8 Steps For Software Vendors To Justify The Cost of Inbound Marketing

Written by Becky Armstrong

Nov 6 2015


How Software Vendors Can Justify The Cost Of Inbound Marketing

You’ve read up on what Inbound marketing is, understand the components involved and are aware that Inbound (vs. outbound) has the potential to create substantial ROI.

But for many software marketers, securing buy-in from financial heads is not easy. In recent years as outbound techniques have slipped in effectiveness, marketing budgets have plummeted.

Now for your organisation to feel confident in a new marketing strategy, you must be able to justify cost and have a solid idea of return before getting the go-ahead.

8 Steps To Justify The Cost of Inbound

1. Outline the cost

Starting with price, a comprehensive 12 month Inbound Marketing strategy with an experienced Inbound agency will cost anywhere between £25k to £60k.

However, the precise total of your unique campaign will vary. Current internal resources, monthly lead volumes, financial targets and growth expectations will all influence the final amount.

2. Outline the activity you can expect for the investment

Judging on cost alone, you may dismiss Inbound as out of budget. It's true that Inbound is not a low-cost route to market. But it's important to understand what that investment buys.

The total annual cost accounts for all marketing activity, tools, software, and reporting. It also covers your use of unique agency expertise; technical support, web development, platform integration, content creation, social management, SEO, strategy planning and more.

Should you hire an agency, that cost also offers other advantages. Firstly, a specialist agency will have experience in developing strategies for your niche and software buyer personas (CIO's, CFO's, CTO's), and secondly they will have processes in place to begin campaigns quickly.

3. Justify campaign cost with the potential ROI

Tracking ROI is still a prime challenge for marketers across all niches, but accurately predict ROI, and you'll better justify cost.

Without closed-loop reporting or aligned marketing and sales (as outbound users know), it's hard to gain a clear view of what works in a campaign. But with Inbound, all aspects of a strategy are aligned via marketing automation software (such as HubSpot). This means predicting precise return is straightforward.

Most agencies will offer an initial consultation to help you assess ROI in relation to your goals, unique software proposition and budget. Usual goals are to increase revenue, qualified leads, and lead-to-customer conversion. Inbound calculators can also provide a first level of insight.

4. Consider an Inbound trial to prove ROI

If Inbound seems viable but a 12 month investment is daunting, you may be able to run a trial campaign to prove ROI quickly. 

Designed to deliver quality leads and allow a test of all aspects of Inbound, trial campaigns help you secure additional budget with proven ROI.

5. Understand that Inbound is a long-term investment

How soon can software vendors expect to see a return? It's important to recognise that Inbound is a long-term investment.

While quick-win campaigns are an option, full-scale activity takes time to come to fruition. Requiring detailed buyer persona research, content audits and development, site optimisation, sales team training and more - Inbound is not an immediate fix. That said, once foundations are in place, long-term growth, quality traffic and relevant leads result. Typical software vendors can expect to see return in around a year.

6. Rethink your current marketing budget

To streamline marketing cost, it may help to audit current activity for effectiveness.

Inbound campaigns usually cover some tasks (e.g. content development) that are already done in-house, though the approach may differ. By tailoring campaigns to suit current resource, costs can be recouped.

7. Assess if Inbound is right for your business

Before you investing, it's wise to know if your sales cycle is suited to Inbound Marketing. In your initial assessment an agency will not only analyse your challenges, budget and goals, but will establish how suitable Inbound is as a solution.

Businesses with long sales cycles (B2Bs), who do not need a substantial part of their revenue to invest in an annual campaign, are best suited.

8.  Consider the cost of implementing in-house vs. an agency

Use an agency? Hire an in-house team? Software vendors with limited resources often wonder what the best option is. The time, staff and cost requirements can be quite different for both, so it’s worth researching.

  • With an in-house team, marketing budget needs to account for each member of staff an Inbound team needs, their training, automation software, tools and more.
  • With an agency your campaign costs cover all (and only) the resources you use at any one time, plus you have the advantage of prior agency experience. Because of the resource distribution, an agency can be a more cost-effective option than hiring in-house.
  • You may also want to consider a compromise; hiring an in-house team who have an agency to hand as consultants.

The option you choose will largely depend on your budget and long term strategy goals.

Effective ROI for continued budget and long-term growth

According to HubSpot research, 54% more leads are generated via Inbound than traditional paid marketing, with twice as many marketers saying Inbound delivers below average cost-per-lead than outbound.

Add to that that their research found the average company saved $20K per year by choosing Inbound, and you’ve good reason to believe your marketing budget will be well invested.

B2B Marketing Zone