One of the key problems inbound marketers and content generators run into is getting executive buy-in for their campaigns.
While the marketing department and others in a company may find value in inbound marketing techniques including writing and publishing articles about their products in major trade publications, on LinkedIn, and posting on social media, top executives may not see this.
There are many reasons for the skepticism, but some of the key inbound marketing issues I have encountered are the following:
A new model. Executives are often a bit older than the rest of their staff, and they don’t understand how inbound marketing efforts could prove useful. They remember when advertisements were the most effective way to get their message to end-customers. Plus, you can see an ad on paper, bright as light. The benefits of inbound marketing are not always so clear.
I have actually witnessed this first hand. A couple of years ago, one of the marketing people at Southwest Airlines told me she sat down with the head honcho at Southwest for an afternoon, discussing inbound marketing, LinkedIn marketing, and social and digital marketing techniques. It took the afternoon, but he soon realized their value.
High expectations. Executives may be reluctant to give an inbound marketing program much time. Inbound marketing is like a steam locomotive coming out of the station. It starts moving slowly and builds momentum as it goes. Some executives get restless and cancel their marketing campaigns after just four months. They cannot see a return on the investment down the road. The industry has demonstrated, however, that inbound marketing takes at least six months to show what it can do.
Fear of exposure. “What if’s” play a dominant role. Many C-suite members are concerned about enhancing their digital presence because “what if” some end-customer makes derogatory comments about their products. This is both the blessing and the curse of inbound marketing. Most executives don’t know how to respond to such criticism. All that can be said is this happens to just about every company, and there are effective ways to deal with it.
Legal worries. Sometimes, a company’s legal department puts the lid on inbound marketing. Their big fear is that a blogging program, for instance, may violate copyright laws. Can a quote from a respected influencer be used in a blog without their permission? What about links to other sites, such as newspapers and magazines? Attorneys have an entirely new set of “what if’s,” which become roadblocks.
The best way marketers can address these situations and get executives on board is to first, have some understanding. Marketing is changing very quickly, and it’s hard for just about everyone—older executives as well as millennials—to keep on top of what’s evolving. Patience and a bit of forgiveness will go a long way.
With the right mindset, marketers can follow through with these inbound marketing steps:
Be prepared. Executives like to see results. There are now lots of studies about the power and potential of inbound marketing. Gather them and use them to make your case.
Under expect. Inbound marketing takes time. Make sure top executives realize this. Typically, it takes about six months to see a return on the investment.
Acknowledge potential downsides. Let them know what challenges may come up, the biggest of which is giving the program time to blossom. Explain how these challenges can be addressed effectively and why the marketing plan is worth the effort.
Start small… to a point. Many times, top brass are willing to start with a small program. That’s fine if it is not too small or goes on too long. Especially when an inbound marketing program is in its formative stages, the bigger the program is, the bigger the splash, and the more powerful it can be.
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