This guest blog is by Lee Frederiksen, Managing Partner, at Hinge Marketing.  

New business pipeline has become a classic sales and marketing tool used to gather, track, and develop leads throughout the sales cycle. In the past, it has relied on traditional marketing to stay filled with leads – a process also known as outbound marketing. However, in recent years traditional marketing has been turned on its ear, replaced by savvy marketers with a new strategy known as inbound marketing. These two marketing models are diametrically opposed – in fact, they couldn’t be more opposite.

Traditional, or outbound, marketing places control of the marketing message and its distribution in the hands of the marketer. Marketing efforts flow from the business to prospects (hence the term “outbound”), attempting to reach them through paid general media advertising as well as through in-person contact. The business has near-complete control over an outbound campaign — when it begins, who will see it, and what it says. It primarily relies on marketing or advertising materials and information about its products or services to persuade the prospect.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, relies on creating a stream of original, non-self-promotional educational content that demonstrates a business’ expertise to prospects who encounter it. This approach is also called “content marketing” or “thought leadership marketing.” Often, the content is optimized for online search so that it can be easily found and reach a wide audience. Unlike traditional marketing that aggressively pushes marketing messages out to a passive audience, inbound marketing is designed to attract potential customers interested in the valuable, objective, non-sales-related content.

Inbound marketing works because it makes a business’ expertise visible to potential clients and referral sources, building trust over time because prospects find the content offered practical and insightful.

Attract, Engage and Convert Prospects

So how do these marketing strategies align with the business pipeline? Consider this pipeline visualization that breaks the sales and marketing process into three primary sections:

new business pipeline

  1. Attraction: The top section attracts prospects to the business. It is typically a core marketing function. It assumes that you already know how you are positioned, the personas of your target audience and their needs.
  2. Engagement: The second section nurtures prospects and builds engagement. It starts with the identification of a potential client and ends when a prospect has an actual opportunity to use your services. This middle section of the pipeline may belong to either marketing or sales or both.
  3. Conversion: Finally, the bottom section begins with the identified opportunity and is completed when the prospect becomes a client. Most people refer to this process as “closing,” and it is almost always a sales function.

In many ways, the business pipeline can work with both outbound and inbound marketing strategies. Both are designed to reach and attract prospects (done right, inbound marketing is more effective at attracting the right prospects), enable the marketer to engage leads and develop them into sales opportunities and, finally, convert them into clients.

But, you may be thinking, our market is more narrow and main our business development strategy is individualized account-based marketing. How can that fit into the new business pipeline?

Account-Based Marketing and Thought Leadership In the New Business Pipeline

Inbound marketing is based on what we call “visible expertise.” Content is developed around your business’ expertise and is designed to create a unique, unassailable brand identity that effectively blocks out the competition. It relies on information about your target audience that you’ve gathered so you can address them and their needs clearly and convincingly, from a place of expertise.

But account-based marketing is hyper-focused on individual prospects and businesses, so how can content marketing work in this situation? It’s simple — focus your content further to address those specific decision-makers and the influencers around them. You then send that content in front of your primary and secondary targets (your key prospects and the people who influence them) using the specific social media and advertising channels they prefer.

The concept is the same, whether you’re using inbound or account-based marketing to attract hundreds of prospects or just one. The key is to develop your visible expertise and promote it through focused content as prospects journey through your new business pipeline.