The inbound marketing concept, as developed by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot, has evolved into a full-customer lifecycle way of doing business. The original concept was based on a funnel approach which progressed from website visitor to lead to customer. Once they became a customer, they were passed over to customer service. HubSpot has evolved their philosophy from a funnel to a "flywheel", where the inbound approach is part of the customer lifecycle long after they become a customer.
This philosophy aligns well with professional services and other knowledge-based businesses. For professional services business, referrals, testimonials, cross-sells and up-sells are essential to consistent growth. And all of these things come from satisfied customers. That's why it's so important to embed the inbound approach into your business development process across the customer lifecycle.
What is the inbound approach?
The inbound approach at its core is based on educating potential customers and helping them solve problems that they can't solve themselves. From an inbound marketing standpoint, this is done by creating content (videos, eBooks, webinars, blogs, etc.) that is helpful to a highly targeted audience.
Here are some of the fundamental elements of an inbound business development process.
- A highly focused target market. Buyers today are bombarded with content. When they seek out content, they want it to be specific to their situation. The tighter you focus, the more you're able to provide content that resonates with the people you target.
- SMART goal-setting and measurement. A SMART goal-setting process allows you to focus on the strategies and tactics that support growth across the customer lifecycle.
- Content that educates your focused target market and helps them solve problems. If you're not creating great content, it's going to be difficult for you to sustain growth over the long run.
- A systematic way to manage your business contacts and create targeted content for segmented contacts. A good CRM and marketing automation software solution let's you communicate to the various people that play a role in a buying decision. It's no longer enough to get the C-level contact onboard with your solution. Businesses are increasingly using buying committees to make major purchase decisions. It's important to speak to all of the stakeholders in a way that addresses their needs and concerns. We recommend the HubSpot Growth Platform.
By infusing inbound into your business development process after a prospect becomes a customer, you help create referrals, up-sells and cross-sells to fuel your growth.
What are businesses doing in 2020 to grow?
DemandGen Reports recently released their 2020 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. The report found that "the top two priorities for marketing teams in 2020 are to improve conversion rates/ campaign performance and focus on lead quality over quantity." Simply put, the pendulum has swung towards an emphasis on lead quality over quantity.
What lead is of a higher quality than one that originates from a satisfied customer? Referrals, cross-sells and up-sells are high probability opportunities and an inbound business development process helps create them. That's why it's so important to to strive for customers that are your evangelists - you need to exceed their expectations and an inbound approach will help you do that.
An inbound approach is also important in your outbound business development efforts. The DemandGen survey found that businesses are investing money into account-based marketing and content marketing to improve lead quality. According to LinkedIn, Account Based Marketing is a strategy that directs marketing resources to engaging a specific set of target accounts. An effective ABM effort requires content that is micro-focused on a prospect company's specific concerns. That's why a helpful inbound approach is essential to an effective ABM effort.
Growing professional services firms are also using the inbound approach in their email prospecting. A concise email that illustrates the value of accessing helpful contact offered up in a link is a far more effective approach than promoting your capabilities. It's the difference between using a rifle and a shotgun. More importantly, it's respectful to the recipient.
By infusing an inbound approach into your business development, you will increase the quality of your lead flow and create opportunities from your customer base. If you'd like to learn more, schedule a business development strategy session.