Focus on the Customer, Not Yourself, in Inbound Marketing

By Aug 06, 2014

By Debbie Qaqish

Today’s marketing executive is being bombarded with new technologies and new strategies that call for new knowledge and new experience.  Nowhere is this more evident than in inbound marketing.  Hubspot reports that 60% of all companies use inbound, it represents 34% of the overall marketing budget, and 48% plan to increase their inbound spend in 2015.  Yet, with the tremendous growth in inbound marketing, millions and millions of dollars are wasted because marketers get caught up in the “toy” and not the results.  A theory recognized in academic circles as “market orientation” provides a fresh approach for marketers looking to optimize this spend.

Market orientation is a firm-wide focus on the customer typically led by marketing.  Several academic studies prove companies who adopt this approach show improved profit and revenue, improved customer acquisition and retention, and an improved competitive position in the market.

How have your customers changed and how have you responded? Prior to the Internet, when a prospect/client began their buyer journey, they called in the sales group from the vendor to do a capabilities presentation.  The role of sales in this paradigm was to understand the needs and pains of the customer, shepherd them through their journey, and knit together a solution.  The role of marketing in this paradigm was to provide product collateral to support the sales teams face-to-face and phone interactions with the client.

Fast Forward To Today

We’ve all heard the statistics.  Buyers are as much as 60-70% through the selection process before you even have a whiff there might be an opportunity.  Roles in this paradigm have changed drastically.  The sales role is largely absent, unless they get lucky with a cold call.  But the role of marketing is very present.  Marketing is now responsible for having that needs/pains based dialog with the prospect until they are ready to talk to sales.

Cut to the Chase

There are two key approaches you can take to your inbound program.  Which one describes your efforts?

Approach #1:  It’s all about YOU!

This approach is used widely and results in less than an optimal return.  It’s the bright and shiny toy approach.   Characteristics:

  • Messaging about your products and your solutions only.
  • No messaging for specific prospect personas, by title, by industry, by function.
  • No messaging around persona needs/pains/motivators.
  • Once a prospect engages through an inbound channel, if they don’t convert (fill out a form or take an action), you have no other follow-up.  You aren’t having a continuous and relevant dialog with the prospect.
  • Once a prospect engages through an inbound channel, if they do convert (fill out a form or take an action), you have no other follow-up.

Approach #2:  It’s all about the PROSPECT (Market Orientation)

  • Estimate when, how, and why your prospects will reach out through an inbound channel (this can be scientific).  Create messaging and content that speaks to these situations.
  • All messaging is focused on what customers need and who they are.  It’s about what they need, not what you have to sell.
  • Dynamic content is presented based title, function, role, and needs.
  • Messaging is solutions oriented and based on the persona.
  • Once a prospect engages through an inbound channel, make it easy to convert.  Ensure each click takes the prospect into an easy and relevant dialog with no friction.  Each layer needs to be customer focused.  Make it easy for the prospect to share minimal information so you can store their information and continue an intelligent dialog.
  • Once a prospect engages through an inbound channel, if they don’t convert (fill out a form or take an action), you continue to engage with them.  Add them to a nurture to see if you can inspire them to further interaction.
  • Once a prospect engages through an inbound channel, if they do convert (fill out a form or take an action), you continue to engage with them.  If they fill out a “Contact Me” form, track what they do once passed to sales and/or add them to a campaign designed just for this stage.  If not a “Contact Me” form, simply add them to a nurture to see if you can motivate them to further interaction.

As prospects increasingly rely on the Internet to seek and find solutions, your inbound program becomes one of your most important strategies for lead generation.  The real question becomes what is the effectiveness of the investment?  This, of course, is based on your approach: YOU focused or CUSTOMER focused.  What’s your take?

Debbie Qaqish is the principal partner and chief strategy officer for The Pedowitz Group.

  • Jacob Hedeager Olsen

    Great article Debbie!

    The marketing business is truly becoming more and more customer-centric.

    It’s can be tempting to blurt out ego-centric advertisement about the wonders of your products – but wouldn’t you rather talk to someone, who was trying to understand you, rather than just taking about himself. I know I would. :)

    Looking forward to future posts.

  • Aaron Venables

    Thanks you for this article, a good read. I completely agree that the marketing department should take the lead on making it all about the customer. Times have changed, routes to market have changed, and the customer more than ever should be the focal point.