For the past 50 years, marketers have spent huge amounts of money interrupting their potential customers through TV advertisements, email blasts, telemarketing, and direct mail. These methods have driven leads that fueled the growth of great companies, but consumers are becoming more sophisticated at blocking out messages with tools such as TIVO, spam protection, and caller ID.
Your customers are changing. They have found new ways to shop and learn: Instead of reading newspapers or magazines, they search Google, blogs, and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Instead of buying in store, they want to complete the transaction — from research to purchase — online. In its efforts to adapt to the way consumers shop and learn in today's society, marketing will likely change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50.
In my travels, I've spoken with many chief marketing officers and marketing executives who are in charge of creating leads for the sales force. The opinions of the executives I meet vary widely in terms of how they view the shifts happening in marketing today. Nevertheless, many executives still waste a lot of energy simply trying to automate traditional marketing processes instead of changing the process itself. Marketers ought to begin by transforming their marketing and then think about how to automate it.
Inbound marketing is a strategy that requires hard work and a nimble response to changing markets. Fortunately, software-as-a-service solution providers (SaaS) often operate on a shorter feedback cycle than a traditional, on-premises software company. SaaS companies think in days, weeks, and months — not months, years, or lifetimes. Another way SaaS companies can enable individuals to be better at inbound marketing is a concept embedded in its name — service. Vendors that work closely with their customers around consulting, education, and support not only enables continuous product improvement, but help to develop smarter marketers who are able navigate the changing marketing landscape more confidently.
Is your company ready to cope with the fundamental changes happening in your prospect base? Here are a few actionable suggestions that will help you change the way you market today:
- Measure the percentage of leads that originated from your company's Twitter account, Facebook fan page, and LinkedIn group last quarter. If the rate is not at 10 percent and growing, evaluate whether you are providing useful content to your followers and fans, or just using your accounts as shouting tools.
- Measure the percentage of leads that originated from the company blog last quarter. If the percentage is below 10 percent, consider updating your blog more frequently and add attractive calls to action at the end of each blog article that correspond with the content in the post.
- Run your Web site though WebsiteGrader, a free resource and tool that measures your ability to get found online. If you have a grade of 90 or above, you have a good chance of attracting highly qualified prospects. If your score is below 90, WebsiteGrader will provide tips on how to improve your grade.
- Think of three industry terms that a prospect might search for, excluding your brand names, in order to find you. Go to Google and search for them. Check and see if your company ranks in the top three results. You want to have at least two of the three on the first page of Google. If you are not appearing on the first page, it's time to reevaluate your off-page search engine optimization.
- Create remarkable content that attracts other publications, blogs, and Web sites to link to you. Inbound links are the most important factor when it comes to increasing your page ranking.
- Does your company spend more than $10,000 each month on a public relations representative that interrupts journalists? If the answer is yes, consider redirecting that money to create videos, Webinars, and blog posts that will attract journalists and prospects to you.
When asked why he was a great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky said he always skates to where the puck is going. If, after reviewing the aforementioned action items, you feel you're on top of today's marketing transformation, don't worry, you'll skate to where the puck is going.
About the Author
Brian Halligan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is coauthor of Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs and cofounder and chief executive officer of HubSpot, an Internet marketing company dedicated to helping small businesses leverage the Internet to get found by qualified prospects and convert more of them into leads and customers. His blog, blog.hubspot.com, ranks as one of the world's top 100 marketing blogs, according to Ad Age magazine. Previously, Halligan worked as a venture partner at Longworth Venture Capital and held senior sales and marketing roles at Groove Networks (acquired by Microsoft) and Parametric Technology Corporation. Holding an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, Halligan is a frequent lecturer at MIT and Harvard Business School on the science of selling and marketing. He also frequently speaks at conferences, such as the New Marketing Summit, Search Engine Strategies, and the Inbound Marketing Summit.
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