Rick asks an excellent question. I’d like to slightly modify his original short answer…
“Yes, but not in the same way.” (And yes Rick, I will talk about the customer too.)
Here’s my long answer, which includes some stories to make your reading fun and to better make the points.
b2c vs. b2b, online vs. bricks-and-mortar, local vs global, etcetera etcetera. There is an unlimited amount of comparatives to choose from. I’m going with a local restaurant and an enterprise software company (where I used to work, long long ago.) Yes, the concepts of inbound marketing work for both but, as I hope you will see, in very different ways.
My favorite restaurant is True Bistro in nearby Teele Square (Somerville, MA). It’s a vegan place. I eat a vegan diet. I eagerly watched their preparations to open, and I go there all the time. I Yelp about it, and tell everybody I know about it, and it even was featured in my bio in a former version of our website. How did they use inbound marketing to get me as a customer? Well, mostly they studied demographics to decide where a vegan restaurant was likely to succeed. Meaning, they asked questions like, “where are there vegans and how will they find us?” They weren’t thinking about me, specifically, in the least. When they chose their spot, they used a really clever inbound marketing technique….they put up a sign saying “amazing vegan restaurant opening soon!” (Oh, and they had their name on it too.) But they still didn’t know that I drove by the sign on my way to work every day. I tweeted about it, saying something like “there’s an amazing vegan restaurant opening soon!” #truebistro. I got a reply tweet back and the rest, as they say, is history. Inbound marketing? Sure, but a very different use of the concepts then my next story.
I used to work at an enterprise software company…MRP software to be precise. Back when ERP was actually called MRP. Mid-market. Crowded competitive landscape. HP minicomputer-based. Almost all customers were in North America. Boston HQ, 5 or 6 regional sales offices. Four-legged sales calls. Tough biz. So, the sales and marketing veep decides that he needs to get him some sales training to stimulate the team, spur growth, and mature processes. And he hires a leading (maybe THE leading) sales trainer guy of the day. The 4-day class opens with a presentation from the guy that goes just about exactly like this:
We’re all in a room at a local hotel. Nothing but an easel with a flip chart in the front of the room. The guy comes in, doesn’t say anything as he meaningfully gives us each “the eye” (to build suspense I guess), and then with a flourish turns over a bunch of pages on the flip chart to reveal a pie chart. Big circle with a single, smallish wedge drawn on it. (Mind you, he still hasn’t said anything.) Finally, he turns to the room, introduces himself, talks about all his experience and stuff, and then walks back to the flip chart and asks, “Does anybody know what this is?” Of course we all know it’s a pie chart but we’re all not dumb enough to shout out that answer. So, silence. He waits…perhaps a beat too long…and tells us that studies have shown that in any market only about 10% (yes, that was the value of the small slice of the pie) of the potential customers are actively looking for a product or service (he said “solution” of course) from vendors that target that market. Okay, we’re thinking, so what? He then gets really excited to inform us that he’s going to teach us sales techniques to attack the 90% of the people who aren’t actively looking for our product because (he’s getting pretty wound up at this point mind you) that’s a far bigger audience and we all want to kill our quotas and stuff, right!?!?!? So, we’re all dutifully getting wound up ourselves and pounding the desks and shouting and whooping and….well, not really, but sort of and quietly to ourselves. The VP was pretty excited though. Anyway, it wasn’t until years later that I realized what an utter load of crap this was. (I bet you all can see where this is going now.) You’re all probably asking, “Why the hell would you do anything but try to figure out a way for the people actively looking for your product or service to find you?” Okay, I know you want me to wrap this up. Point is, the sales training should have been all about inbound marketing. But in fairness, this was before the Internet so that message would have been really hard to hear. (Oh, you want to know what happened? Nothing really. The sales were just as hard, the forecast was just as inaccurate, and yet the sales trainer got paid.)
So, how does all this relate back to the what we asked at the beginning? And how does this relate to the customer, as I promised you and Rick I would do?
Well, in the first example True Bistro employed inbound marketing principles BEFORE entering the market. Once in the market, they focus on social media as the main driver of their inbound marketing approach. In the second example, and if time-travel were possible, the company would employ inbound marketing principles AFTER entering the market. And, they would be focusing on search as the main driver of their inbound marketing approach.
But despite the differing manner of employing an inbound marketing strategy, I disagree (politely) with Rick. I believe it works for EVERY customer of every business. The tools and techniques may be different, but it definitely works.
Send all complaints, disagreements, flames, etc. to Rick.
Happy selling…I mean…inbounding. Peace.
Have you looked at the calendar today? There are ten weeks left in 2012.
I don’t mean how many dollars is a referral worth or how much time does it save you. What is it that makes a referral valuable? How do you know it’s valuable? What does the referrer have to do in order to make it valuable?
I’m connecting you to Rick, a very personable and helpful… Rick, Barry is a smart technologist… (There was more, but it would make Barry and me blush.)
Barry, I chat with vendors on the last day of every month. If you would like to get on my calendar you can do so here. I look forward to chatting with you!”
I have two answers, a short one and a long one.
- what percentage of 40 – 70 year olds have the app for what you sell.
- what percentage did a search on Google today.
- what percentage didn’t turn their computer on today.
- what percentage used the yellow pages or dialed 411 today.
- what percentage actually opened that catalogs, flyers and other ‘junk’ mail that arrived today.
- what percentage made a purchase from a telemarketer today.
- what percentage called a friend to ask for a referral or called your competitor based on a friend’s referral.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep.
Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, ‘Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see? ‘
‘The Lone Ranger replies, ‘I see millions of stars.’
‘What that tell you?’ asked Tonto.
The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, ‘Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.
What does it tell you, Tonto?’
‘You dumber than buffalo. It means someone steal tent.’
I’m fortunate enough to participate in a weekly web conference with the Inbound Networkers Group. This group is managed by the Rainmakermaker himself, Rick Roberge. The tagline for Rick’s blog is “Selling in the 21st Century” and that’s what this article is about. There’s a reason I try to make sure not to miss our Thursday calls – I get something new and useful out of every call.
Last Thursday, we spent a fair amount of time talking about the online-offline continuum within the context of selling. Most, if not all, of the group are HubSpot customers and are firm believers in the power of inbound marketing. I became a convert because I realized that inbound marketing syncs my selling process with the way people and organizations buy in the 21st century.
Which brings me to the point of this article. We all are getting leads using inbound marketing, but we all understand the ultimate success of our businesses depends upon our ability to successfully nurture a relationship that begins online into one that exists in the “real” world. Unless you’re selling a product or commodity using eCommerce, people still buy from people. To take that one step further, people buy from people they like and trust.
So here are some ideas for creating real relationships from virtual ones:
- Find someone who your prospect knows and respects and get an introduction. Rick is probably the best networker that I’ve ever met – he believes in the concept of karma and shares his network with his friends. That’s essentially the raison d’etre of the Inbound Networkers Group. Getting an introduction from a trusted friend is the best form of social proof available.
- Learn about your prospect’s needs and desires before you try to take the relationship offline. There are numerous resources available to find out basic information about your prospect – LinkedIn and Google are two quick ones that come to mind. Try to take it one step further; find someone that knows your prospect and give her a call. See if you can find out something that’s not available on LinkedIn.
- Don’t make it all about you! Guess what – nobody cares. Find a way to help solve a problem your prospect is facing and offer assistance without any expectations or requirements for a payback. You might help your prospect by offering a framework to analyze options to solve a problem. If you offer options that don’t include your solution, you demonstrate that you have the prospect’s best interests at heart. Most people like options.
- Pick up the phone! Many of us (myself included) rely too much on email. Email is a great communications tool, but it lacks the immediate feedback you get from a live conversation. When you pick up the phone, be respectful of your prospect. Have a brief statement prepared that explains why you’re calling and the benefits of the prospect speaking with you. Here’s an example: “Hi, Joe, Rick Roberge suggested I give you a call about the new iPhone app you’re developing. He thought it might be useful for us to kick around a few ideas on how to sell your app using your website and social media. Is now a good time to talk?”
As we were discussing the online to offline relationship development, Rick offered a perspective that I hadn’t thought of. What about the executive decision-maker who has had a long, successful career based on a totally offline style? How do you educate that executive on the benefits of online relationships and selling? In that situation, the key word is educate. Without being pedantic, you need to demonstrate the value of online relationships in the 21st century selling paradigm. In many instances, taking that relationship online is just as important as taking the online relationships offline.
If you’d like to learn more about the online-offline sales continuum, another good resource is the Collaborative Growth Network, run by HubSpot’s Pete Caputa. In the interest of proper attribution, many of the ideas discussed above were offered and fleshed out by my Inbound Networkers Group colleagues including Rick Roberge, Matt Roberge, Dale Berkebile, Carole Mahoney, Michael Mills and Don Battis (forgive me if I forgot someone.) If you’re interested in joining the group, please let us know. I personally find the weekly teleconferences invaluable.
And please – let us know your thoughts on taking online relationships offline and vice-versa.