You wouldn't know there's a new world going on in marketing if you were stuck to the phone making cold calls and chasing down leads. But not only has cold calling become a proven waste of time and resources, it simply does not help build the relationships that inbound marketing does. Inbound marketing is now useful for not only generating and nurturing leads, but also closing sales.
How Marketing Has Evolved
In the previous century, telemarketing worked, but only if you bothered enough people who didn't want to talk with you. Like mass advertising on television or radio, it was a numbers game that usually delivered somewhere between 1-7 percent conversions. But that was before consumers and politicians fought back with "do not call lists" and the advent of smart phones that now tell you exactly who is interrupting your day.
"Interruptive" is the best term to define yesteryear's invasive marketing while "permission-based" is the coveted term that now defines inbound marketing. The types of channels that are now encompassed in this emerging form of 21st century marketing include SEO, blogging, social media and permission-based email distribution.
The bottom line is that people are very tired of being interrupted by things they don't want as they are now focused on doing their own online research to find the answer they need.
Building Online Relationships
The most important key to closing sales using inbound marketing is to build an online community of followers, especially through social networks. Inbound marketing is not about finding random new friends online and then pitching them on your products. This new paradigm is about enabling people interested in your products to find you.
If you create enough informative content about your company and your products/services search engines will regard your website as authoritative and give your pages high search rankings. This will lead to more traffic, more engagement and more leads.
You can then direct followers to your social media page, blogs or newsletters for deeper information that also allows them to post comments. By responding to their comments you can begin a dialogue and start building trust.
Further, you can direct visitors to other components of your inbound approach such as your blog or LinkedIn, where they can learn and ask questions by leaving comments. Additionally you can make articles, white papers or videos available that can educate them on their issues as well as how you help companies solve similar problems.
Interactivity is what gives people the quick answers they are looking for online. Before people buy products/services they want to know what they are buying. In other words, the Internet is now about customers getting what they want, not necessarily sellers selling to the masses. The balance has shifted from Caveat Emptor to Caveat Vendit (from buyer beware to seller beware).
Lead Scoring and Nurturing
Closing sales is the final stage of the inbound marketing process. It's important to capture leads and score them first before attempting to close sales. The sales funnel begins with educating the consumer, not with a quick hard sales pitch like in the old days.
The objective is to create value and build trust to create comfort and establish your authority. Trying to force sales too early is bad practice because you’ll chase people away who may not be ready to buy today, but could be in the future.
A better approach is to develop a lead scoring system so that the top scores above a certain threshold become candidates for closing sales while the rest of the leads are nurtured for the future.
Lead scoring requires that you first define what a “qualified lead” is for your business and then assign a scoring system where higher scores reflect the quality and readiness of a lead and low scores reflect leads that are not ready for a sales process. Low scores can certainly be nurtured for the future as all scores are subject to change over time depending on people's interests, budgets and readiness to buy.
Utilizing and integrating inbound marketing with you overall sales approach not only enhances your ability to consistently and effectively generate leads, but to increase your win rate as well. It takes some work up front, and saves you a multiple of time and money in the long run.