The baffling Inbound Marketing Paradox

I confront the Inbound Marketing paradox every week. Last week was no different. Being in a market that requires tremendous education means that Znbound has the added pressure to evangelize.

And when the request is from customer teams, referrals, friends, ex-employers and HubSpot users; it isn’t easy to say ‘No’. (I have always pleaded with them in private, how difficult it is to run a bootstrapped company, where our only precious resource is time and it is running out)I find myself in a 250 square feet rectangular room equipped with the best in office furniture, ready to evangelize inbound. I was about to talk to a team of six representing one of India’s large advertisers. I was excited.

As I explain how inbound marketing helps leads move from ‘convert’ to ‘close’ by leveraging user analytics, a question pops up.’

How can you track leads by name?”Sir using inbound marketing software,’ I say.’Isn’t that a privacy issue?’ asked the audience.

(Once a website visitor becomes a lead by submitting contact information, there are no legal privacy issues)I quickly sensed where the discussion was going. While the concern was valid, the question expressing it sounded suspect.

Better questions would have been – Hey, How do you do it?  Can you show me how it is done?But, they were not asked. An intense discussion about the sensitive issue of privacy bounced off my eardrum.

This Company (a prospect friend of ours) was struggling with customer acquisition. But, there was no interest to know more about prospects, leads or even existing customers. What a contradiction?

Ironically, they use google analytics to track website user analytics on an aggregate basis.

The presentation continues towards lead nurturing where I struggle to explain why not all leads deserve to be passed on to the sales team. After all, not all leads are ready to buy, especially when it is a high-value product that is bought once or twice during a lifetime.

I thought I was making sense, till the following comment came up.

‘We already have enough sales agents for the number of leads we get, there is no issue of capacity,’ the forum challenged. I was in the wrong meeting. Too late. I stopped.

I did not go into the long, explaining why Sales is not best placed to nurture? Sales, after all, is best placed to ‘close’, not nurture. ‘Nurture’ is not part of their vocabulary, mostly.

Lead nurturing – an integral part of inbound marketing – requires businesses to help their prospects and contacts with the right kind of information, at the right time, in the right format and at the most logical step in the buying process. It is sophisticated. It is science. It requires both, Man and Machine. It is aimed at assisting the Sales team, to focus only on closing deals. So, why should the sales team come in the way of lead nurturing? An inbound marketing paradox, indeed.

In this particular case, my sense is that our friends were after the wrong problem statement.

I left the meeting, a little disheartened but happy that I was now recognizing the presence of the inbound marketing paradox.

There is more to this baffling contradiction.

Isn’t marketing about understanding the buyer, the buying process, her aspirations, her motivations and her fears? And understanding it better and better, every passing day. Then, why give away the opportunity to know her closely by leveraging an inbound marketing strategy? Maybe there is comfort in the passive market research that captures expressed intent than intent, itself.

Isn’t it true that today’s buyer is empowered? She can access all the information necessary to complete a purchase, at will. At no point, can she be pressed into a sale. That time has long gone. Businesses can only (at best) assist the buyer using inbound marketing.

The question is – Will they?

What is your say?

Note: I would like to acknowledge Milind from the Herald Logic team for coming up with a similar blogging idea in the context of channel management.

Team Znbound
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