One of the biggest shifts in the marketing landscape in recent years has been companies moving their marketing spend from outbound to inbound tactics. Both methods deliver results, but as inbound continues to grow it has very quickly taken the lead in the race for positive return on investment (ROI).
Life science companies that have adopted inbound marketing have seen great results, such as increased website traffic, more and better-quality leads, and an increase in revenue—with an excellent ROI. However, not all businesses are suitable for inbound.
The inbound methodology has grown substantially in recent years, largely due to the changing buying behaviours of customers. The web provides people with information instantly, allowing them easy access to specifications, pricing and reviews/testimonials, while social media encourages people to share and compare. People have been empowered to make their own buying decisions, and are conducting more research prior to making a purchase. With outbound, you are relying on people to ‘buy now’—a direct contrast to the evolution of buyer behaviour, and that has been a contributing factor to this shift.
So, how do you know if your business can benefit from using the inbound methodology? In this blog, we will discuss the ins and outs of inbound marketing, and help you determine whether your company can benefit from it to get the best ROI from your marketing budget.
What is inbound marketing?
Simply put, inbound marketing is a strategy used to attract visitors to your brand by pulling on their attention. You create educational, informative and entertaining content, host it on your website, promote it via a variety of different channels and attract people to engage with you. This is in direct contrast to outbound marketing, where you attempt to locate customers and promote your products or services to them directly. Inbound earns a potential buyer’s trust and empowers customers to make informed decisions prior to engaging with your company, whereas outbound creates noise in order to gain the attention of potential buyers here and now.
So how do you get started with inbound? Well, step one is to attract strangers to your website by providing valuable, keyword-dense content such as blog posts. These posts live on your website and are therefore indexed by search engine spiders, helping you to appear on search engine results pages. This provides you with a new influx of website traffic—and step two is to turn these visits into leads. This can be achieved by providing additional high-value content which is housed on your website and gated behind a lead capture form. By providing useful content for each of the different stages of the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision), you have the best chance to turn visitors into leads, as visitors will find something highly valuable to them and exchange their contact information in order to access the gated content.
Step three involves nurturing those new leads by continuing to add value to their considered buying process. For example, enrolling new leads into regular email updates which continue to provide educational and entertaining content. Depending on which stage of the buyer’s journey each lead is currently at, you will notice that as people are nurtured, they ultimately turn into prospects, exhibit the behaviour of wanting to be sold to, and make an enquiry. At this point, leads are then introduced to the sales team, where they can then become a customer.
Here’s an example; let's say your company develops an alternative technology to antibodies. Your goal is obviously to sell your products, but why should people take a risk when your offering is new, and is competing against long-established technology? You could use inbound tactics to help educate the marketplace, positioning your product as the solution to a problem your audience didn’t even understand they had. You could attract people to your website by creating content on topics such as ‘the future of monoclonal antibody technology’, which would build interest amongst a relevant audience. You could then nurture new visitors to your website by turning them into leads with a follow-up piece of content titled ‘Poorly performing antibodies? What are the alternatives?’. These two pieces of content do not overtly sell your antibody alternative, but they do enable your audience to conduct their own research, and when it comes to making a purchasing decision, they can make an informed one (and will probably choose your company, since you helped them reach the realisation that traditional antibody-based methods are often flawed).
What would this look like as an outbound campaign? The goal is the same of course; to sell products. Therefore, you could place an ad in a relevant publication titled ‘Our technology can target proteins inaccessible to antibodies!’. It’s impactful, but does it cater to the modern buyer’s journey? Furthermore, the shelf life of your print advert is probably one month at most—until the next issue is released. The content you create as part of an inbound programme lives on your website for as long as you like, continuing to deliver value thanks to the power of search engine indexing (displaying your content at the top of search engine results pages).
Inbound is transforming the success of life science marketing teams, and businesses that are currently using these tactics report that they provide a higher ROI than outbound techniques. However, the approach doesn’t work for everyone. If you are excited at the prospect of inbound, what questions should you be asking yourself to ensure you are able to benefit from implementing it?
Key considerations to determine whether inbound can work for you
To decide whether your company might benefit from adopting the inbound marketing methodology, we have prepared seven questions to ask yourself before exploring inbound in more detail:
Question 1: Is your current marketing strategy not reaching its goals?
If so, do you know why it’s not performing to expectations? Setting realistic marketing goals is key for deciding on whether to implement a new strategic approach.
Question 2: How well do you know your audience?
Inbound performance relies on creating content that will resonate with the pain points of your ideal customers. If you don’t have well-defined buyer personas, how will you know which topics will drive action and encourage potential buyers to engage with your content?
Question 3: Are your customers online?
This may seem like a silly question since we live in an age of almost universal internet accessibility, but inbound is a tactic that relies heavily on your website. Not all companies have audiences who make purchasing decisions online, and if your buyer personas are not using the internet to look for products or services, inbound will not increase sales.
Question 4: Do your customers use social media?
Social media is a key platform for increasing the reach of inbound programmes. If your buyer personas do not engage with social, you will receive fewer website visitors which will result in fewer leads and, ultimately, fewer customers.
Question 5: What is the size of your potential marketplace?
Inbound works best when your customer base is large. For some of the specialist companies that we encounter within the industry, their entire marketplace consists of just 200 potential buyers. There would be little value in developing lots of content when you would be better suited to a personal approach, engaging with a small number of potential buyers.
Question 6: How long is your sales cycle?
Do your customers decide in minutes whether they will purchase your product or service, or do they take weeks, months or even years? Fast-moving consumables don’t always have considered buying processes, with buyers often making purchases quickly. Inbound caters to the considered buying process, so you have to ensure the sales cycle associated with your product or service is long enough that your prospects are having to conduct research in order to make informed decisions.
Question 7: Is your customers’ lifetime value sufficiently high?
If the margins on your products or services are small, inbound might not provide a good ROI. Inbound is a long-term strategy that delivers a lot of value up front, but the most value over long periods of time.
Ready for inbound marketing?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to some or all of the questions above, inbound could potentially be a great fit for your company—but there is still plenty more to learn. Why not discuss inbound in more detail with our team of life science and inbound marketing specialists?