This is some thing I have been observing over the past couple years and after reading some materials for one of my marketing classes it confirmed it. Traditional forms of direct marketing where you email blast, cold call, buy leads, or direct mail huge amounts of people to fill the top of the funnel are changing. The vast majority of buyers no longer rely on companies for information which is why there has been a shift to inbound marketing. Because of the Groundswell movement, they are doing their own research and finding all the information on their own rather than relying on companies and institutions to do so. Now with that said, you cannot completely discard these direct marketing techniques. I think they are still important to generate awareness and get the ball rolling. The key is to guide people’s research process in the direction of your products.
The major change from the past is, sales people would prospect, generate interest and after a few meetings, sell the product or wait for people to contact their company. A trend I have been noticing now is, once the awareness is generated, people wait to talk to sales until they are completely ready to buy. The amount of time buyers are discussing with sales people has be decreased dramatically. Essentially sales people are only there to discuss pricing and close the deal rather than do a whole lot of selling. This is because there is an abundance of information on the internet for people to do their own research. This coupled with peoples widespread trust issues with salespeople leads to a change in the way sales organizations operate. Because of this, the lead funnel looks more like this:
This is why you see such a shift to inbound marketing which is what I spend my day-to-day doing. With all that being said, there are ways your company can help combat this change and make sure your sales people are using their time more efficiently, because lets face it, they are never going to listen to that voicemail you left them.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
This is probably the most important. When people take to the internet to do their research, they will not spend hours fishing through the hundreds of pages of Google results. In fact according to Search Engine Journal 75% of users don’t scroll past the first page. This means it is paramount for your business to rank within the top results.
To aid with search engine optimization you must create content. The more stuff your site has pertaining to your offerings, the more Google will find when it crawls the web and the higher you rank. You must also be clever about how you curate this content to make sure its set up to capture leads. Landing pages with forms in front of whitepapers and other assets are a great way of doing this. This helps get people into your awkwardly shaped funnel.
This is a great thing to add to your inbound marketing strategy. The way it works in a nutshell is; say a person visits your site while in the process of researching a certain solution then they leave without doing anything. When they go to your site, a cookie (small piece of magical internet data) get stored in their browser. Now when they visit sites with display ad space, you can advertise whitepapers, offers, and other information pertaining to what they were looking at on your site. Again, you would want to put a landing page with a form in front of this content to capture them and poof they are in your funnel.
Now for you sales guys that thought you were off the hook, its your turn to step in and seer the convo. Us inbound makers look to get rid of the need to cold call people and spend time prospecting. We generate and warm up the leads so you can call or email them once they are in the funnel to move them along. Offer help and statistics to aid in their research efforts because at the end of the day, the information they gather will ultimately lead to their purchase decision.
With all that said, there are still companies that prefer the traditional buying process. I have noticed a lot of the bigger companies, and fortune 500’s go through this process because they have trained buyers on their staff to help evaluate these decisions and have the bandwidth to talk to hear every prospective vendors pitch. The majority of companies don’t have the luxury of having seasoned buyers on their staff so thats when these inbound marketing tips really pay off!