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Convincing & Converting Slow-Adopting B2B Clients to Inbound Marketing

Robyn-Dale Samuda
Convincing & Converting Slow-Adopting B2B Clients to Inbound Marketing

Many of us are comfortable in the fact that we’re professionals at what we do.

Social media marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing and all the innovations of the web all form part of our expertise in one of the most lucrative industries in the current age. We’re comfortable in this reality and it’s our job to get the message across and help businesses achieve more online.

Unfortunately, many companies are still not sold on the idea of inbound marketing and consider it all fluff, for idle kids or lonely housewives. It can be quite the challenge when a prospect wants to grow her business, is trying to find out what the hype with online marketing is all about and desperately needs your help, yet at the same time is skeptical of what you have to offer. Closing that deal requires patience at supernatural magnitude and effective execution of a killer proposal.

While the industry as a whole is promising with 65% of B2B implementing some form of inbound marketing last year, there comes a time when you have to tackle a slow adopter stuck in old ways. Here are some interesting considerations and tactics for closing the deal.

Understanding the Problem with the Mindset

The truth is, as marketers, we made it difficult for ourselves because of our own attitude and practices in online marketing, and a lot of the fluff is a result of our actions. The problem is that social networks and other web assets were mainly treated as a tool for distribution rather than delivering powerful stories that serve our audiences. We were taking the old traditional "push" approach to a world that was tired of messages being shoved in their faces. We pined over the number of follows, shares and likes to the extent that we created an online world where, small businesses especially, could not directly identify the value of inbound.

The concept was diluted to vane metrics and businesses on small budgets rarely realized any tangible benefits or profits. That’s the reason for many "ghost town" business social profiles and websites. Thankfully, however, while those challenges and mistakes were made, it’s clear for the most part that there is great value to be found. We stuck to it until we progressed.

Appreciating the history of our current marketing age and identifying the trends and mistakes will help you to better empathize with the skeptics and formulate the right approach.

Fall in Love with Results: Measure Everything

Convincing a client that your proposed strategy is worthwhile will depend entirely on the results you can provide as an example of what works. Case studies and sample statistics of actual campaigns you’ve managed and executed will be vital.

Forget about industry statistics and what the experts are saying and all the cool facts you’ve curated. Your quantified experiences and the value you’ve brought to past and existing clients will make the difference in the mind of the skeptic.

Inbound Marketing Statistics

Translate these experiences into what you can tangibly produce for your prospect. While this will prove challenging and require a bit of work on your part, create beautiful visuals that present your experience and history of:

  • Total increase in sales achieved from each social platform
  • Website traffic increases
  • Lead generation & conversion rates
  • Compare traditional marketing budgets with that of inbound marketing
  • Compare ROI
  • Direct the prospect’s focus on relationship building and telling stories versus blindly pouring funds into advertising, which is oftentimes the traditional approach
  • Forget the vanity metrics and focus on sales metrics and other valuable KPI’s

While industry stats and research are cool and useful, personalizing those experiences and making them your own will make them more convincing. Sharing success stories of existing clients will be powerful.

Start Measuring from Day One

This is why tools like SEMrush for SEO research and Oktopost for measuring and empowering conversions through social, and even Facebook Insights, are crucial for being accountable for every technique you use in your campaigns. Getting in the habit of defining the why in every tactic will help filter out the unnecessary and utilize and focus on what makes sense.

Leveraging Your Influence

Do something cool for your prospect. Sometimes all you need to do is show how effective (and nice) you are by getting something worthwhile done for free as a starter for the relationship.

If you see great potential in your prospect’s business and their products present extraordinary value for consumers, find a way to get them some valuable airtime and coverage. Find something unique about their service offering and make a pitch about it to an influential news website or other publication that is bound to bring in visitors and potential sales for them.

To make this work in a timely manner you’ll need to have an already built network of influence with reporters, bloggers, editors and site owners. Therefore, if you’re relying solely on sponsored posts or ads to get results for clients your toolkit is going to be severely limited.

Networking is a Vital Part of Your Foundation to Achieve Anything

Getting out of your comfort zone, collaborating with other professionals, sharing resources and offering a helping hand when you can are going to go a long way in strengthening your influence in the community. Every contact is valuable and is worth your time, even when there is no hope in sight for earnings or other gain.

Maintaining a healthy presence on social networks is standard, but due to the increasing noise on these channels, impact is being lessened. Engage in highly focused communities such as mastermind groups, LinkedIn groups, Triberr, Google+ communities with lots of activity and sites like MyBlogU. The latter allows you to crowdsource content ideas, connect with like-minded practitioners and answer questions from other professionals; adding real value to conversations and the industry.

MyBlogU screenshotMyBlogU is a community showing opportunities for connecting and sharing ideas

Influence allows you to leverage connections to collaborate on difficult, high-demand deals and get things done you can’t accomplish on your own. This will be useful when trying to impress a high value prospect.

Still, Know When to Say No

Not every prospect is worth converting and not every dollar counts. For the sake of your own sanity and the client’s, it’s important to identify early on whether you can indeed produce tangible results. These results are not dependent on your abilities as a marketer, but rather the buy-in and collaboration you’ll garner from the client at each stage.

For example, as the expert, you assess your prospect’s current position through elements such as reputation, competitive landscape, budget, goals and vision. Based on this, you’ll recommend an appropriate plan of action geared toward specific results. If the client, in their own mindset, is determined to do the opposite of what you’ve recommended, don’t go with the flow for the sake of money you’ll earn from the deal; regardless of how big the contract may be. It’s a recipe for disaster if you’re not allowed to execute on what you have to offer because the client refuses to provide relevant deliverables, takes complete control of the concept or takes on a path that directly contradicts and harms your efforts. Walk away. It’s going to be a failed project that is not only stressful for you and the client but will damage your reputation as well as the marketing community at large. It’s not worth it.

To conclude, be aware that the truth and facts as you know it in your industry are oftentimes relative, depending on the viewer’s perspective.

Don’t expect that all clients will have a deep appreciation for online marketing and understand the value of each activity or metric. It will be your responsibility to educate, guide and convince your targets and to do so, and you’ll need to be well prepared. In addition, slow adopters can prove useful for putting your practice to the test — skepticism forces us to look within and identify and actively bring real value.

Image credit: Shutterstock & Canva

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Robyn-Dale Samuda is the VP of Marketing & Content Strategist at InboundJunction, a content marketing company based in Israel. We make internet marketing a “no-brainer” for businesses by managing the content marketing process, and help clients achieve positive, measurable returns on branding, PR and search presence. His last post for the SEMrush blog was entitled, "How Shifting Your Focus to Revenue Generation Will Make SEO & Social Worthwhile."
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Ben Jacobson
These are great insights, Robyn. I especially identify with the bit about how inbound is finally starting to come of age but the track record of inbound practitioners measuring the wrong things isn't helping to convince skeptics.
Nadav Dakner
We love MyBlogU! Great platform for link acquisition and building connections. Also check MuckRack which is a great outreach tool in conjunction with HARO/MBU
Michael Stricker
Wow, MyBlogU - it's like HARO for blogs!
Ann Smarty
Michael Stricker
Exactly :)
Ann Smarty
Thanks so much for mentioning MyBlogU! We are honored!
Kathleen Garvin
Ann Smarty
Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting, Ann! Continued success with MyBlogU.
Robyn-Dale Samuda
Ann Smarty
It's a great community and product Ann. Keep it up!