The last several years have given way to a monumental movement in the sales and marketing world called "Inbound Marketing." In short, this movement circles around creating excellent digital content, position yourself as thought-leaders in your industry, and establishing a broad enough internet presence that your prospective buyers find your name first when they're looking to buy, and then reach out to you.
Inbound refers to the source of the leads. Inbound leads are prospective buyers reaching out to you, providing contact information, and requesting a follow-up of some kind (as opposed to outbound leads, which are sourced by reaching out to prospective buyers yourself and establishing a relationship with them).
Companies of all sizes, across every industry, are boosting their marketing budgets in order to develop a strong inbound marketing strategy. Many of them do such a great job that it fails to create sales. Why?
Inbound leads aren't followed up with quickly enough
Oftentimes buyers who reach out through web forms and other inbound marketing tools are doing so with multiple companies at a time. For example, when a company is looking for a quote on a widget, they may open 5 different web pages and submit inquiries to 5 different companies all within a 2-minute period of time. The vast majority of these contracts are won by the company that reacts the quickest.
Best Practice: Respond to inbound leads with 5-minutes, while your prospective buyer is still thinking about you.
Inbound leads aren't followed up with often enough
Let's use the example of leads that come in on any given week. The sales team arrives on Monday and is excited to have fresh new leads from the weekend to start off the week. They make a phone call and send an email to every lead on Monday. Then they come back in on Tuesday and send another email or leave another voicemail with everyone they haven't heard back from yet. By Wednesday, there are new leads in from Monday and Tuesday that are warmer, so the weekend / early-Monday leads stop getting followed up on, except for the occasional call to a particularly juicy looking lead.
Best Practice: Reach out to inbound leads at least twice within the first 24 hours, and then twice a day (phone call or email) every day for at least the next two weeks. We've got an entire blog dedicated to the ideal lead follow-up cadence here.
Inbound leads go dormant
After two days of follow-up, sales teams have moved on to fresher leads, as mentioned above. Suddenly there are perfectly good leads that have gone dormant. You never know who submitted a form because their boss asked them to before they left on vacation. They just need a week and some R&R and they'll be back to the office and back in buying mode.
Best Practice: Keep leads from going dormant by shooting them and email or leaving them a personal voicemail every week or so after the first two weeks.
Sales gets spoiled and becomes lazy
Maybe six months ago you had a team of wolves. They hunted like crazy, were competitive, and never missed their numbers. Now you have a handful of whiners who are mad at marketing for not sending them better leads. What happened? Inbound marketing worked so well that the sales team sat at their desks and took orders, all the time enjoying a constant rain of commissions. They lost their edge, and now they get mad if a slow week comes around where the leads are fewer, smaller, or less-qualified.
Best Practice: Move sales and marketing to the same room and hold joint sales-huddles every week where sales reports on progress-to-goal for both inbound and outbound sales goals.
Marketing gets jealous of sales commissions
Your rockstar Marketing Manager has built you an inbound marketing empire, and has sat patiently, graciously accepting the obligatory 8=10% annual raise while the sales team has cleaned up on commissions from sales that resulted from inbound leads. After all, that's the way the world works; Marketing is salary, Sales is commissioned. Now they may be seeking new opportunities, in which case everyone loses.
Best Practice: Restructure commission for both sales and marketing, ensuring alignment between both departments and with established sales goals.