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Inbound Marketing Doesn't Work (without Sales Alignment)

Does your marketing team struggle with inbound marketing?

Trick question. Inbound marketing is not the sole responsibility of the marketing team. If your sales and marketing teams are struggling with inbound marketing, the answer could lie in a lack of alignment between the two.

This isn’t an uncommon problem either. Only 75% of marketers who use inbound marketing report their marketing strategy is effective.

 For the other organizations who are less successful, failing to involve sales in your inbound strategy could be a main contributor. In fact, simply involving the sales team isn’t enough. An effective inbound marketing strategy should start with sales.

For the past several years, Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion has argued marketing priorities should start at the bottom of the funnel and work their way up. Most marketers focus too much on filling the top of the funnel and creating content that supports those goals. Instead, marketers should start by talking with sales about what kinds of content they would like to have to help enable sales and build out from there. This ensures the main concern of every piece of marketing created is whether it is something a prospect wants to read and is looking to learn.

At this year’s INBOUND conference, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan took this idea of focusing on the bottom of the funnel first and blew it up. Rather than focusing on the bottom of the funnel, Halligan suggested replacing the funnel with the “flywheel.” This concept suggests inbound marketing should be a continuous and perpetual experience and conversation between you and your customers that moves through attracting interest, closing sales and delivering great customer service.

Once again, this model highlights the importance of aligning sales and marketing to make sure marketing is providing sales with the content they need to close deals and sales is providing marketing with the customer insights necessary to create this content.

Most marketers understand this importance of conversion over simply increasing traffic. The top priority for marketers in 2018, for 69% of marketers, is converting contacts and leads into customers. Unfortunately, sales enablement is only a priority for 37% of the same group. This shows that marketers don’t agree as much on the best way to improve conversions.

How can companies make sure their inbound marketing strategies are aligning with the goals of their sales team?

Start With Input From Sales

Whether you call it the bottom of the funnel or the conversion stage of the flywheel, sales enablement should be a top priority for your inbound marketing. Before you set any marketing goals or start to formulate your inbound strategy, make sure sales is involved from the beginning.

Create a Clear SLA Between Sales and Marketing

According to HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report, companies with a SLA are nearly twice as likely to see a higher ROI from inbound marketing compared to companies whose sales and marketing teams are misaligned.

When creating a SLA, make sure to clearly define what is considered a quality lead and under what criteria a lead will be passed on to a sales rep. This provides clear lead generation goals for the marketing teams and an understanding of where in the funnel (or flywheel) leads are when sales begins engaging.

Create Content for Sales Enablement First

While top of the funnel content such as blogs, videos and social media can be exciting and valuable, they shouldn’t be top priority. Create more bottom of the funnel, sales enablement content such as selection guides, model RFPs, price sheets or configurators, ROI and cost-saving calculators, etc..

The most important thing inbound marketers should remember is your job is to make the sales team more effective. Make allies of sales at every level, from admin to EVP and make sure every inbound marketing campaign and piece of content is designed to pull better prospects through the pipeline and help them close quicker.


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