads over the line into customers.

We’re better together

You might have noticed that key part of operating a leads model in this way is a joined up approach to sales and marketing. I know from experience that in many businesses, there’s a definite distance between the two. And that’s just in businesses that have a dedicated marketing resource. But the truth is, to get better visibility of your prospects and to really supercharge your lead gen, you need this link to be strong, and for sales to have a solid understanding of what marketing (whether that’s internal or external) is sending to them.

Whatever your business’ current approach to sales and marketing, viewing leads in this way can only lead to better, more valuable conversations. If you’d like help and advice on how to join up your sales and marketing efforts, or you need some marketing to support your sales efforts – we can help. Simply get in touch and we can chat through your goals, challenges, hopes and dreams and help get you where you need to be.

The post Sales leads vs marketing leads – what you need to know appeared first on Inflowing.

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