When is the right time for Inbound Marketing?

A year ago, we were just like any other digital marketing agency in Dubai. We were playing the same broken record with hits such as "full service", "join the conversation", and "the best agency". Clients were already bored with the music but they didn't know any better. 

As we were looking for a way to differentiate ourselves and scale our agency on something that is valuable, tangible, and clients can relate to instead of cringe at, we stumbled upon Inbound Marketing. Unlike outbound marketing (e.g. cold calls, mass emails and SMS, hard advertising), inbound marketing helps you earn your way to your clients through engaging and valuable content, and builds trust and credibility for your business.
 
We were confident that inbound marketing was our vehicle to scale and differentiate. We approached HubSpot, the world's leading inbound marketing platform and eventually became an authorised reseller of their platform in the UAE. Since then, inbound marketing has given a purpose to all our digital marketing services. We don't build a website or run a Google AdWords campaign or publish social media content just for the sake of it or to tick off an item on the list. Every note is played with a purpose and all instruments are orchestrated together by the inbound methodology.
 
As we tell our clients and prospects about inbound marketing, they immediately get it and they get excited. However, as soon as they start to realise the amount of work involved and eventually the costs associated, they get discouraged and say "we're not ready for this".
 
This leads us to quite an important and often overlooked question: When is the right time for inbound marketing?
 
Here is a simple framework that will help you answer this question for your company or for your clients if you were an agency.
 
The Basics
 
It is definitely not yet time for inbound marketing if the company hasn't got its basics sorted out yet. Most importantly the company should have at least figured out its brand identity including strategy, brand essence, key messages, branding guidelines and assets. Why is this important? A brand is more that just a logo. It's a decision making asset. Going through inbound marketing will require creating a lot of content, and that content has to be consistent and representative of the company's brand and what it stands for.
 
The basics also include the company's website, done at least to the latest standards of modern and responsive design. Nevertheless, this can be taken out of the equation as a lot of companies often go through a website redesign before starting the inbound journey.
 
The Right Fit
 
Inbound marketing doesn't work for everyone. It is very important to identify whether the company is actually a right fit for inbound marketing or not. This is usually determined by the characteristics of the company's business model and its products and services.
 
At Cactix we have found the following three criteria to be indicative of a strong potential for inbound marketing success:
  • Business to Business (B2B) Model: Companies that sell to companies often go through longer sales cycles and through a variety of different roles in the organisation. This is where inbound marketing can help because it understands the different roles and personas and delivers tailored content and communications to each one of them.
  • Complex Decision Making Process: Companies that sell complex products and services where it might take clients months or even years to make a decision to buy, can benefit greatly from inbound marketing to build and nurture their leads throughout their journey.
  • Large Transaction Value or Lifetime-Value of a Client: Inbound marketing requires significant investments in time and resources. Unless the marginal return on investment is significant it might be challenging to implement inbound marketing. This is why companies that have large transaction values or lifetime-value of clients can justify the investment in inbound marketing.
This is often seen in industries such as manufacturing, logistics & supply chain, oil & energy, construction, mechanical or industrial engineering, technology, computer software, etc.
 
In terms of turnover, there isn't really a certain threshold that needs to be achieved to call for inbound marketing. However, it may be safe to say that for companies to afford inbound marketing with ease, their annual turnover should be at least in the range of 18-30 million Dirhams (5-8 million USD)
 
The Capacity
 
Inbound marketing requires adoption at the C-level and an active and capable marketing department. If the work is to be done in-house, at the bare minimum the marketing department must have a director/strategist, a manager/executive, a creative director/graphic designer, a content developer/copywriter, and a communications/community manager -not to include any technical/web design and development functions. If the company is missing some of those roles, it might be challenging to start on the inbound marketing path by doing it in-house.
 
Alternatively, the company can look into hiring an inbound marketing agency to work directly with its marketing director or manager to strategise, implement and manage inbound marketing.
 
The Cost of Inaction
 
The cost of inaction can sometimes be seen very clearly as in the case of a company that is receiving zero or next to zero leads on its recently launched website, or in the case of a company that is launching all sorts of social media and email marketing campaigns with hardly any return on investment.
 
In other cases the cost of inaction may not be seen clearly, such as in companies that are already generating a certain level of leads and revenues through their traditional digital marketing activities. In such cases the cost of inaction can be looked at as the "opportunity cost" as economists would define it. A good way to estimate such cost is by simulating how changes to the current KPIs using inbound marketing would translate into changes in the bottom line. A fantastic tool that can be used for this is the Inbound Revenue Calculator by DoInbound which can be accessed here. If the revenue growth driven by improvements in conversion rates and increments in website traffic is extremely significant then the company can definitely benefit from inbound marketing.
 
There you have it. If your company has got the basics and the right fit; and if the cost of inaction is significant, then you know it's the right time to think about inbound marketing for your business.