This was originally published as a guest post at OpenView Labs
Inbound marketing is great. Done well in the right situations, it can be a cost-effective way to reach new prospects.
But it doesn’t work for everyone.
When inbound marketing works − and when it doesn’t
If you’re selling a product or service in a category that is hot (i.e. there’s a high volume of Google searches for related terms), then inbound marketing is a great fit for you. That’s why marketing automation vendors rely heavily on inbound marketing; many companies are investing in these solutions and there’s a heavy volume in Google searches for related terms.
But what if you are introducing a new product of a type that’s not in particularly high demand (because people aren’t aware there’s a credible solution)? In this case, relying too much on inbound marketing is a recipe for disaster. You really have to use outbound marketing and sales to proactively find and sell to those initial customers that will help you establish credibility.
Unfortunately, some companies that should be focused on outbound marketing are deceived into thinking that inbound marketing is working for them when it’s really not.
Here’s an example of how this happened to one company, and what you can do to avoid a similar fate.
When appearances deceive
A CEO was getting ready to double-down on investments in inbound marketing. He based this strategy around the fact that most of the company’s incoming leads came from people visiting the website and using the contact form, email or phone number.
Digging into the numbers showed this pattern for visitors to the website:
Based on these numbers, would you recommend that the company increase its investment in inbound marketing efforts?
The truth is, we really don’t have enough information to make that call.
Getting the true picture
Further examination of the site’s most popular keyword sources showed that 65% of these visitors used the company name in their search term. In this case, a more representative view of the site’s traffic is seen in the pie chart below (left). The pie chart on the right shows traffic sources only for visitors who didn’t bounce. This is probably the best representation of traffic coming to their website. Note that the shrinking AdWords slice reflects high bounce rates for AdWords-sourced visitors.
Roughly 2/3 of visitors who don’t bounce either typed in the company’s URL or searched for the company name. Further digging would uncover how well these categories converted.
The company’s goal is to intercept people looking for their type of solution that haven’t heard of the company yet. But the data indicates that most website visitors had heard of them through some other means, and were searching for the company directly.
Is it possible the company is simply using bad keywords? Looking at keyword volume for other terms (including those used by competitors) suggests otherwise.
The more likely explanation is that this is an early market and buyers aren’t yet searching in droves for this type of solution. The company would be better off continuing its outbound marketing initiatives – direct sales, speaking and writing opportunities, and press and analyst education – to educate the market and win those early adopters. That way, it can continue with outbound marketing to leverage early wins and educate other prospects with latent pain. Keep in mind that all of the outbound marketing activities build content that can later be leveraged by inbound marketing activities once the market transitions from latent pain to active buyers.
Writing opportunities, as cited above, should now include participating in blogs or LinkedIn groups for related topics. There may also be forums that are starting to discuss the types of solutions now offered by the company, or how to deal with the limitations of the solution will be displacing.
Websites are NOT campaigns
Websites are valuable. But we shouldn’t equate them to direct mail or email strategies where the results can be attributed to a specific campaign. In fact, direct mail and email campaigns — along with other marketing investments — may trigger website visitors.
It’s difficult to isolate the source of visitors who type in a URL or search for a company name, but understanding how much of your traffic comes in this way is invaluable.
What you can do
In its July 11 edition, B2B Magazine reported results from a survey of B2B marketers at over 400 companies. In the survey, 44% of respondents reported that their companies did little or nothing with Web analytics. The key obstacles were lack of resources (71%), low priority for management (38%), and personal lack of knowledge (37%).
Few B2B companies need the depth of expertise or investment that B2C companies require. It’s a daunting task to become an expert in Web analytics, and you may not be able to afford to hire one. But you can agree on some specific Web analytic reports that provide invaluable guidance for marketing spend.
All B2B companies should complete the analysis illustrated above to understand their traffic sources and the implications when making decision on how to spend their time and money.
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