The SaaS Marketing Blog

    Enterprise Inbound Marketing: Build Long-term Relationships with Loyal Customers

    Last updated: November 7th, 2013

    Inbound marketing is in

    If you’re still spending most of your marketing budget on outbound methods, you’re missing a big opportunity for growth. Given that inbound marketing costs 61% less per lead than outbound marketing¹, choosing outbound over inbound is like a doctor choosing to use bloodletting as a cure for headaches because the practice has been around for longer, even though other solutions are much more effective.

    Enterprise inbound marketing: lasting customer relationships

    Outbound marketing is disruptive, invasive, and can elicit negative emotions from customers. Inbound marketing fosters trust, creates value, and builds mutually beneficial relationships between you and your customers.

    By “mutually beneficial relationships,” I don’t just mean in an economic sense, where demand dictates supply, customers get what they want and companies profit. That’s not a mutually beneficial relationship – mutually beneficial transactions, perhaps, mutually beneficial system, sure. But there is no relationship between you and the customer. Customers are just as likely to shop from you as they are from any other company. They may purchase from you today and from your main competitor tomorrow. Think of that as a one night stand.

    Build long-term customer relationships

    Image source: YDubel,

    Ideally, your customer is your partner, your enterprise’s lifemate. The kind of relationship you build, however, is up to you. If you neglect your customers, they will look elsewhere to fulfill their needs. If they feel used, they will leave you for someone who appreciates them. If you make extravagant claims without delivering, they will grow suspicious of you and wonder what you’re doing behind their back.

    Outbound strategies that involve generic emails sent to a massive email list obtained from wildly diverse sources, repeated phone calls from blocked numbers and an automated voice, and aggressive but unengaging ads on any and all platforms regardless of relevance make trust-building more difficult. If you want your customers’ loyalty and a long-term relationship with them, you have to earn that kind of relationship and you have to maintain it. The key to doing that is earning your customers’ trust, and that’s what inbound marketing helps you achieve, resulting in more revenue over time.

    Enterprise inbound marketing: how to do it

    The problem with outbound marketing strategies is that often they:

    • Target quantity over quality. You reach a broad audience, but not the right audience, making it more difficult to achieve a high conversion rate.
    • Interrupt content or activities people are actually in, thus serving as a minor annoyance rather than an effective marketing tool.
    • Fail to reach people:
      • 86% of people skip TV ads.
      • 91% unsubscribe from email.
      • 44% of direct mail is never opened.²

    Inbound marketing seeks to remedy these undesirable aspects of outbound. So how do you go about inbound marketing?

    • Target the specific segment that is likely to buy, so that even if you reach less people, you increase your ROI.
    • Use analytics to find out who your customers are and improve lead conversion rates. For example:
      • Use cookies to track your customers’ browsing habits across different sessions on your website;
      • Use a different landing page for each channel you own (i.e. send Facebook traffic to one landing page and PPC traffic to a different landing page) and track how much traffic and how much lead conversion each generates;
      • Use A/B testing to find out what appeals to your customers;
      • Get access to social information by letting visitors to your site log in with their social media accounts.
    • Provide value.
      • Entertain, inform, or surprise. Elicit strong, positive emotions.
      • Be relevant. Write about topics your customers are searching for.
    • Be found.
      • Having a blog is an essential part of an effective inbound marketing strategy. Update your content frequently and on a regular schedule to be found easily and to increase traffic steadily.
      • Use search engine optimization (SEO) to reach the right people. Keep up to date on SEO news and best practices.
    • Build trust.
      • Educate your audience. Give advice. Provide useful tips. Share little-known facts.
      • Provide credible content. Be an expert on your topic. Be the authority.

    Trust is much more easily built through inbound marketing than outbound. Consider the following numbers:

    • Only 10% of US adults online trust ads on websites.
    • Only 18% trust emails from companies on brands.
    • 70% trust brand recommendations from friends and family.
    • 55% trust professionally written online reviews.
    • 46% trust consumer-written online reviews.³
    Forrester- brand trust by medium


    In other words, the content and information customers find most trustworthy is what they find out through referral, rather than directly from a given company. Be the top expert in your category to build a reputation as a trustworthy source of information, and create outstanding content that people will want to share. Have a strong social media presence to encourage sharing.

    Replacing negative outbound techniques with positive inbound techniques

    To bolster your trustworthiness, implement as many inbound marketing techniques as possible (and as would be relevant), either in addition to or instead of outbound marketing techniques. And regardless of whether you choose to replace or complement outbound with inbound marketing, the transition doesn’t have to be difficult. A few tweaks to your current outbound strategies can sometimes do the trick. It’s a matter of optimizing how you use your channels and rethinking your current marketing methods.


    The outbound way: disrupt and interrupt. Pop-up ads, television ads, YouTube ads… The problem with these is that they get in the way of media the consumer is actually interested in. I was at a marketing event recently where the presenter was showing a YouTube video. The video was preceded by an ad, which the presenter muted before remarking that if there was a way to pay money to avoid those ads, she would. If we as marketers don’t even like interrupting ads, why do we foist them upon our potential customers?

    The inbound way: complement and be sought out. When someone clicks on a link for a recipe and gets a pop-up ad for computers, not only does it get in the way of the content they were trying to consume, computers have no relevance to the interests expressed by that visitor (namely food, cooking, recipes). More productive for the computer company whose ad just popped up would be ads on computer-related websites — targeted ads. Ads placed alongside or near the content, preferably at visual focal points to attract the eye, can draw the potential customer in unobtrusively.

    As for YouTube and TV ads, instead of the ones that appear before or in the middle of content the consumer is watching, make informative, educational, interesting, funny, clever, well-made YouTube videos that customers will want to watch and share – videos they’ll skip ads to get to. Create astonishing, gorgeous or hilarious pictures they will share with their followers and friends on different social media platforms. Be on social media, where you’ll be sought out, rather than in the middle of shows and videos where your presence isn’t necessarily wanted.


    The outbound way: large but untargeted subscription lists. Email lists that are bought or that aren’t updated in years fall under this category. The problem with these lists is that they reach people who are not interested. Unsolicited emails rarely get read. If they’re not caught by spam filters, people have become experts at ignoring them.

    The inbound way: target the right people. Optimize your landing pages to generate leads of people who would actually be interested in emails and products from you. Use analytics and tracking data to know what to include in your emails to make them relevant to your subscription list. Email frequently enough that your customers don’t forget you or lose interest, but not so much that they get annoyed.


    The outbound way: cold calls. When I worked, very briefly, years ago, in an outbound call centre,the most common response I got when I called people, other than getting hung up on, was, “Why are you calling me at dinner time?” People weren’t often interested in what I had to say. I was disrupting people’s day, feeling remorseful about it, and the brand wasn’t generating leads.Excellent customer service

    The inbound way: good customer service. A better inbound marketing technique for enterprises is to provide excellent phone customer service and excellent follow-up for customer service calls. You engage customers, they’re happy to interact with you again in the future, and they are happy to refer you to friends and family. They get what they need, you generate more leads, and your employees feel good about helping others. Everybody wins.

    That’s not to say you can’t do outbound calls, but the trick is to do it the same way you do emails: target the right people. When my bank, who I already trust enough to keep an account with, or companies I shop at even semi-regularly call me with promotional offers, I listen. When I get calls from companies I’ve never heard of about products I’ve never bought, never thought of buying, a phone call won’t get me interested.

    Get started with inbound now

    Given that inbound marketing for enterprises is relatively easy to implement, costs less than outbound marketing and has a more positive effect, it makes sense to turn to it, or to step up your game if you’ve already started dabbling in it. Go on… try the long-term, committed, monogamous relationship with your customers. You’ll never go back.


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    Related: Salesforce & HubSpot: How Using Both Tools Together Makes Marketing and Rev Ops More Effective

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