As a former programmer, I am a natural skeptic. One of the virtues of a programmer is critical thinking which ensures that the software we create works in many scenarios. When I turned my freelance services into a business and learned how to sell in order to grow the company, I carried that trait with me. This is the story of how I came to realize the power of Inbound Marketing and realized it was the right investment for our business and our customers.
I founded Knowmad in 2002, before the days of Facebook and Wordpress. The company worked with local businesses to build web applications that supported their operations. Over the years, we added website design and Internet marketing. Today, we help our clients design, build and operate their online sales and marketing platform. We have been a HubSpot partner for 2 years and recently achieved Gold Tier status.
Partnering with HubSpot
I first heard about Inbound Marketing from my business partner, Diona Kidd. Like many other agencies, we were offering Internet marketing services such as SEO and ad words. However, we were challenged by the effort it took to do the monthly visitor analysis and were concerned about differentiating ourselves in the market. In addition, we were looking for a way to create more transparency for ourselves and our clients using data-driven marketing.
While I knew that Diona was talking to sales reps with HubSpot, Pardot and other marketing systems, I didn't get involved in the decision as I trusted her to find the right solution. After she completed her research, we made the decision to become a HubSpot partner in December 2011.
Before we began selling HubSpot to our customers, we took the approach of “eating our own dog food”. Diona guided the internal website redesign project that was already underway to include elements of Inbound Marketing. The new site launched in February 2012 (and is undergoing another redesign to better incorporate the lessons we've learned over the last 2 years as a HubSpot client and partner).
During this time, I continued to focus on generating sales and implementing projects. Diona painstakingly educated me about the Inbound process and successfully defended my questions about the ability of this digital marketing model to help us and our clients.
After a few months on the new platform, we were ready to add our first client. At this point, we had seen how HubSpot was providing us with actionable sales and marketing information in real-time. We looked to our existing marketing clients as the first group to test. By sharing our experience and the benefits of HubSpot for lead generation, we were able to quickly move a couple of clients to the new platform.
TIP: Set aside plenty of time to study and practice the extensive collection of training resources available in your HubSpot portal. Implementing an Inbound program will not happen overnight. Even if you hire a partner to help plan and execute Inbound, there is a cultural shift that must happen in your company for it to be successful.
The Inbound Skeptic
However, we still hadn't received qualified sales leads from our own efforts. In hindsight, we were suffering from trying to learn while delivering. Our lack of experience led to a less-than-complete implementation of the Inbound Marketing process for ourselves. Since rectifying that situation, we have seen a continued improvement in the quantity and quality of leads.
At the infancy of our implementation, I was naturally still skeptical about the ability of this process to generate leads and create customers. I was beginning to think that Inbound is a great tool for companies with a national or international audience but not so good for smaller companies with a local focus.
So in July, I was still pounding the pavement and making cold calls to drum up new business. These traditional efforts paid off when we secured a meeting with an established manufacturer who has been in operation since 1900.
The initial meeting turned into a follow-up meeting with the leadership team to assess our capabilities and fit. Our conversation went beyond the hour that was scheduled, and we both left feeling very upbeat about the meeting. They were going to meet further internally to discuss next steps and would follow-up with us.
TIP: Don't let lack of content stand in your way of setting up an Inbound program. Get creative with your existing marketing materials. If you're a HubSpot partner, take advantage of the Marketing Resources that are available in the Partner Resource Hub to help jumpstart your content offers. As you work the process, you'll get a better understanding of the content that engages your audience.
If you've ever done sales, you know that the next several days are pins and needles as you wait and hope to hear back. There are ways to move a sale forward but you can never make a client choose to do business with you.
The next morning, I was still thinking about the previous day's meeting when I found a HubSpot notification in my inbox. As I reviewed the submission, I saw that it was none other than then CEO who had downloaded our “Website Redesign Handbook” right after our meeting!
To say I was excited is an understatement. This email showed me that we had made an impression and generated interest. I knew that the years of valuable insights we shared in the whitepaper would make a strong statement about our company. And, as an agency, I was able to use the sales intelligence from this event as a selling point for how we can provide valuable information for their sales team.
After we closed the deal, I learned that the CEO had not only read the whitepaper but had shared it with the entire leadership team at the company. Even if we ran an expensive marketing campaign to target the management team of a company, it would not compare to the benefit of having our materials personally shared by the CEO. That is priceless!
I'm happy to report that this relationship has grown to include building modern websites for nearly every line of their business, multiple Inbound retainers and a long-term relationship with a client whom I respect and trust. Is it any wonder that this skeptic is now a believer?
TIP: It has been our experience that sales people are tougher to get engaged when starting an Inbound program. Finding a “win” that helps them do their job better is a sure way to convert a skeptic. Getting to know their sales process will make it easier to help them close more customers.
Today, I look for opportunities along the marketing and sales continuum. Your “win” may be generating more traffic or converting more visitors to leads or nurturing a lead along the sales cycle (like we did). Whatever the case, Inbound plays a key role in every organization's sales and marketing strategy.
Are you a skeptic turned believer? I'd love to hear your conversion story.
William McKee is a founding partner of Knowmad. As a Web architect & Internet business consultant, he is passionate about applying business knowledge & technical expertise to deliver solutions that advance business online. With over 15 years of Web experience, his current work involves designing strategies and creating processes to help business attract, engage and convert website visitors into customers.