I started my consulting practice in January, after spending the past 15 years leading marketing organizations in several well-known sales performance improvement companies. I have always had a strategy of leading with thought-provoking insight and implemented content-driven marketing strategies in the organizations in which I have worked.

I started my practice to offer content marketing and demand generation services to companies cross the sales improvement space. I expected to spend the bulk of my time creating content for my clients.

However, when I actually started to actively market my services and calling on prospects, I was very surprised to learn that developing more content was not their top concern.

Most companies in our space have invested heavily in content, but few have really seen results from their efforts. When I took a closer look into what my clients and prospects were doing and the content they were creating, it was easy for me to see their problems.

Most of these organizations have been influenced strongly by the notion of “inbound marketing” that was made popular by HubSpot, about five years ago. As you probably know, the philosophy behind inbound marketing involves creating content, such as blog articles, ebooks, and presentations, that is intriguing to potential buyers of your solution. Optimize content to be found by search engines and promoted widely on social media platforms, such as Linkedin and Twitter. Then, wait for leads to start flowing in.

Companies who have solely embraced this approach have run into a number of problems.

  • Creating high-quality content is difficult and time-consuming.
  • Prospects are now inundated with low quality, irrelevant content – there’s just too much of it.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is nearly impossible to sustain because there is just so much competition for the same keywords, yet Google still only returns about 10 organic search results on the first page of its search engine results page.
  • Google also tends to favor established brands and is constantly changing its search algorithm.
  • Many of the leads generated from inbound marketing are small, do not fit most companies’ ideal customer profile, and are not qualified to buy.
  • Waiting for leads puts you in the middle of the customer’s buying process where a competitor has gotten in earlier to shape the customer’s thinking and earn preferential status. You are nearly reduced to a commodity at this point.
  • An inbound mindset has perpetuated the myth that demand generation is marketing’s problem and that salespeople don’t need to prospect.

An inbound only approach may have worked back in 2010 for a few early adopters, such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Sales Benchmark Index. However, now that everybody has piled onto this approach, it no longer is a differentiator. Rather, it has become table stakes.

An effective demand generation approach today requires you to go back to the basics to really understand what your customers want and need, how to fulfill these wants and needs better than your competition, and how to build awareness and credibility with buyers who fit your ideal customer profile.

You need a mindset that not only embraces inbound marketing but “all bound” marketing. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Stop blindly drinking the HubSpot Koolaid and think critically about your strategy.
  • Identify the markets where you are strongest and can dominate.
  • Update your ideal customer profile and buyer personas.
  • Develop a proper editorial strategy that addresses the issues your buyers face and that positions your point of view as the preferred approach.
  • Know the events in organizations that trigger a need for what you sell.
  • Create high quality, buyer-focused content that positions your capabilities as a means for buyers to navigate the change driven by these triggers.
  • Strategically identify the companies with whom you want to do business.
  • Identify buying influences in those companies and source their contact information.
  • Assign these companies and buying influences to salespeople, not to cold call, but to monitor, track, and engage at the right opportunities.
  • Salespeople should also connect with these buying influences on social media and use this as a channel to build awareness and credibility at a personal and organizational level.
  • Distribute content through an all bound promotional mix that makes sense.
    • Strategically, through targeted outbound and salesperson-driven micro-marketing
    • Opportunistically through SEO, page search, online advertising, and events

Back in 2005, there were about a dozen significant sales performance improvement companies in the market. Every year since 2011, the number of companies in the space has doubled, and now there are over 2,000 companies competing for mindshare and wallet share with sales and marketing leadership. The space is intensely competitive and following the herd with a copycat strategy will get you nowhere.

You require a carefully thought-out go-to-market strategy. This is something that I help my clients do. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to learn more about how I can help you.

Dario Priolo

Dario is the CEO and Founder of J.K. Research. He brings over 20 years of marketing leadership experience in the human capital and sales enablement industries.

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