What to do to make your CEO say ‘yes’ to inbound marketing business case

14th Sep 2016
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Whether you are a seasoned practitioner or a relative newcomer, as a marketer you realise that inbound marketing is an essential component of the marketing mix and that it can ultimately change the course of your business. You know for a fact that in the digital era, marketing automation provides numerous benefits, thereby justifying the investment. It can help you do more with less, making it the perfect solution for a small team with limited time and resources.


To ensure we are all on the same page, let’s understand the terms 'inbound marketing' and 'marketing automation' and why inbound is essential in today’s world.

Inbound marketing is any marketing tactic that relies on earning people’s interest rather than buying it, and the ability to be found quickly, whereas traditional marketing pushes products or services on customers. As defined and coined by Hubspot, “Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.”

Marketing automation refers to the software tool that enables automation of marketing actions (e.g. sending emails, social media posts, website activities). To be an inbound marketer you have to invest in a marketing automation tool. As Marketo, a leading marketing automation vendor, puts it, “Marketing automation helps marketers streamline their lead generation, segmentation, lead nurturing and lead scoring, customer lifecycle marketing, cross-sell and up-sell, customer retention, and marketing ROI measurement.”

If a business wants to scale up, investing in technology tools like a marketing automation platform becomes essential. In particular, these processes all require:

  • A central marketing database – you need customer data, and interactions in a single database, to segment and target the relevant message to each audience
  • An engagement marketing engine –a platform that lets you create, manage and automate marketing processes and conversations across multiple online and offline channels
  • An analytics engine – a tool to test, measure, and optimie your marketing ROI and impact on revenue. It lets you understand what worked, what didn’t and how and where you can improve.

Why is inbound marketing crucial today?

Buyers have access to abundant information 24/7 at their fingertips, and as marketers, you face their attention scarcity. Meanwhile, social media encourages them to share every facet of their experience. Traditional marketing techniques interrupt the buyer in the buying process and is not as effective as it used to be. By investing in inbound marketing, prospects automatically find you when they need your products and services. All you need to ensure is that they can find you easily and create quality and adequate content that attracts them to your business and the experience they get by using your product keeps them coming back for more.

Isn’t inbound marketing expensive?

Especially when you’re a startup or an SMB and strapped for budget and headcount, inbound marketing can appear like a pretty significant investment — and it is. Your senior management has set an aggressive growth target and support your ideas and importance of investing in right marketing tools. While your past attempt came back with some encouraging comments, it was not accompanied by the requested funding.

Your concern: 'How to make my CEO say ‘YES’ to the inbound marketing business case by investing in marketing automation?'

The good thing is you are not the only one facing this challenge, and the above scenario is not unusual. Let’s dive in, to help you communicate the same to CEO and the rest of the team and convince them!

Tips to build an effective business case

Do the research to identify the pain

Like most business owners, your CEO is aware of the changing buyer behaviour and conceptually understand the importance of buyer experience. So before presenting the inbound marketing business case, ask yourself some fundamental questions. What’s keeping my CEO and board up at night? Is it the lack of leads for your sales team to meet the revenue goals? Sounds familiar?

Start with an understanding of your company’s current marketing and sales performance vs. growth plans. You may realise that cold calling is not working the way it used to. Traditional marketing efforts have begun to make more enemies than customers, as it's intrusive and annoying, and they are no longer as effective as it used to be.

Do you have any ways to track the conversion rate of website visitors to marketing qualified lead through to sales proposal and finally new customer?

If you do, show a correlation by doing the math to figure out what the revenue will look like if you can double the conversion rate, and how the qualified lead count will increase substantially with an inbound engine in place. This would buy you the CEO’s attention.

Buy-in - get the sales team on board

One of the biggest mistakes is to assume marketing automation is just for marketers. It’s a big picture of how your business can grow and will help sales teams realise the value from the platform. So the business case is all about how marketing and sales will align to improve one's businesses sales cycle.

Stand out from the crowd - include the right information

Senior leaders have a lot on their minds and receive a steady stream of proposals that seek investments. You need to share the relevant information at the right time – the problem the marketing automation initiative aims to address, why it is the need of the hour, the resources required, the results it will deliver, the expected short-term and long-term return on investment (ROI). By communicating the urgency, there are high chances that senior management will not have excuses to postpone.

Define goals and metrics - be prepared to measure your effectiveness

Set goals, determine dates and lay out the implementation strategy for marketing automation success.

You may not have the complete list of all metrics to draw on at the start, but give an indication of the metrics you plan to use in the short and long term. Highlight the benefits of measuring them and correlate it to the business success.

Be realistic

The setting of unrealistic expectations can be fatal to even the best laid-out marketing automation plans. It can take 12 to 18 months – and in some cases more to see the desired results and open doors to your desired client base.

Don’t forget to remind your senior management that it took years to get to the current state. Implementing marketing automation, calls for a change in your current ways of working and you can’t modify the company culture overnight. Inbound marketing can’t work in isolation and needs to be integrated with traditional techniques to deliver results. Hence, it’s crucial to start immediately and get a head start vis-à-vis competition.

So, with your homework, you no longer will have difficulty in answering these questions:

  • Will we see enough returns justify the cost?
  • Do we have enough content to support inbound marketing efforts?
  • How your conversion rates will be (positively) impacted by an automation tool?
  • How many people do we need to support the marketing automation platform?
  • How will marketing automation work in sync with other marketing efforts?
  • How can marketing automation help improve marketing and sales alignment?

With all this preparation, if you are turned down, ask why, and then ask why again? Often, senior management does not find it necessary to give an explanation if they say NO. Once you know the real answer you might be able to address their concerns with alternative initiatives and plans.


(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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