Throughout our marketing careers, we've been taught that inbound leads are the holy grail.
We’re told they are the fastest, most effective way to convert—the ultimate prize at the end of countless hours spent creating optimized content and crafting clever, compelling CTA strategies to lure people in.
But are hot inbound leads really that hot? Strip away the partnership opportunities, job seekers, and college class researchers and what’s really left from those inbound leads? Are they really in the buying stage? Did they actually follow our delicately laid stream of content and CTAs, then fill out our contact form? Probably not.
It’s more likely that those kinds of leads saw our solution in a wave or magic quadrant and had to include us in their potential vendor list. Or worse, they are already in the late stage of buying with someone else and needed to add one more bid to the mix as due diligence.
So, why are we shooting in the dark, working through tons of inbounds before eventually finding a solid lead? There is a better option: in-market leads.
Inbound is too late
Buyers are now in control of the information flow, pace, and preferred channel of communication during the buying process. They often resist engagement until they’ve conducted their own research activities and buying signals (e.g. anonymous website visits, third party research, false form fills) in a dark sales funnel.
Sales and marketing teams attempting to execute in this dark funnel don’t know where to aim their efforts, and therefore, are delivering what they think the prospect is looking for rather than what they actually need to make a decision.
We can’t wait around for leads to shed light by filling out a form on our website or attending our webinars. We must know what buyers are researching and what they care about as early as possible so we’re able to understand when accounts are in-market and what stage of the prospect journey they are in.
Only then can we meet that account with the right content, at the right time, and through the right channel. By knowing what accounts are in-market, we can take control of our leads instead of waiting for them to come to us; otherwise, we miss the hot leads and our opportunity to influence their buying journey.
Unfortunately, as accounts are constantly moving in and out of different buying stages, knowing when accounts are in-market and being able to reach them at the ideal time is no easy feat.
Here’s the good news—using intent signals, we can understand and see the entire prospect journey, including the buying team involved in making purchase decisions.
From the target stage – where accounts are in our ICP, or ideal customer profile, but don’t yet show buying activity; to awareness – where accounts are starting to come alive; to consideration – where accounts are doing more research on us and our solutions; to decision – where accounts know which solution they’re choosing; and finally the purchase stage – where they’ve decided which solution to buy, we can meet prospects along their journey, nurturing them with the right content based off these signals.
How to take an in-market approach
Just because an account is in-market does not mean we are automatically going to get in with it—that’s why we must take an inbound approach. This is where having a BDR/SDR team is critical. By taking the following steps to reach buyers in the pocket through both sales and marketing functions, we can optimize our resources and set our BDRs up for success.
Ensure BDRs are prepared with content and talking points based on what we already know about the account, persona, keyword searches, and timing. This is key. We have to know why they are in-market to begin with. With intents signals giving us the who, what, and why, BDRs can match relevant content to these accounts and personas at the right time.
Ensure the right personas are included in your outreach, just one persona is not enough. Set up an opportunity model to enrich and fill out the buying team when an account moves to the consideration stage. Be ready to engage appropriately and help the buying team align and deconflict information.
Use a variety of mechanisms for your in-market inbound—be it a personalized email, video, call, or social outreach.
All of these steps may seem like a lot of work, but the benefits outweigh the time and effort it takes to adjust to an in-market approach. When we’re fumbling around in the dark of an inbound approach, we’re constantly playing catch-up to teams taking a more proactive approach.
We have to be the early bird and get that worm, ensuring we are the first to connect—which will lead to higher win rates and bigger deal sizes.
Focus on accounts that matter
Focusing on accounts that are actually in the market to purchase a solution like ours (based on real buyer intent and activity data) gives us confidence. We know we’re creating an exceptional prospect experience that doesn’t rely on the spamming or endless cold calling of so-called buyers who aren’t even interested in buying.
On top of that, we are maximizing our resources. Instead of waiting for those hot inbound leads to come in and spending a ton of time and energy kicking tires with accounts that aren’t in our ICP or even in-market, we can now proactively target accounts and prioritize our scarce resources to focus our efforts on engaging the right accounts.
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Sales, accounting, and consulting don’t make up your typical CMO background, but Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense, is not your typical CMO. She thrives on variety, challenges and working with wicked smart people.