If you’re leading a marketing team, you probably have your finger on the pulse of the latest changes and trends in marketing. Deciphering which ones will and won’t work for your organisation, and implementing new ways of working, is a challenging part of your role. And having conversations with your boss to convince them that a change in direction will push your business forward can be just as tricky.

Conversation about inbound marketing

Applying the inbound methodology to your marketing strategy is one of the best things you can do to successfully reach a more specific audience, educate your customers and grow your business. But when it comes to explaining inbound to busy bosses, we know a marketing manager has their work cut out: you can’t progress without their support, yet highlighting all the benefits of inbound can seem a huge task. 

So we’ve done the job for you: we want to help your boss see you as the marketing guru you truly are! So here are five ways to encourage change in your marketing efforts and make the shift to inbound.

1. See it through their eyes

The problem:

Your boss might oversee multiple areas in your organisation. Marketing might only be part of a much bigger picture, so any changes or time spent learning about new marketing tactics might seem overwhelming to a manager who already has a lot on their plate. They want to encourage you to try new things, but know if marketing metrics dip due to a new trial, it’ll be their head on the line. John Bonini at HubSpot suggests:

‘Think about how your manager understands and perceives value. When you think of results, you might do so in terms of the creative resources, platforms, and projects you think will hit quantitative goals.

Your boss, on the other hand, might also be focusing largely on numbers, but from a different perspective: What’s the return on my investment? Will this increase our profit margin? How will this impact our market share?’

How to present inbound as a solution:

Two words: Empathy and preparation. If you can put yourself in your boss’ shoes, you’re halfway there. Not only can you visualise their opposition to inbound marketing, but you can prepare answers to counter argue their concerns.

Additionally, try to look at things through their lense. As the extract above highlights: leads and metrics might be interesting to you, but what are your boss' daily goals? Who are they getting pressure from? Present your ideas in terms of how their successes, targets and workload will be positively affected: speak their language.

2. Make research a priority

Research inbound marketing strategies

The problem:

A change in direction, from outbound to inbound marketing methods, can’t be initiated overnight. You have to prepare, not only for yourself and your team, but for stakeholders higher up in the organisation to see what fantastic benefits it could bring.

The magic balance comes between reliable data from reputable sources, and your internal performance numbers. You need to show where your business currently is, and where research shows you could be in the future – with the help of inbound marketing. If your organisation’s success is slowing using traditional marketing methods, such as print and broadcast advertising, fliers, brochures and cold calling, then a tried-and-tested alternative that offers proven success will be very hard to say no to.

How to present inbound as a solution:

There are certain key things you need to talk about when promoting inbound marketing to your boss. These don’t centre around the way you and your team will be working – only you need to understand this – instead focus on the end results. Your boss will love hearing some stats about how inbound and content-based marketing could improve the overall performance of your business – here are some facts they might be interested in from The Weidert Group:

  • Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising.
  • 47% of buyers view at least 3 to 5 pieces of content before deciding to speak with a sales rep.
  • The most successful B2B marketers spend 40% of their total marketing budget on content marketing.
  • Inbound marketing generates three times more leads per dollar than traditional methods.
  • Persona-driven content generated by inbound increases the volume of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) by 45%.

3. Outline the problem

The problem:

Your boss needs context: they need to understand there’s a problem. They might already know this, and if they’ve asked you to look into solutions then approaching the idea of inbound with them should be fairly easy.

But if they don’t acknowledge there’s a problem, or know much about your slipping metrics, they might not be open to fixing it. So make sure you outline clearly what the issue is. For example, your blog subscriptions are down, your conversions have slowed, or your sales team doesn’t have enough Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) to follow up with.

How to present inbound as a solution:

Nobody likes to be presented with a problem. Come to your boss with solutions about inbound marketing and how you might implement it at your organisation. Ensure you give them opportunities throughout your conversation for their input, too. Forbes recommend speaking to your boss about an issue like this sensitively:

‘Explain the situation, and be honest about how big of a problem it is, but don’t pawn the problem off on them. Do not make your problem their problem. Instead, say, “I know this is mine to resolve,” then ask for any suggestions your boss might have. Managers prefer to be solicited for advice and wisdom, rather than having to solve a problem for someone else.’

Offer your boss all the information you have – preferably with internal data about how your current marketing output could be improved – then move on to step 4: offering a solution.

4. Offer a solution

The problem:

After hearing that there’s a problem, your boss might feel worried or unsure about how to proceed. Having an actionable solution already scoped out will really help diffuse any tension. They might be worried about lots of change happening all at once, so if you can illustrate how your team, work hours and budget are likely to remain the same, it’ll be a relief to them. Be sure to outline all the things that can stay consistent, then slowly introduce the bitesize changes your team can make, day by day, to make the solution digestible. 

How to present inbound as a solution:

Explore a range of solutions, with forecasts about how each one might benefit the business. Inbound marketing doesn’t have to be all or nothing from day 1. For example, you may decide initially to focus on putting more content out on the channels you already use: your blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Before starting anything else, you might decide to increase educational, helpful content on these platforms and see how your metrics change.

Phase two might involve changing the way you use email and starting to create more content for your website, such as case studies, lead magnets and pillar pages. Finally you might look into a new website redesign using GDD best practices to optimise the user experience.

If you show you’ve carefully considered the initial actions that can be taken, as well as the long-term goals, your boss will see that tiny steps of incremental change could be good for the business, and it offers time to tweak and pull back, rather than starting everything at once.

5. Visualise your next move

The problem:

Not only is an immediate solution going to be the focus, but a long-term goal will be something that concerns your boss. How does inbound marketing work in the long run? Which businesses have been using inbound methodologies the longest? They might be considering factors such as budget, new staff requirements and the cost of future software, training or marketing-agency services. If you are prepared with some of these answers, you'll come across as well-informed, passionate and the marketing hero they really need during a period of transition. 

How to present inbound as a solution:

Make it clear you already have the capacity to deal with a change: no new staff will be required initially. Scope out the training costs. If you're going to start using a new platform, such as HubSpot, to implement your inbound marketing campaigns, you'll need an idea of costs (or whether you're going to go with the free CRM version). If you can illustrate that your team's time can be used better, effectively doing more with less, your boss will soon be on board. Highlighting how this change will positively affect wider teams, such as your sales and service colleagues will also be persuasive.

Whatever objections your boss might have to inbound marketing – whether they like doing things the old-fashioned, familiar way, they haven’t heard of inbound, or are worried about how to go about implementing change – make sure you have the answers to hand.

Here's a checklist summary for selling inbound to your boss (and building their faith in your inbound-marketing-pro credentials):

  • Don’t just have any answers to hand, but well-researched data, examples and case studies.
  • Use your own internal data to communicate how things could be improved.
  • See things from their perspective and prepare for push-back.
  • Give your boss enough time to process what you're sharing with them.
  • Offer the problem in a clear, contextual way so they understand it.
  • Be solutions-driven, keeping the options open, but showing you've considered multiple options.
  • Have an idea of short- and long-term goals, being clear about potential budget or workforce changes in the future.