Without leadership support, new marketing initiatives can be challenging. Successful inbound marketing requires a great deal of time and effort to see results.
The research is pretty darn clear that inbound is effective - companies who do inbound marketing appreciate higher website traffic, lead generation and sales. However, if you don't have the budget or support necessary for a company-wide shift in marketing methods, you probably won't be successful.
Inbound marketing may be cheaper on a cost-per-lead basis, but it still isn't free. Regardless of who you are or your industry, you'll need the budget, support, and plenty of time to see inbound marketing resultsIn this blog, you'll learn the importance of getting your boss to buy into inbound marketing, and how to convince them that inbound is worth every penny.
How to Get Buy-In About Inbound Marketing
In the technology space, research indicates over and over (and over) again that software projects often fail because of a lack of executive buy-in. Any major change is "top-down," which means you need executives on your side to make it work.
While switching to inbound isn't software, there are enough similarities that marketers should pay attention to this trend. Prosci's ADKAR® Modelof change management says that executives need to do each of the following to successfully support a change initiative:
Awareness that something needs to change
Desire to support the change
Knowledge of how to change
Ability to implement
Reinforcement to sustain the change
While your marketers will probably be the subject matter experts on how to "do" inbound, your executives have to believe in the new project.
They need to understand it well enough to support it, and believe that it's better than your status quo. Your boss needs to be informed about every aspect of the upcoming seismic shift and understand that inbound isn't a one-and-done deal, it's an ongoing effort.
How to Structure an Inbound Presentation
So, you've scored a coveted spot on your boss' calendar. You're putting together a PowerPoint presentation packed with data and facts about why inbound is better than your current marketing mix.
What do you need to include?
According to Kirk Sievert's research on how to win executive support, it's important to keep the "5 B's in mind" when petitioning for executive buy-in. They are:
1. Best Practices
Include a slide with a concise definition of inbound as "pull versus push," but don't stop there! Your boss needs to know -- with precision -- exactly what you're asking for and recommending.
Is it one campaign a quarter and three blogs a week?
Why are you recommending this, instead of bi-weekly campaigns and two blogs per week?
Your presentation should be very precise, and include very clear "if-then" reasoning about why you're making these recommendations.
2. Business Case
You need to make TWO business cases!
1. You need to make the case for why your company needs to be an inbound company.
2. Make a case for why it's a good idea in general, or in your industry.
When making an industry-wide business case, draw in as much outside proof as you can. Data and research reports on your ideal customer's behavior, case studies about your competitors, and other data-driven resources can be a valuable tool.
Don't be afraid to get specific about your numbers, either.
Is your sales team struggling to hit quota because your lead flow is slower than molasses?
Does your customer service team spend an average of 16-20 hours each week typing out answers to the same old customer frequently-asked questions?
Make a very specific case for how inbound could improve your sales, save money, and make people more efficient. Be as precise as you can when building a business case -- minutes and hours, dollars and cents, is optimal
3. Be Specific
Many executives are programmed to "tune out" during presentations that don't offer an acceptable threshold of proof.
Leave no questions about impact, cost, and time commitment unanswered. In fact, it's probably a really good idea to run the presentation draft by your most critical colleague before delivering it live. Proof can be developed through data and statistics, but it's also aided by presenter confidence and an effective presentation structure.
4. Be Assertive
There's a difference between being objective and lacking confidence. Being honest about the pros and cons of your suggestion won't diminish your chances of buy-in if you present with total confidence. In fact, detailing the cons objectively just shows that you've done your research.
5. Bring in an Expert
What are the thought leaders saying? Quotations, statistics, and case studies of the leading players in your industry can go a long way toward convincing your boss. While you don't need to necessarily have a subject matter expert on-site for your presentation, be sure to bring in some third-party insights on slides.
Winning Inbound Buy-In: Things to Keep in Mind
1. Think About Team Structures
Inbound could require shifts in how your daily processes and projects are managed. Do you need a traffic manager or content manager to make things work? Will you require any new hires, including contractors, interns, or an inbound agency?
If you will be using a hybrid approach of inbound and outbound marketing, how can you ensure continuity? You probably don't need to propose new team structures with precision, but it can be helpful to illustrate potential changes.
2. Address Training
Be realistic. Where do your team's knowledge and skill sets fall? How much time and effort is required to get your company where you need to be? What resources can you use?
If you will need extensive training, an agency, or contracts, put some thought into the possible cost of these commitments. It can be useful to your boss if you illustrate suggested time and dollar commitments.
3. Consider "Insourcing" Content
If you have a skill or time gap, how can you leverage as many existing resources as possible? By asking employees to contribute content marketing or interviews as the basis for blogs, you can save money and allow your existing staff to build thought leadership.
Nothing will make an executive's eyes glaze over faster than a presentation that's filled with jargon about the buyer's journey, SEO, SEM, and other acronyms.
Use simple, precise language. Instead of "buyer personas," say "ideal customer." Instead of "SMarketing," talk about "sales and marketing alignment." By ditching the jargon, you can speak to your boss in their language.
5. Contemplate "Starting Small"
It takes a LOT of confidence for a CEO to agree to completely ditch your current marketing efforts and go 100% inbound.
However, you'll be pleased to know that some inbound is better than no inbound.
Be prepared to "start small" by suggesting the biggest possible immediate wins, based on knowledge of your industry, competition, and existing needs. What are your success barriers? Is it a lack of content? Poor lead generation? Your website?
By suggesting ways to make a real impact on a limited budget, you can make a business case over time to go 100% inbound marketing.
6. Be Thorough
A successful shift to inbound has the potential to drastically impact the day-to-day of marketing, sales, and customer service. However, could it also affect your management, product development, and other departments?
Be thoughtful and thorough about addressing how it could affect every individual within your organization. Even if a person's commitment could be as little as 4 hours per month, due to writing one article and content promotion, be sure and include these insights.
7. Address Reporting
Executives love transparency. Illustrate how inbound has the potential to change your reporting and data-driven decision making for the better, especially compared to your existing status. In fact, by demonstrating the reporting potential of HubSpot and other standard inbound marketing tools, you may go a long ways towards winning hearts and minds during your presentation.
8. Squash Fears
Maybe your boss has heard horror stories about company's who've been sued over intellectual property issues due to improperly-sourced images. Perhaps you're in a highly-regulated industry.
Be thorough about addressing common concerns related to risks - which is an entirely reasonable and shared fear of executives. How can you drive marketing results without opening your business up to intellectual property lawsuits, CAN-SPAM violations, and other common concerns?
9. Manage Objections
Demonstrate common sense and objectivity in your presentation. At the end of your presentation, be prepared for objections.
The most important thing you can do while fielding objections is be empathetic. Inbound can be a scary transition, and your company's sales and reputation are riding on the line. By understanding common objections and why your boss may be concerned, you can address their fears professionally.
10. Arrange for Quick Wins
Inbound marketing can take time to drive results -- in fact, some experts estimate it can be up to six months before you see the full impact. While you shouldn't hide this fact, address how you'll deliver quick wins in the interim.
Is there a strong potential for repeat sales from your existing email contacts database, due to a lack of customer outreach? Could an investment in growth-driven design allow you to significantly improve the UX of your website?
Be realistic about the results you can anticipate and the probable length of time to get there while planning to demonstrate immediate returns.
11. Know Pain Points
Ultimately, advocating for executive buy-in on inbound is internal marketing. Use principles of inbound marketing to improve your chances of making a "sale."
If possible, consider your executive's pain points when shaping the presentation. Does a lack of transparency and measurable results drive them up the wall? Are they annoyed by your poor SEO? Illustrate clear ways that inbound could be a solution for existing marketing pet peeves.
Regardless of whether you're advocating for 100% inbound or small investments in blogging or growth-driven design, your boss' support is crucial. Not only do they write the checks, but their attitude and non-financial support also go a long way to encouraging your entire company to adapt to the change.
Remember, your boss has every right to be scared witless about switching to inbound marketing! If your inbound initiate is a massive failure, you could lose an enormous amount of money on leads and sales. However, with an effectively-structured presentation, you can dramatically increase your chances of winning buy-in.
Jasmine W. Gordon is a copywriter at Lean Labs. She's written for digital audiences for over 5 years, and her background includes agencies, tech startups, health care, big data analytics, energy, and more. Jasmine loves new marketing statistics, optimization studies, and live music.