Inbound isn’t just a marketing philosophy, and success of inbound isn’t the full responsibility of just a marketing team.
Truly effective and successful adoption of inbound is a cultural shift that needs to occur within an organization if you want to be best in class and the most trusted voice in your space. In order to succeed, this requires that the entire organization (not just the marketing team/department/or something else) shares this vision and is willing to contribute to bringing this culture to life.
While you can grab a copy of They Ask, You Answer and start producing inbound content today, the success of your program is contingent on a much bigger concept and commitment — and that’s buy-in.
Time and time again, we’ve seen companies fail at truly adopting inbound and the principles of They Ask, You Answer, and that failure is rooted in this single common pitfall. And while many organizations like to think they’ve fully adopted inbound and have organizational buy-in, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Let me give you two examples of companies on their journey to adopting They Ask, You Answer:
Company A thinks it's fully adopted the inbound methodology, but consistently struggle to produce content and results. It has a small marketing team in which the marketing manager is expected to ideate, produce, and publish all content needed to support marketing, sales, and customer service. When the team seeks for expert insight to produce higher quality/more relevant content they continuously comes up against internal roadblocks — unable to get leadership or the sales team to contribute to this process.
The marketing manager knows that other departments and personnel hold the keys to success, as they have a direct line to prospects, customers, and the larger vision of the organization and brand.
As a result, Company A publishes content infrequently, and it falls flat. It lacks critical insight and expertise from the team and therefore doesn’t effectively speak to consumers’ questions, pain points, and needs.
To make matters worse, even when content is produced, marketing struggles to get the team to leverage it in the sales process. Each quarter, the marketing manager has to defend the investment in inbound due to the lack of results and ROI seen to-date. Not fun.
Alternatively, Company B has a different story to tell.
Company B has complete buy-in and support from leadership on inbound. Because this vision is shared and disseminated throughout the organization, the team is expected to contribute as part of their job function, and held accountable when they don’t.
The marketing manager at Company B sources topics and content from sales and leadership on a monthly basis and works with individuals each week to fill their publishing schedule.
Company-wide support and accountability enables Company B to produce higher quality and larger quantities of content. Everyone has a stake in the game and is responsible for the success.
As a result, inbound marketing efforts and the content the teams produce actually shortens the sales cycle and improves retention. They’re answering the right questions, and the team is motivated to leverage inbound tools in sales and customer service processes.
As you can imagine, Company A will continue to struggle because of the most common pitfall we see — they simply don’t have buy-in. Company B, on the other hand, gets it and works together to drive success. They all know inbound works.
Which category does your organization fall in?
If you’re more like Company A, then you’re probably searching for ways to effect change and get buy-in from your leadership and sales teams.
You might say, “It’s never worked in the past and I can’t get my team bought in. So how?”
Well, there are two possible ways you can get there. Both require your team to get aligned and agree to an action plan moving forward.
You can either:
Continue trying to prove the value of inbound and manage change and buy-in internally, or
We’ve seen companies take both approaches. Some succeed and some don’t, and that’s entirely based on the organization, the authority of the person owning this process, and their ability to truly effect change at the leadership level.
Let’s consider both approaches to be conducted via a team workshop. Then, you can understand the process and determine whether or not your company is equipped and set up for success to effectively manage a workshop on your own.
It involves getting all of the right people together (leadership, marketing, and sales) and establishing a common goal and understanding — and you don’t walk away until you’ve aligned on, and committed to, an action plan.
Based on dozens of client use cases, we’ve found that a truly successful workshop must:
Be facilitated in-person and attended by all subject matter experts (SMEs) who will participate in the content program. This includes, but is not limited to, marketing, executive leadership, sales, customer service, and product development.
Present an overview of content culture and inbound marketing for your team to educate everyone on the basics.
Take a deep-dive into how today’s buyer has changed and what that means for sales and marketing.
Discuss what buyers expect to see during the front-end of the sales process, throughout their digital vetting period.
Educate the team on the types of content that do and do not move the sales needle.
Explain how video is dramatically affecting sales, marketing, and buyers, and the most effective types of videos.
Showcase specifically how content can be leveraged in the sales process.
Discuss the role each person has in content production and set the framework for accountability.
As an output, your entire team should walk away with:
An understanding of how critical content is to driving traffic, leads, and sales
A plan for what must be done long-term to make this work
Clearly defined roles and expectations
A work-in-progress content calendar (based on in-person workshop discussions)
Leadership’s involvement going forward
The accountability plan
The workshop should be customized to your team and its collective level of experience and expertise in content marketing. It needs to be engaging and command team members’ full attention.
And, you must ultimately be focused on a single goal — to get buy-in and commitment. If you walk away from this meeting without those two things, you’ve failed.
Should you host your own workshop?
Now that we’ve established what an inbound culture workshop is, let’s consider the pros and cons of hosting one in-house and what you should consider before embarking on this endeavor.
Hosting your own inbound culture workshop is a great way to build credibility and authority with your team. As a company employee, you’re in a unique position to speak directly about your industry, company, team dynamic, and your specific needs and nuances.
And, as the owner of the marketing program and the inbound initiative, you’ll be responsible for managing the program and holding team members accountable on a daily basis. So if you’re able to get them bought-in, excited, and committed, then this sets the stage for you to maintain that momentum moving forward.
However, we’ve seen individuals in leadership roles struggle to accomplish this. As the saying goes, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” This could not be more true for some organizations. Unfortunately, hearing this information and getting directive from someone within the company often doesn’t hold the same weight and authority as a third-party expert.
Regardless of the reasons why this is true, it is a common obstacle many teams face. Sometimes they aren’t as receptive to an internal person, especially if that person has attempted to communicate this need and get buy-in from the team in the past.
We’ve also seen clients go through a successful internal workshop, walk away with initial excitement, but this fizzles within a few weeks, much like what can happen after a conference. The reason why this happens is because the team doesn’t follow through.
Keep this in mind when you consider how to best facilitate a workshop. If leadership and the team doesn’t follow through on the commitments made, and someone isn’t committed to holding them accountable, then it will ultimately fail and you’re back to square one.
As you consider whether or not you’re in a position to effectively run an inbound culture workshop, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do you have the subject matter expertise and experience in content marketing and video to effectively deliver a presentation on these topics?
How long will it take you to create your workshop and the materials needed to facilitate the session?
Can you be successful in facilitating this workshop on top of your other job responsibilities?
Has the broader team (sales, leadership, etc.) been asked to contribute content in the past, and have they delivered on that request?
Do you frequently run into obstacles or impediments when trying to get marketing initiatives launched with support from other teams?
Do you have the authority within the organization to get the right people in the room and engaged?
Does leadership find value in inbound? Have they done anything in the past to contribute to content generation?
How effective have you been in the past in terms of holding leadership accountable to their commitments to marketing?
Are you confident you can keep your team engaged, despite any major distractions that will inevitably occur throughout the workshop?
Has your team been effective at launching a content and inbound marketing program in the past?
If you feel confident in your ability to execute an effective workshop — then don’t hold back! Start gathering your team and resources and dive in. Hosting an internal inbound culture workshop is a great opportunity to educate and align your team, and a major win for your organization.
At the end of the day, getting your team bought in and committed is the end goal.
Buy-in isn’t expecting that sales and growth will come from a series of blog posts and tweets, owned solely by marketing, and without contributions from sales, customer service, or leadership. It isn’t continuing to manage departments in silos, expecting them to somehow reach success without coordinated efforts.
Buy-in is a shared approach and agreement between marketing, sales, and leadership as to what matters most to your customers and prospects. It is a commitment from this entire team to communicate that information via a high velocity of content in a variety of formats (written, video, and in-person).
It means there are no excuses or roadblocks allowed. True buy-in removes these impediments and ensures that everyone is held accountable for their piece of the puzzle.
Are you still feeling uncertain about how to run a successful workshop and maintain momentum thereafter? If so, consider outsourcing it to a trusted partner agency who can support you in bringing this to life. Here’s an additional resource to help you determine if your organization is the right fit for an inbound culture workshop.