If there was ever a question about whether a couple of people and a dream can change the world, it was answered last week at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center; where more than 10,000 people gathered for Inbound 2014. It’s hard to believe that Inbound wasn’t really a word that marketers used less than a decade ago.
The (unofficial) theme of the conference was, The Times, Whoa They Are A Changing Big Tim, and You Better Change Too or Risk Falling to Irrelevance. From the keynote speakers to the breakout sessions, the focus was all about how sellers and marketers need to (and can) reorient their approach to align with and delight today’s new buyer.
In addition to some major announcements about new platforms from HubSpot, I walked away with five very important takeaways that every company executive looking for growth should keep at the forefront of their mind.
The Customer Is In Control
I’ve written about this before. While 20 years ago we lived in a buyer beware world, today it’s seller beware. Customers have access to more information, more options and more power. There are no two ways about it – your customer has all of the control and, if you haven’t already, it’s time to accept that fact.
This doesn’t just apply to the active buying/selling process. Customers want information when they want it and how they want it. If your prospect is in their hotel room after a conference dinner and decides they want to look at best practices that are based upon what they were talking about earlier in the day – you better have it for them. If they like video, audio or the written word, you better have your information in that format.
Oh yeah, it’s very rare that the issue your customer cares about is your history or track record. It’s time you started becoming an expert in their business, rather than one in yours.
Your Sales Approach Is Killing You
Which brings me to my second takeaway. Stop selling in the traditional manner – it’s killing you. Forrester Research says that typical B2B customers do 90% of the buying process on their own without you. Personally, I think that’s overstating the case; but the fact is the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) has revolutionized how companies and people buy.
Where customers used to look to salespeople to educate them on products and issues, today the customer doesn’t even want to talk with a salesperson until they already feel educated. This means that the consultative/solution selling process you’ve been relying on is killing you. Your job as a sales organization is no longer to educate people on your products, but to curate the knowledge that’s out there. As Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson say in their book, The Challenger Sale, solution selling is just not enough anymore.
Inbound Marketing Is No Longer A Competitive Advantage
We are at that point in time where creating content and giving customers and prospects control is no longer a competitive advantage. As I shared earlier, it’s expected.
Now, the failure to implement a comprehensive inbound marketing and sales approach is an albatross that will stunt growth and kill margins. Inbound marketing is past the bandwagon stage and is now a must. (I’ll share more thoughts on this in a post next week.)
The Marketer of Tomorrow if Very Different Than Yesterday
The fundamental change your business must address is that today, marketing has far more responsibility for revenue generation than ever before. In many cases, your marketing efforts are more important than your sales efforts.
This means you need a different type of marketer if you’re going to be successful. Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, has a great acronym for the new marketer. He says, the successful marketer of tomorrow is DARC:
To be successful, marketers (and for that matter, salespeople) must be comfortable and focused on those four areas to be successful.
The Future Is Bright
Early in my career I had a coach who described the future for me. He said, “Doug, the future is going to be opportunity mixed with difficulty. What’s more, the greater the difficulty, the greater the opportunity.”
Leaving Inbound 2014 I was reminded of that fact. While businesses face bigger challenges than ever before, those that adapt have an opportunity we could have only wished for in the past.