SiriusDecisions Says Stop Playing Hide-and-Seek With Buyers; Help Them Find You Through Effective Inbound Marketing

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For years, traditional demand creation efforts focused on outbound direct marketing to attract potential buyers. However, with online options now pervasive, SiriusDecisions research reveals a dramatic rise in the impact of inbound tactics using content marketing to drive business-to-business (b-to-b) marketing results.

Our latest research shows that … more than half of all new marketing responses are generated via the Web and inbound tactics. We believe that by 2015, this number will rise to nearly 75 percent.

“Would you like to hear more about …?” Caller ID. Click. “Hey, check out this free offer from …” Spam filter. Delete. “And now a word from our sponsor …” DVR or TiVo time.

Using direct tactics is becoming more difficult -- and expensive -- for b-to-b marketers. At a time when b-to-b buyers are courted more aggressively than ever by a wide range of sellers, the same old tricks just don’t work as well as they used to according to SiriusDecisions. The leading b-to-b sales and marketing research, data and advisory firm says marketers in all industries are learning that traditional outbound marketing techniques such as cold-calling, e-mailing and even events are easily ignored, especially early in the buying process when prospects are in education mode. That’s not to say outbound tactics don’t have a place in the marketing mix; it does mean these approaches face a challenge from inbound marketing tactics that flip the equation: customers now find you when they’re ready.

“Inbound marketing is essential to master because b-to-b buyers drive their own buying processes at their own pace,” notes Megan Heuer, who directs SiriusDecisions’ Marketing Operations Strategies service. “They have more sources than ever to help themselves to knowledge; as a result, sellers must be sure they show up in the right places and share something useful when buyers go looking. Our latest research shows that right now; more than half of all new marketing responses are generated via the Web and inbound tactics. We believe that by 2015, this number will rise to nearly 75 percent.”

In the b-to-b world, inbound marketing has become a critical part of the marketing mix. To qualify as inbound, Ms. Heuer says a tactic must meet these three tests:

  •     It is extended to an unknown target audience, with the goal of encouraging buyers to interact with content of interest to them. In contrast, outbound tactics target specific individuals by name from databases or lists.
  •     It is carefully positioned in places where buyers and influencers naturally look for information.
  •     It delivers value-added content. Inbound strategies are based on the belief that influence and preference, not to mention opt-ins for future communication, are built by trading information between seller and buyer.

Over time, most sources attempting to define what qualifies as an inbound tactic have been drawn to three fundamental categories:

  •     Paid and organic search engine marketing, where an organization will ensure that its name and content are prominent when buyers proactively use a search engine to begin or continue a buying process.
  •     Content syndication, where everything from white papers to full-motion video are placed with popular information aggregators.
  •     Social media, where deliverables from blogs to communities are sponsored or participated in to drive information transfer between interested parties.

“The common thread through these categories is the use of content marketing and online presence as the vehicle for information delivery, plus the buyer’s ability to consume what they want, when they want,” says Ms. Heuer.

To this core tactic list, SiriusDecisions offers five additional inbound categories that can prove effective if properly used:

  •     Banner advertising on Web sites. Making the messaging highly relevant to the pages they’re placed on, rather than using a generic approach, will drive the best chance for success.
  •     Speaking or exhibiting at an event not held by your organization. Previously unknown individuals will hopefully identify themselves based on the value of knowledge shared.
  •     Public relations. The question is, can you identify the sources that your targets trust?
  •     Influencer relations. Building a list of relevant influencers -- both traditional (analyst firms) and non-traditional (bloggers and other social media participants) -- is critical to get intermediaries talking about you in a positive way.
  •     Association marketing. The more relevant and specific the group, the better chance it has of acting as a reliable conduit to your organization.

Concludes Ms. Heuer: “Your marketing mix needs to reflect a coordinated balance between awareness building, inbound and outbound tactics. What separates inbound marketing from general awareness or branding is its reliance on content. What separates it from direct marketing is control of consumption. While cheaper to deliver because it’s heavily online, inbound marketing still requires focus and coordination, not to mention a steady stream of quality content. For inbound marketing to succeed, your content must be relevant, easy to consume and frequently updated to meet changing buyer needs. Tactics that rely on interruption, image or association may work in a transactional b-to-c world, but in b-to-b it’s not going to get a skeptical buyer to take a second look.”

Ms. Heuer and all of the company’s analysts will be on hand to offer thought leadership and guidance at the upcoming 2010 SiriusDecisions Summit, set for May 12-14 at Arizona's Fairmont Scottsdale resort. To register or obtain more information about the annual event, bringing together the best and brightest in the world of b-to-b sales and marketing, please go to http://www.siriusdecisions.com/conference.

About SiriusDecisions:                                                                                                                
SiriusDecisions is the world's leading source for business-to-business sales and marketing best-practice research and data. SiriusDecisions Executive Advisory Services, Consulting Services, Benchmark Assessment Services, Learning and Events provide senior-level executives with the sales and marketing operational intelligence required to maximize top line growth and performance. The unique combination of thought leadership, benchmark data, analytic tools, best practices and access to a peer and analyst network allow SiriusDecisions clients to quickly receive the critical insight they need to make decisions effectively. For more information about SiriusDecisions, headquartered in Wilton, CT, visit: http://www.siriusdecisions.com.

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GEOFF HILTON
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