Over the course of human history technological advances have always been met with a varying level of acceptance and adaptation. Some industries are quick to the punch and change with relative ease, others not so much. However, in the end all industries eventually face a reality: adapt to survive, or don't and cease to exist.

selling inbound marketing to old industries (factory)This is a very definitive moment for many companies. Some see this moment coming, others do not. Some see it coming late in the game and in time to take action in order to prevent catastrophe.  They can sense what is coming, and want to do something about it, but how far will they go? Will the ultimately take the leap and adapt to survive?

As marketers selling services to older industries this is a situation we often see - companies in older industries that know they need to adapt to changes in the way they market and sell. However, they haven't yet identified what changes are necessary or what changes they are willing to make. They are in the stage of learning and discovering what is out there, on top of what they need to do to adapt.

As well as discovering, they are looking for solutions to their specific problems. That could be "we aren't getting enough traffic on our website", it could be "we need more leads, and don't know how to get them". Whatever the individual problem they may have is, it is the objective of the inbound marketer to provide an entire solution and sell a retainer package to provide that solution. In older industries, this can bring particular challenges. In this post we address some of the specific challenges of selling inbound retainers to industries stuck in the 1970's model of marketing and sales.


challenge #1: Discovery and trying not to pitch

OK, so the company you're trying to sell inbound services for has a problem/need. They know they need help, but they don't necessarily know that inbound is the solution (or even know what inbound is for that matter...). As an inbound marketer in the sales process, you know that your first priority is to learn which involves a lot of listening. Listen to their challenges, listen to their problems, record their goals both sales (revenue) and marketing goals (lead gen) and what they would like to achieve through marketing efforts. Obviously they know you're marketers, so they'll have some idea of why they brought you in!

selling inbound marketing to older industries don't pitchThe challenge here is trying not to pitch. These guys/gals have heard a million sales pitches in their lives. They've been promised the moon and been screwed by someone somewhere along the way. There isn't a sales 'pitch' in the world that can convince them to pay big $$$ for something they've never invested in. The key is to focus on learning. The more you learn about their business, the better you're going to be able to craft a plan on addressing the various goals and problems they've laid out for you. Determining the 'right fit' is much more important than simply trying to sell them some out of the box works for all marketing plan.

If they push you by asking specific questions about your services, pricing or if they ask why you want to know about their sales goals if you're in marketing, simply say that you're trying to determine if we are a good fit for you. Say that you're trying to determine if the services your company offers fits their needs and if those services can help them accomplish their goals. Remind them that in order to best address their needs and make sure you'll have success working together, it's important for you to know the greater overarching goals that the company is trying to achieve. That way you can later show the value within inbound services and how they fit into their overall company goals and plans. A much more effective pitch and one that goes a long way in older industries.


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CHALLENGE #2: marketing needs = high | marketing budget = low

If you're dealing with a business that has never made a significant investment into even the most basic of marketing services chances are their needs are very high. At the same time, they've never made a significant investment in marketing and to fulfill their high needs you're asking them to make a significant investment in marketing! See where I'm going with this? Yeah... this is a challenge that you will face selling to these industries.

selling inbound marketing services to old industries budget memeSo how do you deal with this challenge? Well here is the good news: Companies still operating in the 1970's model of sales are number(s) driven. More specifically they are motivated by the bottom line (revenue & profit). This works in our favor as inbound marketers because inbound being mostly digital is a numbers driven approach to marketing. I wrote about this in greater detail in this post, but for the first time in history - marketing efforts and success can be tracked, measured and tied to ROI (return on investment).

This is the guide for our approach. In order to justify your retainer you need to show them how inbound will directly impact their bottom line. You need to connect traffic generation, to lead generation, to lead nurturing to actually making sales and new customers. Generally, you can use worksheets to estimate how much traffic you will need for x amount of leads that turn into y amount of customers. Find the value of an avg customer over a year and show them how many customers you'll need to generate through inbound to justify your retainer. They're numbers driven, so make your proposal numbers driven and show them that your costs are easily justified if you do your job (now you just have to do your job...).


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CHALLENGE #3: how does inbound fit into their current tech

This particular challenge is one of the less obvious ones, and a challenge that we didn't necessarily anticipate when trying to sell inbound to older industries. However, this can end up being one of the largest hurdles you have to jump and can ultimately end up being a deal breaker. How your inbound platform (Hubspot, Marketo, InFusionSoft, etc) fits into their current tech, most notably a CRM can have a big impact on your success.

The reason for this is fairly simple. In older industries that are already slow at adapting tech, if they've made a significant investment in a CRM (customer relationship management) platform for example most likely it was a long and tedious process getting that CRM implemented. It probably took them 3-6 months to train everyone in on the software and integrate into their current systems like an ERP (which can manage inventory/customer ordering). They've also made a significant time investment into putting all their customer and lead information into that CRM and because of all the different integrations these CRM's become significantly embedded into a company. Changing them is neither easy nor cheap. 

selling inbound marketing to old industries - technology integrationsThe ability for Inbound software to push leads generated through Inbound (whether on the website, through email marketing, etc) to the CRM system currently in place is critical. Having to constantly export contacts and import into other software (double entries) is a big time suck, and often delays the processes between someone becoming a hot lead as well as the ability for the sales team to reach out. This can cause lag time in the process and hurt conversions. Needless to say, it's critical that your software play nice with theirs.

So what happens when you're inbound tool doesn't play nice with their existing software? Well, this is where it gets tough. There are a few options, but in the end this may just end up being your undoing. The first step is exploring building out an integration. Most of the time CRM's and Inbound software platforms use very similar software languages and an 'integrator' can be built by a 3rd party (or in house if you have the software capabilities). This will allow most any inbound software to communicate with the existing CRM or other software.

The really good news is if they are on any of the major CRM(s), ERP(s), or any other software chances are your Inbound platform already comes ready to integrate and vice verse. There is also a very large 3rd party community that is ready, willing, and able to design custom integrations (for a price of course). So no matter what there is always a solution available - you'll just have to figure all this out as you go. 



Whatever the individual problem they may have is, we as inbound marketers are here to provide solutions to the most elementary of business problems: increased revenue and growth. In the end, Inbound is designed to deliver high quality leads through an advanced online presence. Making this valuable to older companies can be challenging, but we hope this post has given you insight into how to work through some of the challenges. 

We'd love to hear your own stories or comments below so feel free to leave one!

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About the author

Steven Milne

I'm Steve and I'm a co-founder and CFO at Digital 1. I am responsible for helping companies grow through lead generation anchored by Inbound Marketing. I also have a background in digital and cyber security. I very much enjoy writing and blogging at Digital 1. I love helping companies realize their website's potential. It's always so satisfying to see their online presence expand and generate business essential to growth.

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