Don’t Fall For The Inbound Marketing Hype

In an iconic picture, President Obama and his staff watch Seal Team 6 in its mission against Osama Bin Laden, showing tenseness, focus and concern.  What was happening was on the other side of the world, conducted by highly trained individuals engaged in a very risky mission, where multiple things could go wrong, including finding the wrong person at the designated address.

In arriving at his decision to launch the operation, it is reported that President Obama met directly with members of his staff and advisors several times, sorting through their inputs and recommendations before authorizing the go-ahead.

In short, the President relied on established relationships with his advisors and staff, built up over the past two years, which gave him trust in them and thereby minimized his risk.

Note that he met with them personally; he did not check them out on LinkedIn or ask them to “like” his page on this operation.  While emails were probably sent, they most likely did not ask the recipient to go to a web page and fill out a form.

While the purchase of six-figure software packages/solutions or pieces of capital equipment are orders of magnitude less significant that what the President authorized, the path to making the decision is similar:

  • Information is gathered by people in the field using available tools, in the Bin Laden case, tips, satellites and surveillance, in the B2B transaction, Google search, references and publications.
  • Then, in both cases, meetings are held.  Face-to-face sit down meetings where proposals are put forward, alternatives discussed and risks evaluated.  From these face-to-face meetings final decisions are derived.

Today much of the Marketing press, blogosphere and news is focused on the accepted change in the buying dynamic, i.e., that the buyer now has access to more, better information and is using that in his/her buying process.  All true, especially when it relates to consumer products and/or transactional items.  In some areas this has been summarized as “inbound marketing” where Marketing’s objective is thought to be limited to facilitating the finding of you (your website) and nurturing the buyer through the buying cycle.

However, when the buying decision is for a major purchase that impacts all aspects of a company, then social media, its tools, and the process are only part of the equation.  The decision maker is going to want to meet face-to-face and hear about the product before signing off on a purchase or lease.

It is important that B2B marketers are not to be overwhelmed by the inbound marketing hype and to lose sight of the personal relationship of the buyer and seller in a high-value B2B transaction.  Social media can help bring information to the table; it will not replace the trust in people that decision makers must have in order to reduce risk.

For today’s B2B Marketer, the answer is a mix of using the new tools to assist in the selling process, and using the old tools and process to provide trust and reduce risk to the buyer.

If you are a B2B Marketer, have you maintained the proper perspective regarding the personal relationship with the buyer?

RHM  5/15/2011

3 comments to Don’t Fall For The Inbound Marketing Hype

  • Well said Bob. And for the same reasons, I don't think we have seen the end of traditional trade shows yet where capital equipment buyers can meet face-to-face with all of the potential vendors in one place, touch the equipment, and make a value decision based on a personal experience.
    Tom Ricci

  • Joe

    How do you lose sight of the personal relationship by using inbound marketing?  
    Inbound marketing is ALL about the personal relationship and you've indicated that by mentioning the buying cycle. Inbound marketing is nothing without a focus on meeting the needs of the prospective customer and I would argue inbound marketing makes it easier to close the sale when it is needed. Trade shows make it easier to get a group of people who might be interested in buying something, but it is so expensive to spend your marketing budget on 'target suspects' who are wandering around the floor just looking around. Are they going to buy? What percentage or booth visitors are ready to do that? What's the return on investment vs. time and energy? Inbound marketing isn't 'hype' – it's a proven process of saving money while building a client base easier and faster with more revenue in your pocket all focused on nurturing the relationship with customers.   

  • Robert Mannal

    Joe,

    My contention is that high priced goods, whether a product or service, require a strong personal relationship between the buyer and seller…the type of relationship that cannot be established through nurturing emails, telemarketing or other events. It can only be established by face-to-face meetings, i.e., selling. The inbound marketing work may develop more qualified leads, but in order to bring the order home, a relationship must be established.

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