So, you've made the decision to adopt an Inbound strategy. Congratulations! As you know, Inbound will offer a plethora of new ways to interact with, engage, and convert leads. What you may not realize is that Inbound is more than just a shift in the way you sell, it requires adjustments throughout all facets of your business. Today, I'd like to take a look at how owners or marketers can implement the necessary changes to shift a traditional organization to an Inbound culture in five key areas.
Cross Departmental Communication
In traditionally structured sales organizations, we see a fundamental break between marketing, selling, and all the other valued employees who contribute to the company's bottom line. Because Inbound is a relatively new concept (circa 2006), it is congruous with recent innovations in workplace structures and expectations. Rather than continue to build walls between departments, companies aiming to foster an Inbound culture will need to focus on comprehensive communication strategies across employee sectors.
HubSpot refers to this type of cross departmental alignment as "Smarketing", but I'd take it a step further and call it comprehensive marketing, meaning that it should be a consideration for every employee, regardless of function.
I'm not advocating for the complete breakdown of silos or organizational functions, but rather for a communication format which reaches all relevant parties. A great example of why this matters is the concept of Buyer Personas.
If you're familiar with the concept of Buyer Personas, or even target audiences, you know that they play a pivotal role in all promotional offerings a company creates. And yet, despite all that influence, Personas often go unrecognized by individuals outside the marketing department. Such an important component of a company's strategy should be shared with every single employee from the CEO to the intern, to ensure the entire organization is aligned around a clear purpose.
Redefining Strategy and Goals
When a company makes the decision to shift to an Inbound culture, it will be imperative to conduct a reassessment of goals and strategy. As we know, Inbound strategy requires a substantial time investment and can sometimes take much longer than traditional efforts to demonstrate ROI.
Due to the fundamental differences in Inbound and Outbound goals, expectations will need to be redefined in your business. It's simply not feasible to expect to reach overnight success or visibility through earned attention, and the traditional assumptions about impressions and time value will have to be re-hardwired for a lot of traditionalists.
That being said, once a clear strategy and goal list has been delineated, Inbound lends itself extremely well to measurability and agility in activity.
Maintaining an active blog is critical to the success of any Inbound strategy. If you've been hoping to skip this step because of the time and resources it'll require, check out these stats:
- 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog in 2012, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly
- 79% of companies that have a blog report a positive ROI for inbound marketing in 2012
- 43% of marketers generated a customer via their blog in 2012
Blogging is more than the latest buzzword, it has continually asserted itself as a worthwhile investment in online presence. So if you haven't already, it's time to dedicate resources to content creation. But daily or even weekly blogging can be a heavy load for one employee to take on, especially when it's added to their already monumental list of tasks. This, in addition to the importance of diversifying blog content, is why it's so important to get employees from all departments of your organization to contribute to the company blog.
If you're scoffing at my use of the word "departments" because your local business only has a small team of employees, don't jump ship just yet. Regardless of the size of an organization, incorporating blog posts from as many employees as possible (even if there are only five of them) is incredibly useful for balancing the workload and broadening the subject matter your blog covers.
Redefining Customer Service
This is a tricky one, as most businesses already feel that they are centered around a customer. According to PR Newswire, 59% of businesses aim to be the industry leader in customer experience, but only 7% can be considered truly "Customer-Centric".
So where's the breakdown between preaching and practicing? In it's simplest form, the theory of customer-centricity mandates a comprehensive corporate operation based around the customer. Regardless of how great your company may be, there's a good chance there are a couple potential areas in which you could improve the customer experience and reframe employee perceptions of service.
Inbound is all about providing enjoyment to prospects, leads, and customers in every stage of the funnel from discovery to evangelism. This requires a company-wide reassessment of focus and expectations of customer service. Inc has some great tips on how to create a customer-centric culture.
Encourage Personal Branding
Especially in small companies, the personal brand of each employee plays a major role in the collective identity of the organization. This is why Inbound companies place such value on the importance of employees spending time developing their own professional online presence via social media, websites, blogging, etc.
Your employees are talented and specialized, which is why you hired them. Encouraging and fostering their personal branding efforts is not just good for them, it's a great way to prove that your company is staffed by a team of competent and industry leading individuals. The more effort your employees put into asserting themselves professionally online, the happier you should be!
Although the shift from a traditional business to an Inbound culture will require substantial resources, it's imperative to your successful innovation. One of the hallmarks of winning Inbound companies is that they go beyond simply talking about the Inbound methodology and foster cultures which value creativity, participation, and customer-centricity.
Are you ready to shift your company culture, or have you already started the process? Let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear about what's working for you!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/webzer/1024662542