How Business Leaders Are Using Inbound to Adapt Their Operations and Scale (Part 1)

Discover how to surface new revenue streams, reduce risk, get visibility over ROI and unlock a framework for sustainable growth with inbound in this two-part series.

Scaling more easily leads to greater profitability. But even during ordinary times, the process of growing in a scalable, repeatable way challenges business leaders to improve operations.

For one client, globally recognised heat treatment equipment servicing specialist VFE, these challenges were exacerbated in 2020 when factories fell quiet and site managers and their teams wrestled with new remote working legislation and social distancing directives.

The challenges this time brought will still be raw for most, but they weren’t exclusive to the manufacturing industry or to the pandemic. Every business looking to scale will need to navigate periods of uncertainty that challenge their existing business models.

In this instance, many organisations paused or reallocated marketing spend to minimise costs and reduce risk. But VFE didn’t see it this way. Its senior leadership team recognised that market disruption actually increased the importance of their communication channels.

Furthermore, they saw in HubSpot’s inbound marketing methodology a way to build a more sustainable business model and not only survive the disruption but drive long-term growth. 

As more business leaders look to achieve the same, could inbound be the solution?

To see how we created a £9.9m new business pipeline and £4.8m in inbound sales for VFE in six months, take a look at the case study.

 

VFE BabelQuest Final

 

Inbound: a framework for sustainable business growth

If you’re unfamiliar with the terms inbound and outbound marketing, the chances are your organisation has predominantly been practising outbound marketing up until now. 

You can read all about the differences between inbound and outbound marketing here, but in a nutshell, traditional or ‘outbound’ marketing is heavily ad-based. It focuses on paid promotions and cold outreach and is typically interruptive. 

Inbound marketing is the opposite. It focuses on the creation of owned content (such as articles, guides, organic social media posts etc.) that informs, entertains, or otherwise adds value to the reader. Because it aims to deliver value and aligns with your buyers’ challenges, organisations find their target audience actively searching for their marketing.

When looking at inbound and outbound marketing as viable frameworks for long-term business growth, this comparison raises a number of important points:

  1. Inbound marketing is a sustainable investment
  2. The inbound framework extends across business functions 
  3. An inbound approach improves business continuity and reduces risk

1. Inbound is a sustainable marketing investment 

Many leaders will have found themselves questioning where the marketing budget has gone at one time or another.

Outbound marketing has its time and place, but it offers little in the way of long-term value. Organisations pay (sometimes extortionate) budgets for advertising and promotions that are gone once the campaign ends.

Because inbound revolves around owned content, once assets have been created or email lists set up, for example, the organisation will always have them. They can be leveraged sustainably and, with the right software in place, the board can see their continued impacts.

  • If content’s been created for SEO purposes, it can continue to attract online traffic for as long as it exists on the website, effectively for free. 
  • If it’s a download, and the right promotional channels are used, it can generate a dependable stream of leads for the business to nurture and close.
  • Lists can be emailed time and time again (or set up to receive automated content when database contacts perform specific actions), so organisations can freely communicate with (and nurture) their contacts without expensive paid campaigns.

Learn more about inbound automation and how your marketing team could use workflows to drive up revenue.

2. The value of inbound extends beyond marketing

Marketing is often an organisation’s gateway to inbound, but the inbound methodology — the framework VFE adopted to pivot its operations and drive growth — extends across every business function.  

  • Inbound marketing assets can be leveraged by the sales team to help nurture a lead during the early stages of the sales process or close a deal closer to the proposal stage.
  • Similarly, customer service teams can repurpose marketing content to help educate or advise existing customers on the best ways to solve a challenge or use a product.
  • Could HR adopt inbound principles to ensure its internal communications are timely and relevant, or to capture the attention of best-fit candidates?
  • Even Finance will appreciate the visibility over the sales pipeline that an integrated inbound platform such as HubSpot delivers (more on this below).

3. A repeatable, dependable framework improves business continuity and reduces risk

An organisation that relies solely on outbound marketing and paid campaigns requires a limitless budget in order to fund those activities. As the global pandemic and its seismic impact on the economy has demonstrated, disruption can happen at a moment’s notice that puts marketing budgets — never mind the effectiveness of interruptive marketing — at risk.

If market conditions do force a company to cut its marketing spend, organisations with a healthy library of inbound assets optimised to be found on search and written or recorded with the aim of providing value are virtually unaffected — while their competitors go silent.

“I didn't fully appreciate how silent our business was in what we had to offer until Tom created a confident voice, with which we now effortlessly communicate with our customers.” David Byrne, CEO, VFE

When the health crisis hit and several of the markets on which VFE depended were heavily impacted, CEO David Byrne recognised that his company needed a more sustainable, repeatable, dependable business framework and that the inbound methodology offered this.

 

Inbound marketing channels as new revenue streams

David had already progressed plans to take several new offerings to market when he began speaking with us. The products and services in question would help him to drive up revenue during the challenging period. They would enable VFE to increase the value of its existing customers and as well as penetrate new markets, improving resilience and reducing risk. 

An innovative company at its core, with a strong network of globally recognised manufacturing partners, VFE’s research and development team were well on the way to designing these products. Using inbound channels, we’d help his team to launch them.

Inbound channels are perfect vehicles for new product/service launches.

  • Inbound is a lower-risk strategy than expensive paid campaigns that, if they don’t perform, leave the business with nothing to show for their marketing spend.
  • Product launches can easily come across as a hard sell, which in the given climate wasn’t appropriate. An inbound approach ensured the products and services launched were only found by potential customers genuinely interested in them.
  • The products and services in question were developed in direct response to the operational challenges that VFE’s customers were facing. An inbound approach leads with those challenges, clearly positioning the new offerings as solutions.
  • By prioritising bottom-of-the-funnel content, we helped VFE to accelerate its inbound strategy, generating new business within months of each launch.
  • Operationally, the inbound methodology took a lot of pain out of the product launch process. We were quickly able to establish a scalable, repeatable framework for taking the new products to market, streamlining the process each time.

The commercial success of the strategy David employed and his decision to embrace inbound speaks for itself in the figures above. But the strategy was only half of the solution we delivered.

In order to get visibility over the impact we were having, it was essential that VFE had the systems in place to track, forecast and share the revenue they generated.

Read part two to discover the systems VFE used to achieve this, how David built a successful business acquisition strategy around inbound, and the reputation-based benefits unlocked by a consistent stream of thought leadership in an industry governed by quality and credibility

Read part two now

Dr Thomas Brown
About the Author
Tom is BabelQuest's Principal Copywriter. He has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Southampton and is a novelist with Sparkling Books.