5 Tips to Explain Inbound Marketing to Upper Management

Sara Quigley

Written by Sara Quigley on Tue, Mar 14, 2017

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are good that you are already somewhat aware of inbound marketing, if not already utilizing it for your business. In fact, as a consumer, I bet inbound marketing plays a role in your day-to-day life as you browse the web. You may even be able to thank SPROUT Content’s own inbounding marketing strategy for getting you to this article. (Shameless plug intended.)

You may be thinking, “Yes, exactly! Inbound marketing works! I’m dying to implement it within my own marketing team, but upper management isn’t sold on it.” If you’re nodding your head, we see you and we hear you. In fact, we hear this all the time. That is why we’ve compiled the following tips for pitching inbound marketing to upper management.

Tip #1: Think like upper management.

It’s safe to assume that the members of your upper management team are there for good reason. They’re probably business-savvy individuals who have played a critical role in implementing the very strategies that grew the company to where it is now. I’m willing to bet they’ve also experienced success with a lot of traditional marketing methods in the past and have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. The issue is that “it” is broken. Consumers engage with content and with brands differently than they did in the past, which mean their journey as a buyer is much different than in the past. They expect certain things of brands, including value and consideration. Disruptive behaviors no longer cut it.

With all of this in mind, meet your upper management where they are, and understand that clear communication is critical. Start from the very beginning, explaining inbound marketing as if they’ve never heard of it. It’s quite possible that they haven’t, and that they won’t ask for a more in-depth explanation. When you’re used to calling the shots, you’re not always comfortable admitting you require a “101” explanation. Similarly, be sure to avoid criticizing or attacking their old or current marketing methods.

How to Explain Google to Your CEO

Tip #2: Then, act like a consumer.

One of the biggest differences between traditional marketing and inbound, or content marketing, is that inbound marketing is buyer-centric. It puts the buyer’s experience front and center, meeting the buyer where they are, with the information they desire. It even presents the most appropriate (read: non-salesy) content for each stage of a buyer’s journey. Compare this to the disruptive nature of banner ads, pop-up ads, and the like.

Sometimes it is hard to see the bigger picture when we are so close to our own subject matter. Eliminate your manager’s emotional association with your own company’s efforts by talking in terms of a consumer industry or specific brand that he or she can relate to. Ask them to think, for example, about what research they might conduct before purchasing a new golf club. Or what research would they do to find a new brand of dog food or medicine? What would they type into Google? What factors would influence which articles they click on? What types of experts or outlets would they trust? What makes them trust a certain piece of information, website or expert?

Look at that! Not only are you and your manager now discussing inbound marketing, but you’ve created a personal and positive association for your manager to relate to.

Tip #3: Explain—but don’t over-explain—logistics.

Remember, the members of upper management most likely will not actually be implementing the strategy themselves, so it is unnecessary at this time to distract them with the details of your content optimization system (COS) or your analytics dashboard. Instead, use this time to explain the high-level details: we identify buyer personas, create and distribute content specifically for these personas, take them through the buyer’s journey from attraction to sale, analyze the results, and repeat.

This marketing concept may be foreign to your upper management, especially if they are more comfortable with data and spreadsheets than they are with storytelling. In fact, at this point they may be thinking, “So what, we’re publishers now?” or more importantly, “What about our bottom line?” You’ve come so far, don’t lose them now! Help them see that inbound marketing helps marketers and salespeople streamline their efforts, working more efficiently than ever to hit the bottom line. Inbound allows the sales team to learn more about their leads beforehand than ever before, leading to more personalized and persuasive sales pitches.

Tip #4: Use visuals.

Don’t just tell upper management about how content fits into the buyer’s journey. Pack a punch with visuals. A map of the sales funnel with examples of content for each stage will help paint the picture for them. Remember when you had your upper management put on their consumer shoes in Tip #2? Return to the example they relate to, and together travel through the different stages of the buyer’s journey, exploring the content they may have experienced at each stage.

A great place to find visuals is HubSpot, specifically their Inbound Marketing Methodology chart.

Tip #5: Let the numbers do the talking.

Present SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based) goals for your proposed inbound marketing strategy, and commit to specific measurables in each section. Explain why inbound marketing is a proper solution for your company’s goals, and address the details of who, what, when, where and how. Do your goals all relate back to the bottom line and the goals of the sales team? If not, consider reworking your goals before presenting to the team.

Additionally, a good resource for measuring your content ROI and proving the value of your content investment is our free ebook, What Gets Measured, Gets Improved.

If you’re ready to talk specific numbers with your team, check out our post How to Convince Management to Invest in Inbound Marketing.

Before this conversation, be sure you know if your strategy will be executed in-house or if you’ll be hiring an external team. Learn more about the Pros and Cons of Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency and read through The Ultimate Guide to Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency.

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring an Inbound Agency


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