How does inbound marketing scale beyond small-to-medium sized businesses? Going from tens to hundreds or thousands of employees with multiple departments, divisions and locations presents enormous challenges to any executive management team. But what if you want to change the way sales and marketing are done at this level? How can you transform the psychology and ingrained processes of enterprise-level outbound marketing to embrace the new consumer demand for privacy and permission-based marketing? Not so easy. Here are some of the more daunting challenges and some directions for change.

inbound marketing challenges for enterprise level companies

In his excellent article “The ‘Big Five’ IT Trends of the Next Half Decade…“, Dion Hinchcliffe identifies (1) mobile devices and apps, (2) use of social media, (3) cloud computing, (4) consumerization of technology, and (5) “big data” as the powerful forces that every enterprise management team and IT department must embrace or fall by the wayside. Failure to address these trends and stay current means failure to stay relevant with the major stakeholders – employees, customers and investors. This is not simply a technology issue, however. The future of marketing also lives in these spaces.

Letting Go

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing larger companies in light of IT trends is the need for control. If you look at the fact that social media is rapidly replacing email as the primary channel for business communication, you can immediately see why corporate security people are worried. Add to that the fact that smart phones and mobile apps have already replaced traditional phone systems and networks and you have a recipe for total loss of control. In the marketing arena, how will CMO’s develop plans and policies that allow their sales and marketing folks to engage in the social marketplace, create adhoc blogs and collaborate with each other via the social enterprise without bringing down the entire house of cards? Responsiveness and authenticity are hallmarks of inbound marketing. Slow them down to manage the enterprise, and you’re looking at lost opportunities for new revenues.

Gleaning Meaning From the Data

Last but not least are the mountains of data collected every day via all of the internal and external channels. How do you make sense of it all and make decisions quickly? Traditionally, Business Intelligence solutions have primarily focused on operations and control systems, but what about social media and other potential marketing channels? How are sales and marketing “tapped in” to this firehose of data? Are enterprise CRM’s modern enough to meet these challenges, and how well coordinated are they with both sales and marketing efforts?

These are some of the big challenges facing big companies as sales and marketing technology evolves to meet changing consumer demands and venues. In many ways small businesses are leading the way in inbound marketing because they are inherently more agile than enterprises. Ironically, big companies have the budgets to embrace technology, but their decision structure and sheer size present huge roadblocks to change. It will be interesting to see in the next 5 years how big corporations adapt to these challenges.

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