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Is Inbound Marketing Right for Functional Medicine?

Patrick Dodge

Founder

Nov 2, 2019 10:00:47 AM

Functional medicine is growing fast, and businesses that serve practitioners are looking for smarter ways to grow.

Supplement providers, lab testing companies, and clinical researchers are all experimenting with inbound marketing as a way to build brand awareness and increase revenue. Some of them are profiting handsomely from it, others not so much.

What’s the difference, and how can you tell if inbound is the right approach for you? We’ll explore that, but first let’s clarify what it actually involves.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound strategies have been around since the beginning of commerce, although it came to prominence in digital marketing only about ten years ago.

Inbound marketing is the process of building value and trust with your buyers, guiding them to a desired action using helpful content and a little help from technology. It involves researching personas that buy your products or services, attracting them to your website with valuable content, and helping them through each stage of the buyer’s journey.

By the time they are ready to buy, they feel like they know your brand really well. You’ve earned their trust and demonstrated expertise, and they are ready to reward you with their business.

Difference Between Content Marketing and Inbound

It’s important to understand the distinction between content marketing and inbound, because they are easily confused. Content marketing is the methodology of inspiring a desired behavior from someone by helping them with content that informs, entertains, or otherwise delights them.

Inbound marketing is the process of using this strategy with technology that allows you track user behavior, gain insights into their goals and challenges, and leverage the information to optimize their experience and win their business.

Inbound marketing is the system that enables your content strategy to produce ROI.

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Educating Your Customers

Functional medicine practitioners and patients LOVE great content. They are highly invested in addressing the root causes of inflammation and using natural solutions to produce better health outcomes.

Their passion for learning makes inbound marketing a great option for companies that have a keen interest in helping people solve challenges, rather than just selling them stuff.

Brands that focus on their own solutions and calling it “helpful content” often fail at inbound. Your heart has to be in providing answers your clients are really looking for. Focus on them instead of your company, and you will earn their trust and their business.

Mistakes Functional Medicine Companies Make

Even though inbound marketing is a great fit for functional medicine, it is not a great fit for every company in the industry.

We’ve seen many cases where businesses got disappointing results due to a lack of understanding what’s truly involved with inbound. Here are a few examples:

1. Underestimating how much work is involved

Managing an effective inbound marketing strategy is not a one-person job.

No matter how skilled your company’s CMO is, they will need plenty of support to fulfill all the responsibilities a highly functioning campaign requires. Blogging, video production, email marketing, social media, website design, persona research, advertising – the list goes on and on.

Even if you found a super-human who is good at all of those things (and trust me, such a person does not exist), the required hours will lead to burnout faster than you can say “exit strategy.” You need either an in-house team or support from a marketing agency to get the job done right.

2. Not creating enough of the right content

This challenge is a consequence of underestimating the workload.

Time and again, I see companies posting blogs once or twice a month with no calls-to-action that will convert a visitor into a prospect you can help. This is simply not enough to make a difference.

When you create a new piece of content, it’s like making a deposit in a savings account. The value grows with every transaction, but getting results takes time. If you are posting content once or twice a month, make it four. Then make it six. Then make it eight. You will see a dramatic increase in your website traffic first, and in the ROI later on.

3. Not investing in the right tools

Creating lots of great content is essential, but you also need the tools optimize your campaign and nurture each individual practitioner until they are ready to try your product.

Investing in a reputable marketing automation platform is key for driving results. We use HubSpot only with our clients because we know how to use the tools to drive results, but there are other platforms you can look into as well.

If you are using several different apps to manage your campaign – WordPress for blogging, Hootsuite or Buffer for social media, and MailChimp for email marketing – you will struggle to get a unified view of how your efforts are translating into sales. We’ve tried it more than once. It doesn’t work. If you are going all in with inbound marketing, I highly recommend investing in the right platform to manage it.

Is an Account-Based Approach Right For You?

Not every lead that converts on your website, or other channels, will necessarily make a great fit for your company. That’s why it’s important to qualify every inbound lead that comes through.

B2B companies in many industries are taking the inbound approach a step further, targeting their content and strategy at small groups of good-fit accounts that will lead to the greatest profitability.

Instead of attracting anyone who might make a good-fit to their website, they hand pick a segment of practitioners and go after them with highly personalized content and outreach.

Account-based marketing can be highly effective, but it is somewhat different from inbound methodology. It requires sales and marketing to work as one team, monitoring engagement in target accounts and responding in real-time.

Is inbound or an account-based approach better? It really depends on your products and services, your ideal buyers, and the organizational structure of Sales and Marketing.

Creating an effective inbound marketing strategy is a journey for functional medicine companies. It takes time to find the right mix of systems and ingredients that lead to success, just like it does when trying to support foundational health in people. Take some time to research what's involved, and then assess your internal resources. You can always find the right people to help support your campaign.

The real question is whether your company truly loves to help and educate people. If you do, all that hard work is much more rewarding -- personally and financially.

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