Digital transformation is happening everywhere and commercial relationships are not an exception. Customers now are in charge of the process, have access to the information needed and the competition is just one click away.

As it happens with many other innovations lead by consumer products, customer has access and get used to new technologies before the corporations introduce them in their processes.

There is plenty of evidence supporting the fact that most of the buying process ( between 60 to 70%) happens before the first official contact with a business representative.

the modern buyer does not need or want to fill out a form to get informed Click To Tweet

How is sales supposed to manage that?

it is obvious that modern organizations can not afford to wait for their customers to call them in or fill their web site forms.

if you don´t help to define the problem, likely you will not be part of the solution Click To Tweet

 

Thus the way of selling is also being transformed.

Sales have been always in search of ways to get the attention of prospective customers Click To Tweet

They have been keen adopters of a new technology since the print, to the radio and TV , email and now the latest advances in big data, social selling and tracking technology.

Good new is that most of the new technologies are cheaply available and ready to use as a service. Currently  individual professionals and SMB can have access to better tools with better functionality than big corporations.

Cutting edge technology is not a question of budget but agility Click To Tweet

But before thinking about technology and tools , you have to think in your customers. Who are they and how can I get to them ?

 

Find or be found? Use sales or use marketing?

The goal of marketing is that your value proposition reaches the one that needs, or may need, your product.

To get that message across, traditionally you had to hire sales people or a marketing team according to the type of customers. If there were too many to call, marketing campaigns had to be used.

If you have a mass consumer product it is clear that you need to invest in marketing, and if you sell airplanes you need salespeople. But the remainder of B2B businesses tend to have gray areas where both salespeople are needed (though they can’t cover the whole market) and investment in marketing is needed – even if it’s not clear what catches a buyer’s eye (demand or need?).

The dilemma of the separation between sales and marketing is disappearing in companies and startups that use modern demand generation techniques.

Today’s technological capabilities enable greater sales agility – as does a paradigm within business that has increasingly moved from a “centralized” planning to areas closest to the customer.

Marketing is leveraging the concept of influence by educating and sharing relevant contents. And this is good, but there is so much competition around that the chances of your messages to reach your targets are very limited.

And your employees, especially your sales force, are ideally positioned to help in this task. They can be instrumental in generating the exposition and distribution of the contents to the clients.

This is clearer in small companies and start-ups where employees are key both in “producing” content while giving support in forums, posting posts with their experiences that are followed and shared by those interested in their niche of expertise.

This contributes toward expanding the presence of the company in a much more effective and economically efficient way than if a marketing team made advertising campaigns.

Some tech startup companies work without a marketing department. Some even say they work without traditional salespeople. As is the recently famous case of Atlassian, whose claim to fame was thriving without a sales force while managing to acquire 85,000 customers, becoming billionaires along the way.

This is feasible thanks to technology and processes that allow them to assume these tasks in a way that integrates into their day to day workflow.

It is about joining the process of demand generation (content creation, “farming”) with the active search for opportunities (hunting).

Although this is primarily the context within startups, companies that aren’t so “startup” anymore continue to maintain this philosophy with success, and much of what they do to pinch pennies could be done in many other organizations.

That the process be truly efficient an natural for the customer is more important than whether you find them or they find you.

Sales and marketing need to function in a way that potential clients feel a continuity, an evolution in the relationship with the company.

How to get that message to each buyer with a need.

Lead generation used to be a trade off between effectivity and scalability Click To Tweet

If we put on a line the options to communicate your message to customers and the respective personal relevance or effectiveness of that message, on one end would be a one-to-one conversation by the sales force (by phone, internet, or face-to-face) with the highest degree of adaptation to the need of the individual client (without efficient scalability).

At the opposite end would be advertising campaigns with ads in mass media (be it TV, print or the internet) that reach a degree of scalability limited only by each audience (i.e. the same message reaches all media users) but with less impact or relevance to each individual reached.

Between those two opposite ends – traditional advertising or direct contact – of getting our message across to clients, there are some hybrid methods as far as personalization and scalability: email marketing, social media marketing, and social selling.

Inbound and Outbound Methods

Here another differentiation is made between Sales and Marketing;  INBOUND and OUTBOUND. Outbound marketing is those traditional tools of ads, calls, or emails – outreach towards the client. Inbound marketing is generating attraction to your brand usually with content.

Outbound Marketing has also been called Interruption Marketing. Inbound and Content Marketing is considered to be either attraction marketing or permission marketing, as Seth Goldin wrote in 1999.

Obviously it sounds better to attract than to interrupt, so the latter definition clearly comes from inbound supporters.

The mere approach of Inbound vs. Outbound creates yet another barrier – one distant for the client – which simply looks internally to our processes and tools. What’s more, this barrier is a fictional divider because inbound actually makes use of “outreach” tools like social networks or email directly.

And let’s not forget that to reach a customer (Outbound), you have options beyond just advertising, cold calling or emailing en masse. Outbound critics are right to call it an interruption when using these techniques on databases obtained without selection criteria.

The problem in this techniques have one factor in common: the potential client has not requested information, hence they are considered as interruptions or unnecessary noise (making them far less effective).

INBOUND MARKETING

All of these are methods must be complemented with an essential foundation of inbound marketing to attract the client towards you or that the client himself finds you.

And while the concept of Inbound Marketing existed before the CEO of Hubspot wrote his book and launched their marketing automation software in 2006, it was Hubspot as a company who popularized the term.

The association leads many to identify inbound marketing with marketing automation but is not the same.

Inbound Marketing is not just a marketing automation platform, however complete it may be Click To Tweet

A customer can find you because someone is talking about you (client references from your network of influence) or because some of your content has interested them and brought them to your doorstep.

Attraction is any way to generate someone being interested in you or your product, from references to other clients, your social network activity, and, especially, your created content.

Content is the raw material for all things to move forward, but because of this great important role played by content, many have come to also associate Content Marketing with Inbound Marketing.

The Inverted Funnel

One of the problems at the practical level of that association (created by Marketing Automation vendors) is that it leads to, from the outset, a limited opportunity funnel.

Automation marketing platforms work by sending emails automatically based on some criteria to make a segmentation: pages visited or content downloaded.

Their typical funnel is:

Attract (visits) —> Identification (leads) —> Convert (opportunities) —> Loyalty (clients)

But all its automation is based on emails and only works once the customer has provided that email.

You had to first attract them and then convince them to leave you their email in exchange for something, in order to start “to work” the opportunity.

But spam and email maketing has made web visitors very reluctant to subscribe or let their email

98% of web visitors don´t leave their email . do not rely on subscribers only Click To Tweet

And obviously only a fraction of those visits will be you enterprise buyer

This makes it very ineffective for B2B company sales.

In Chapter 5 we will see how to create a much more adequate funnel for B2B, starting with

Identify (prospects) —> Connect (social selling leads) —> Attract (content) —> convert (opportunities)

 

In reality,when you sell to entreprise segment your can have your accounts or a list of your buyers 

the most critical part of all Inbound Marketing is getting a customer to care about you.

Doing that only thanks to content that has the quality to stand out in an ocean full of competitive content is a challenge. As most business and influencers , media , bloggers etc.. move to create more content , the challenge is ever bigger.

An the consumer of this content is also saturated ..even of good qualty content . So the impact for each piece is constantly declining. An the good content is expensive

This is a real challenge – one that software platforms won’t help you with.

We have dedicated a chapter to how to generate content at scale , how to personalize it and how to have it be seen for what they’re interested in. ( chapter 4) 

 

Throughout this book we will outline a process that combines both worlds the Inbound and the outbound;

We believe It is the combination of determining who your customers are to find them (chapter 2), so that they can be exposed to content, information, and interactions with your value proposition in a natural way (chapter 4) with your proposal reaching those who can buy, through the possibilities provided by the networks (Chapter 3). We will talk, finally, about how to integrate all of this in an affordable and scalable way (chapter 5).

NEXT: Outbound Methods (1) - Publicity and ads