Enjoy this guest post form Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot
During our HubSpot’s annual marketing conference INBOUND 2013, we unveiled Signals, a freemium sales product that gives sales reps the tools they need to make their conversations with prospects and leads more relevant and contextual. In short, we’ve taken the benefits of inbound (more personalized and lovable interactions with a consumer) and extended it to sales. Not surprisingly, our sales team is over the moon about this news, but why should marketers like me care about it?
Part of the reason why inbound marketing works so well is a broader shift in how consumers research and shop. Roughly 70% of their research is done prior to talking to a sales rep, so the content, offers, tactics, and system you leverage to attract them to your product is imperative to your business. And yet although inbound marketing converts strangers to visitors, and visitors to leads, your sales and services team play a critical role in converting and delighting customers on an ongoing basis. Simply put, an inbound approach is a team sport, and while we’ve always advocated smarketing as an organization, we’ve never given sales people the tools they need to truly contextualize each of their interactions with leads.
To use a sports analogy, imagine that you’re a quarterback and you’ve just led an extensive effort to get your team down the field. You march your team all the way down the field with throwing plays, then once you’re in striking distance of a touchdown, your coach calls a running play, requiring that you hand the ball off to a trusted running back. In that situation, you want someone who understands the work you’ve put in to date, the plays you’ve run to get there, and cares as much about your team’s success as you do. Simply put, context beyond marketing is the next generation of smarketing, bringing together the customer experience under one umbrella of integrated, efficient, and effective interactions.
Consider the following: inbound marketing provides incredibly valuable insight into what a prospect is interested in learning more about or solving at their business. For example, we know that a marketer who downloads an ebook on SEO and Pinterest is likely seeking help “getting found” using social media. The last thing we want the prospect to then have to do is answer the same questions that they just completed on a form: there’s nothing more annoying and less lovable. Moreover, when I’m evaluating a sales decision, it’s typically not top of mind for me all day, every day. I run a large marketing organization and have a family I care a lot about at home, so getting sales calls from people when I’m in meetings, at home, or on the road is extremely frustrating. Getting calls from reps when I’m on their website or actually reading their email is much more relevant to my day and my schedule.
In the digital age, customers have more choices than ever on how, when, where, and with whom they buy. Anyone who has ever crafted a successful blog entry, written and designed a great ebook, or spent hours building their social media efforts into a lead generation machine knows that transforming your marketing to inbound is incredibly powerful, but it also takes a lot of work. As a result, those of us who work in marketing should care significantly about what happens once a customer is in our email database, on the phone with sales, or day to day as a customer. Anyone who has been on hold for hours with a cable company or hounded incessantly by a sales rep knows how unlovable the experience of being a prospect or a customer can be. Customers want and deserve better. As a customer, I should be able to tweet at a company and receive an email response that helps address the challenge if more than 140 characters are required. As a prospect, I should expect and anticipate that the sales rep will have in his or her hands the information I’ve already provided to a company via a form. As a human, I want people to listen to and understand what I need instead of loud, interruptive blast messages and impersonal interactions.
Those of us who spend our days carefully optimizing email sends, developing content for social media and blogging, and leveraging data to improve how we earn prospects’ attention have always cared deeply about more lovable interactions at the top and middle of the marketing funnel. Now that more tools are available to sales and service reps to make the process of closing a sale and delighting a customer more contextual, it’s time for those of us in marketing to take notice. The same tools and tactics that have helped us transform how people are marketed to can and will transform sales, and that’s why I’m ecstatic about the context-driven sales. Whether you’re in marketing, sales, support, or just a customer who will benefit from this technology, you should be, too.
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