How Tech Companies Can Get Inbound Marketing Buy-in from Senior Management

Justin Lambert

Written by Justin Lambert on Wed, Jul 27, 2016

Even now, there’s still a strong contingent of high-level decision makers in many industries who don’t understand or believe in inbound marketing’s ability to enhance the value and efficiency of virtually any organization’s marketing efforts. Especially when compared to more traditional outbound marketing methods that have been used for years.

It seems counterintuitive, but the tech sector is one of those industries. And it’s an especially common issue at older, legacy tech companies that have been innovating in production for decades, but haven’t applied the same attitude or tech savvy toward their marketing efforts.

Although these companies are often on the bleeding edge of what’s possible in their chosen technology niche, leadership may be surprisingly behind the curve when it comes to modern marketing strategies. There’s actually a very good reason for this disconnect, though. It’s not just a matter of tech executives burying their heads in the sand.

Inbound marketing sounds unpredictable

More often than not, C-suite executives in these companies will have heard rumblings about inbound marketing at business conferences or in their own online or industry research. But their first exposure to inbound strategies as a viable option for their company will come from a hot young up-and-comer in the marketing department that keeps bugging the CMO to give him some budget to start a blog.

At this stage, with the amount of legitimate information at their fingertips, it’s easy to understand why a CFO or CEO would politely entertain that conversation for 30 seconds or so before nodding, smiling, and promising to “take it under advisement.”

After all, this kid just got hired 8 months ago out of college and he’s talking about adding a section to the company website that’s going to magically open up the leads faucet and inundate the sales team with SQLs.

It sounds like a pipe dream, so it’s easy to dismiss. And, as long as it sounds like that, that’s exactly what the top-level decision makers are going to do.

Which is why we want to pull Mike aside, (that’s the new guy in Marketing, btw) and teach him how to go about educating his tech company’s C-suite about inbound marketing in a way that doesn’t sound like a fairy tale, but instead, sounds like a world class sales proposal that’s impossible to reject.

Download our our comprehensive list of Pros and Cons of Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency

Why tech companies can truly benefit from inbound marketing

Before going any further, let’s settle one key question:

Does inbound marketing deliver results for the tech sector?

Yes, it definitely does. Consider the following stats, based on the most recent related research:

        • 61% of global Internet users research products online. (And this includes tech buyers, perhaps even more so than average.)
        • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
        • 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly (which, by itself, is still an impressive result.)
        • 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form.
        • Social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing.
        • Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less.

I could go on, but you get the point. Inbound marketing works primarily because it conforms to the modern consumer’s behavior and focuses on giving them the information they need to make an informed buying decision before they speak to a salesperson.

Tech buyers are even more inclined to do extensive research before contacting a salesperson or even identifying themselves as a lead, so it makes sense that a robust inbound marketing program centered on providing quality content to support that effort would be especially effective in the tech sector.

But, unlike traditional marketing methods that can easily be discussed in terms of cost per lead, custom per customer, and lifetime value, inbound marketing seems (to the uneducated) to be unpredictable and difficult to track.

So that’s where Mike needs to focus.

How to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your CFO

I won’t go too deep into this section because I honestly won’t be able to outdo a free and extremely valuable ebook on the subject provided by HubSpot:

Proving the Value of Inbound: The Ultimate Kit for Convincing Your CFO

I strongly recommend downloading this priceless resource and taking the time to read and digest what it offers.

A few brief highlights:

1. Your CFO speaks a different language from your CMO. While marketers “get” inbound fairly quickly and easily, a CFO couldn’t care less about amorphous terms like “brand identity” or “social proof”. They are only interested in ROI, CPL, and a bunch of other financially-related acronyms.

2. Despite the belief by some that inbound marketing can’t be tracked closely enough to talk dollars and cents accurately, there have been more than enough studies in the past few years to provide statistically reliable benchmarks that can be used to justify an initial investment. This initial investment can be used to monitor your unique company’s inbound success rate in order to inform future investments. (For some excellent examples of inbound’s direct correlation to ROI, take a look at these impressive case studies.)

3. Outbound marketing versus inbound marketing can be likened to renting a factory versus building a factory: In the case of outbound, you get results as long as you keep paying (although those results and the cost of “rent” can change with the market.) With inbound, you’re creating assets that will live indefinitely online and will continue to produce value although you only pay for them once, so (like investing in purchasing that factory,) the value compounds over time.

By learning how to effectively translate inbound marketing’s benefits from marketing-speak to economic-speak, you can push the right buttons for your CFO and free up budget with which to begin a program that will prove itself after about six months.

How to explain inbound marketing to your CEO

Although the CEO also has a strong inclination to pay attention to the bottom line figures, he or she is also likely more open to the long-term strategic aspects of any new opportunity open to the company.

Their view should span a longer time period - which is good for Mike because inbound marketing doesn’t work overnight - but they’re also going to need more thorough convincing that this new strategy is good for the overall company as opposed to just being profitable.

We covered a lot of the specific talking points Mike needs to prepare for in this previous post focused specifically on an SEO strategy, so take another look at that article for more specifics. But here are a few tips that will make convincing the CEO easier:

1. Chain of command - Don’t try to start at the top and work down unless you’re in a very small company. Instead, begin with the CMO (who’s most likely to understand and buy in quickly,) then move on to the CFO (as described above,) and finally approach the CEO with the other executives’ buy-in as powerful social proof that the strategy is sound and has legs.

2. Focus on figures (mostly) - Just as with the CFO, the CEO is going to want to know specifics as far as dollar amounts, expected results, time frames, etc. However, they’re also going to be open to accepting the potential value of less specific qualities like goodwill, positive PR, and customer engagement.

3. Don’t denigrate outbound - While the stats support that inbound marketing can and will outperform outbound marketing over the long term, and at a lower cost-per-customer, your CEO knows what’s worked in the past and also needs to know that inbound won’t immediately begin magically supplying maximum results. Focus on how even small, initial inbound efforts can help reinforce and enhance ongoing outbound methods.

CFO vs. CMO

Help for Mike putting a proposal together

Part of that HubSpot kit linked above is a PowerPoint slide deck template designed specifically to help marketers translate inbound marketing into language their C-suite can understand and get behind.

Take advantage of that, and all the other free resources on sites like HubSpot.com and right here at SPROUTcontent.com.

And if you have any specific questions we may be able to help with, reach out, and we’ll do our best to help you out.

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