Transcript of How to Transform Your Company Into an Inbound Organization
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John Jantsch: Inbound marketing has been with us, I don’t know, over a decade or so I suppose. I think unfortunately, a lot of marketers have caught onto it. It’s now sort of the new automated way to get customers. In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Todd Hockenberry, the co-author of a book called Inbound Organization. The evolution of inbound is that now it has to become something that becomes part of the culture, that becomes part of the organization. It’s beyond what we might traditionally think of as marketing. It’s all about the customer. Check it out.
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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Todd Hockenberry. He is the founder of Top Line Results, a management consulting firm, and the co-author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles. So Todd, thanks for joining me.
Todd Hockenberry: Thanks for having me John. It’s a pleasure.
John Jantsch: I’m going to start off by challenging you for a moment. We’ve been talking about inbound marketing, well at least for a decade. I think that people have accused me of practicing inbound marketing for maybe 20 years. So what new are you bringing to the subject of inbound?
Todd Hockenberry: I really appreciate you asking me that question. I love that question, because there’s some misconceptions around the word. I mean inbound has been, it’s been associated with HubSpot of course. It’s been really tailored to the idea of marketing. What we’re trying to bring to the table is the idea that if buyers have changed so significantly that you had to change the way you market to them, which is the basic premise of inbound marketing, then why don’t you have to change your entire business? Because your entire business is about attracting, keeping, satisfying, and creating loyal customers. So I would challenge you back and say, “How many organizations do you work with in your interactions with people you buy from that don’t treat you the way you want to be treated?”
Our premise is that if buyers have changed, then you have to change your entire organization to create the kind of customer experiences, and create the kind of loyalty that you need in an age when anybody can find any number of other suppliers from around the world with just the click of a mouse, or a click of a button on their phone. That’s the change. We want to change the word inbound to be a proxy essentially for how you have to create a business, not just marketing, that can succeed in today’s world.
John Jantsch: Well you’re actually validating one of my premises, that everything is marketing. I think in a way we are saying that, because a lot of the business, and the way the business is seen and interacts with customers, and employees, and any other stake holders is really … I mean, we’re basically just saying customer centric, aren’t we?
Todd Hockenberry: That’s exactly right. Everybody in the business impacts. I’ve actually challenged a lot of people to give me a person within any business that wouldn’t be impacted by this. I’ve yet to be stumped. I’ve gotten the janitor, and I can tell you how the janitor impacts your customer retention. If you have a facility and they ever show up, the janitor is important. We talk about legal department, how many of us have gone through terms and conditions, or contract negotiations where you have this great relationship with sales, you love the product, you’re ready to go, and the lawyers just throw up wall after wall, after wall?
How many companies have you worked with that make it hard to pay them? Which is the most amazing thing to me. You’re making it hard to give you money. That’s the accounting department and finance not understanding inbound, and not understanding buyers. How many service departments are run based on the idea of how many customers they can get through, or how fast they can get people off the phone, as opposed to how they can help them be successful?
Again, I would push back and say to any business owner, manager, leader that’s listening to this, look at your own business. Stop yourself, and think, would I really want to be treated that way. That’s an inbound organization. When you start to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and you look at every single thing you’re doing through that lens, and then you start to change to create the experiences that people want.
John Jantsch: So let’s back up a little bit, and we’ve talked around it a little bit, but just sort of succinctly define what is the inbound organization.
Todd Hockenberry: An inbound organization is a company that understands this shirt, and creates a mindset first, changes their thinking, and then starts to build a culture around a mission, with a vision for where they want to go that’s centered on a specific kind of persona or target that’s outcome goal is to create value for them by helping them achieve their goals. Then all the piece and parts of the business that relate to executing on that, whether it’s strategy, whether it’s how you do your marketing, how you align your sales and your marketing, now talking about service, customer success.
That’s a big one actually. Customer success is a big part about inbound organizations. SAAS companies for years have had this kind of model for retention, for subscription based. Whereas more brick and mortar or say capital equipment companies, or manufacturing companies like I deal with a lot, they often times, “Hey, it’s out the door, we’re happy. They’ll call us if they need us.” It’s exactly the wrong attitude.
Then it extends into everything else like I mentioned, with accounting, legal, it’s your entire business. So that’s an inbound organization, who understands the buyers have changed. The opportunities for buyers to find alternatives is far greater today than it’s ever been, and you better build your entire business around that premise.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I think that’s the point that I think a lot of people miss, even if they feel like, “Hey, my business is doing fine.” If you’re not practicing what we’re talking about today, it just makes it so much easier for that competitor to steal your business, steal any kind of new market share, because that’s how people want to be treated today. I think that sometimes that’s the hard part for people to see, you know?
Todd Hockenberry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: They don’t realized that they are losing market share, or they are losing opportunity. I know you’ve probably heard this before, I hear it all the time too, because when we work with folks, I mean I often preach this whole idea, and I have for…we have something called the marketing hourglass, which is really all of our stages in the customer journey. Second half of that whole hourglass is after somebody has become a customer.
Todd Hockenberry: Exactly.
John Jantsch: I think that for a lot of organizations, it stops when somebody says yes, they’ll give you their money. Then that’s the end of the experience. So if I’m a company like that, and I mean I don’t have to pick on anybody in particular, but we’re a company like that, where we’ve just…this is foreign to us in way, how do we turn the ship?
Again, I’m 100% behind you. I believe that everyone needs to. But I also realize that I’ve got my accounting department. I’ve got my legal department. Sales has a its own department. Service has its own department. How do I get my arms around turning this big ship, if it’s sort of entrenched and in place?
Todd Hockenberry: Again, that’s the question I get probably more than any. How do we start? Where do we start? What do we do? It always starts with leadership. It’s going to rise and fall on leadership. Leaders have to adopt the mindset. They have to change the way they think. That’s number one. If you’re not going to think across the organization that this is something you’ve got to adopt, then you’re going to have no chance to do it, because you’ve got to create a culture that enables your employees to do this kind of work. You’ve got to be very transparent. You’ve got to allow them to make decisions quickly at the level of the customer, and not go through bureaucracy or policy manuals to figure out what to do. Then there’s a lot more to it, and we go into that in depth in the book.
Leaders have to allow, or create an organization and a culture that can do this. I have a saying. We say, “To do inbound now, you have to be inbound.” The idea there is you can’t just adopt a methodology in your marketing department and think this is going to work. It might work some, but it’s not going to get you really where you want to go.
In terms of context, that was really the thinking the book was that we wanted to create a manual for leaders, to help them understand the context of these changes. A lot of marketing books, and you’ve written some great ones John, and you were very much like most other authors in this space. You write books. Most of the books in this space are written towards a particular discipline or a particular area of a business.
What we were trying to do was give context to leaders for the entire business. There’s lots of books out there about marketing, and sales, and service, but we tried to write a book that talked about those things, but put it in the context for leaders. How they fit, as opposed to just saying, “Okay, well I’m going to tell my sales guy to do this. I’m going to tell my marketing department to do that.” It was really giving leaders the context of how they should do it, and when they should do that.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think what people listening to this, if you’re an organization, you think, “Yeah, we need to make some changes.” It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s just like everything. I’m 50 pounds overweight because I’ve been eating like this for 25 years. That was just an example.
Todd Hockenberry: I relate to that one John.
John Jantsch: That’s the thing too. I mean, people that adopt this, that say, “I have to embrace this,” I have to realize it might take a year, two years, because everybody that’s worked for you for 15 years doesn’t think you’re serious this time. “Oh yeah, John read another book, so here we go again.” So I think you do have to be, I think very realistic about…because probably at the heart of all this, you’re going to have to change the culture of the business. Aren’t you?
Todd Hockenberry: Exactly. This is the hardest part for established businesses. If you’re a startup or you’re a relatively young business, what I’ve seen is a lot of newer businesses maybe started by people in their 20s and 30s, they kind of get a lot of this already. They’re already baking this into their business.
I was just at a company here in Orlando yesterday that’s in the payment processing business. They’ve created a subscription model. Amazing company, four years old. They had no choice but to build their company this way, because they were bootstrapping. They didn’t have big budgets. They didn’t have any bureaucracy. It was easier to build it naturally, whereas companies that have been around a long time, we’ve got habit. We’ve got politics. We’ve got bureaucracy. We’ve got, “We always have done it that way,” kind of thinking.
What we usually start with, with clients that are asking us to help them down this path is, we start with the mission. We want them to describe their mission. You went through this really well in your book The Commitment Engine. We start there, because we want leaders to say, “Here’s what we’re about.” We get crazy answers. I’m sure you’ve seen those mission statements on the walls and offices that are full of buzzwords and nonsense. I’ve had one person, one business owner tell me his mission was to become $100 million company. I said, “Well, we’ve got a lot of work to do here.”
John Jantsch: That sounds good for the customer, doesn’t it?
Todd Hockenberry: It does, exactly. That’s how we’ve helped get owners and leaders thinking about why they’re there. Read Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. That’s a great tool. But that’s where you’ve got to start. Then once you get that, you say, “Okay, we’ve got this mission. We want to be this now. Okay, how do we do that?” Then it becomes, “Okay, well do you have a structure? Do you have a team? Do you have a plan in place to be able to execute on this?” We help in the book, people walk through that process. That’s where you got to start though. If you don’t get that right, it’s not going to happen.
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You alluded to it, and I think the other thing that has to change a little bit is that…and obviously I come from a marketing point of view, so I have for a long time joked, I think even in the first chapter of Duct Tape Marketing, I said, “Every business is a marketing business.” You may not call it that, but any way shape and form in which your business comes into contact with a customer is performing a marketing function, or even a prospect.
I think that the hard challenge for a lot of businesses is that there are departments that don’t see themselves that way. You talked about legal, but finance is a great one. I mean, you have this great, mission driven marketing, messaging, branding, promise, execution, and then marketing sends a, or I’m sorry, finance sends a threatening letter saying, “We need to be paid in two days or we’re going to come take your toys back,” or something. I think that’s the one that’s really hard for a lot of organizations.
Todd Hockenberry: Well, what was the old Peter Drucker, almost cliché now, “There’s only two value adding functions of a business, innovation and marketing. Everything else is a cost.” I agree with that. I think innovation today is as much about how you market, and how you create a customer experience, as it is about your product or the technology. That’s what we need. We need people that innovate in how they create relationships and market. That includes everybody.
Again, it’s a matter…it’s like a value stream map, or if you’re doing lean process, if you’re trying to reduce waste, this is the kind of thinking that a lot of businesses will adopt. They get those things. Well they need to apply the same thinking to those relationships, and how they create a customer. How they keep them, and how they interact with them after they get them, because again, you can’t just assume that your accounting, or your legal, or your service, or your customer followup is doing what you want them to do.
In many cases, it’s even just wrong thinking about what you should be doing in that process. I mean, I think about all the surveys I get. I hate surveys. I mean, just give me five minutes of your time. What? Are you kidding me?
John Jantsch: The best ones though are the ones that send you three reminders.
Todd Hockenberry: Yes. What are you doing? Are you not like me, or am I not like you? I’m busy. I’ve got a million things going on. We’re multitasking. I have zero value added for me to do that for you, none. Why would you do that? There’s a better way. I think that’s the key message, that it’s, you really got to look at what you’re doing. Just really be objective and say, “Wow, this is really not helpful, or I wouldn’t like that if I was being treated that way.” It boils down to those simple things. An inbound organization is a company that’s really good at helping people. I mean, that sounds simple, but that’s what you’re shooting for.
John Jantsch: Well, and I think one of the things people underestimate too is that this isn’t an event. I mean, this is something that just never ends. It’s continuous customer experience optimization. The only way you’re gonna do that is, and this is obviously going to be a luxury for a lot of companies, but the ideal way I suppose to do that is to have a customer experience officer or something. Somebody that is looking at every handoff, every touchpoint, every thing that the customer experiences.
I mean, how many times…I work with business owners all the time and it’s like, “Let’s go look at your website, see what the customer sees.” They’re like, “I haven’t been there for years. I don’t know what the customer sees when they go there. I don’t know. That email sequence that we wrote five years ago, I have no idea what it says anymore.” I think that’s the real challenge. You can’t just put this place. It’s a living thing, isn’t it?
Todd Hockenberry: I’m glad you brought that up. That’s a really good test for companies. Go look at your website and ask yourself a couple of basic questions. Who is this about? 90% of them, if not more, are about the company. We are, we make, we ship, we do–
It’s like an online catalog. It could’ve been made in 1992 by some graphic artist. It’s just now the digital version of that. Is it about them? When they come there and somebody finds your site, how easy is it for them to see themselves, their issues, their problems? That’s a big one right, because that’s a really big clue if companies are doing that. If they’re talking about the customer, then they get it on at least some level. That’s a really good one. But I like what you said, the customer experience officer, CEO. They’ve already got one of those, but the customer experience officer, or optimization is probably more important at the end of the day.
John Jantsch: Yeah, it would just be somebody whose primary function is to stick their nose in everything and say, “Is this a good experience? Why are we sending this email?” I know I’d love to have one of those, because we build so many things in a rush. We put it out there, and then we forget it’s there, so having somebody that’s sort of mindful of the journey and the experience has become, I think the only way you do this well.
Todd Hockenberry: I want to come back to the first question you asked me, to challenge me about inbound. I would say the inbound methodology says, “Create an offer. Put it on a landing page. Have a thank you page. Set up a lead nurturing sequence.” Right?
John Jantsch: Yeah.
Todd Hockenberry: Inbound organizations challenge that thinking, because they say, “Okay, is that lead nurturing email helpful?” Would I like to get that? Is it working? Challenge the methodology because again, the methodology is great. The tools are amazing. But it’s not about the methodology and following it slavishly. It’s about figuring out what your customers love, and then doing that. I saw what happened with the GDPR stuff over the last few months. People just freaked out.
John Jantsch: That was crazy, wasn’t it?
Todd Hockenberry: But it was great, because it forced my clients, our clients, and us too, to think about what we’re doing. Should we be sending that email? Should we be…I loved it, because it really challenged you to think about what you’re doing, and whether you should do it. It’s not just a matter of doing it. It’s, is it helpful? Does the client really want it?
John Jantsch: I think that that probably as much as anything points to the evolution of inbound. I think inbound was an innovation in itself, because it was a more effective way to attract customers, to move them along the journey. But I think the real evolution is I think us marketers turned that into the new automated way to get customers. I think the innovation is to now say, “Okay, now let’s use the behavior people are used to, to give them a truly unique and personalized experience.” It just raises the bar another notch I think for marketers who get it.
Todd Hockenberry: Oh, no question. We’re pushing back on our clients too with things like do you gate content or do you un-gate it. Clearly with mobile traffic and people engaging, I mean people get it. You fill out a form. Okay, I filled out the form. Oh, you’re going to send me emails, “Ugh.” They know, so why do it? Think of a better way. Drive engagement different ways. Capture leads when they’re ready, more appropriately so you don’t annoy them.
John Jantsch: Yeah, use Facebook messenger bots. That’s the new thing.
Todd Hockenberry: Yeah. Well, and again-
John Jantsch: I was being facetious there-
Todd Hockenberry: Well-
John Jantsch: …be the new thing for a while.
Todd Hockenberry: Exactly. What does Gary V say, “Marketers ruin everything”? They’ll ruin that too.
John Jantsch: Exactly, absolutely. Well Todd, tell people where they can not only find you and the book, but you also, when we were starting this up, you’re starting your own podcast, so tell us about that.
Todd Hockenberry: Yes. Dan Tyre and I, who was a co-author of the book Inbound Organization, and I are starting a podcast here. It’s called Inbound 2, the number two, Grow. You can go to that URL, or check us out on any of the other podcast listening services. You can find me at two places. Inboundorganization.com is our website about the book. Lots of helpful information there, free downloads, some bonus materials. Then my company is Top Line Results, and that is top-line-results.com. I would love to talk to any of you about inbound organizations anytime.
John Jantsch: All right, well Todd thanks so much for joining us, and hopefully we’ll run into you out there on road sometime.
Todd Hockenberry: Oh my pleasure John. Thanks a lot.