...But Were Afraid To Ask (Or Your Inbound Marketing Agency Neglected To Tell You)
I’ve always felt transparency, honesty and authenticity would be the cornerstones of the kind of inbound marketing agency we’d create. I think we’ve done a pretty good job working with clients and helping them understand what they need to do, what we need to do and how we need to work together to get their inbound marketing program up and running.
However, the feedback we’ve been getting from prospects is that not everyone is providing all the information businesses need to go into an inbound engagement with their eyes wide open. Some people are telling people what they want to hear, as opposed to what they need to know.
Here are some honest, direct and no-fluff insights that you might not be aware of. You should have this information if you’re considering an inbound marketing campaign, or if you’re already into your inbound effort and the results are not what you expected.
1. Inbound Marketing Won’t Work As Well If You Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Say
I won’t sugarcoat it. If you’re saying the same thing as your competitors, no marketing will work as well as it could with more interesting stories. Inbound marketing won’t help you in this area. This is a marketing strategy challenge.
Here’s an example. You have great people, right? Of course you do. So your marketing focuses on your great people. How about your biggest and most hated competitor? Do they have great people? I know you don’t think they do, but what are they saying in their marketing? Correct, they have great people too. How can your prospect tell the difference? During the sales process, everyone is great. Now your company looks and sounds just like your competitor. Prospects are confused and unsure. When this happens they don’t purchase.
Inbound, outbound, upbound or downbound – it doesn’t make a difference if you don’t have the right stories to tell your prospects at the right time.
2. It Might Take Longer Than You Thought
No one knows how long it’s going to take to get traction with inbound marketing. If you have decent visitor traffic to your website, we can get you a handful of leads in about a week. But that’s more of a short-term campaign approach to inbound, as opposed to a long-term lead-generation machine approach that puts all the correct pieces into play.
Creating a sustainable, predictable, repeatable and scalable lead-generation machine with inbound marketing can take three months or three years – I've seen both. There are many variables that impact the time it takes to attain this marketing nirvana. Some of those variables include you (yes you – the more you trust us to do what we do, the better the results), your competitors, your industry, your budget or your team. Going into the engagement, you should be aware of the factors that influence how the engagement executes.
3. It Might Cost More Than You Thought
The investment required to get inbound marketing to work has everything to do with you.
It has to do with the current state of your assets. If you have zero content, we need to help you get content. If your website is a mess, you’re going to need a new website. If your sales team doesn’t have a sales process or sales tools or lead-nurturing emails, you’re going to need to create those.
It also has to do with your business goals. If you’re a $10-million company and you want to be a $20-million company in 12 months, you had better be prepared to pump significant money into marketing – any marketing. But since we’re talking about inbound marketing, you need to plan on a significant monthly budget: between $18k and $23k per month.
If that’s too high (and we understand it might be), then you really need to consider reducing your expectations for company revenue growth. The more you want to grow, the more you need to invest in marketing.
4. Inbound Requires Work On Your Part
No matter who you hire, they’ll never know your business as well as you do. We tell all our clients that the best engagements require them to be the experts at their businesses, and us to be the experts at inbound marketing. This means you’re going to have to work with us to market your business. You will not be able to hire us and then sit back and relax.
We’re going to need to have access to your people, to your experts, to your sales teams, to your marketing resources and to you. To make inbound marketing work, you need to share the program with your entire company. Let them all know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, then let us work with them to get what we need, when we need it, to make the program work.
5. It Requires Constant Testing
Inbound marketing is a real-time, data-driven approach to marketing. The beauty is that you get data, which allows you to test and apply a continuous-improvement perspective to your marketing that in the past (and with traditional marketing tactics) has been very difficult to implement.
So you want to take advantage of this new ability. Constant testing requires you to trust the team running the tests. Yes, we could brief you on every single one, or you could let us run the tests with the goal being to simply improve your results. Some of the tests are so small that most clients don’t even notice. Switch the headline and the sub head, remove one field from a form, change the color on a CTA button. Those small tests add up to big results.
6. You Might Fail A Few Times
It doesn’t matter that you get knocked down, it matters that you get up and continue to fight. You’re going to have some failures with inbound marketing. You’re going to make some mistakes. You have to learn from the mistakes and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again. With inbound, I’ve long thought that we learn more from our failures and mistakes than we do from our successes.
Don’t expect your agency to be perfect. If they never make a mistake, they’re not trying enough new techniques or applying everything they have in their tool kit. Going into your inbound effort, expect to encounter a few speed bumps or road blocks. Make sure your team and your agency have a contingency plan for when an issue arises, so you know how you’re going to talk about it, work around it and recover from it.
7. You Don’t Need HubSpot To Do Inbound Marketing
HubSpot might not tell you this, but they will say you don’t need an inbound agency. I’m saying you don’t need HubSpot to do inbound marketing. HubSpot certainly makes some repetitive and technical aspects of inbound marketing easier, but you can do inbound marketing without HubSpot.
If you’re working with an agency and they’re familiar with HubSpot, using HubSpot should make your engagement less expensive because there are efficiencies and time savings associated with using the software. But you don’t need HubSpot to do inbound.
8. Sometimes Inbound Marketing Includes A Few Traditional Tactics
We’re a team of marketing professionals first and inbound marketing experts second. So when clients want or need to do traditional tactics, we’re right there with them. There are certain circumstances where traditional tactics make perfect sense.
Going to a trade show or conference? Great, let’s make sure you go with an inbound marketing strategy that’s designed to generate real leads at the show, capture the prospects' contact info, automate the follow-up and make sure they get an excellent educational experience with your team at the show.
We might suggest you skip giving out stress balls with your logo or setting up a putting green for a chance to win an iPad. Instead, create a piece of special content available only at the show; load an iPad with a dedicated landing page for prospects to use at the show; and have a set of lead-nurturing emails ready to send after the show.
Did we inbound your traditional tactic? Maybe, but what we also did was make the trade show 100% quantifiable and trackable, and we optimized the investment by following up on every single lead in an organized way to produce revenue for your company. That is inbound marketing.
9. You Need A System To Deploy Inbound
Since inbound marketing has so many moving parts, you need a system to manage it. Without a system you end up with a random collection of tactics that produce only modest results. Instead, you should be looking for a team that has standard operating systems for almost everything associated with the inbound engagement.
The system should help you evaluate results, adjust tactics on the fly, respond to the data and prioritize the inbound marketing tactics.
10. It Always Works – It’s Just When And To What Extent
We’ve been doing inbound marketing since 2003 – before it was even called inbound marketing. So we have more data than anyone about programs that work well and programs that don’t work as well. What this data shows is that inbound marketing works every time: It’s just a matter of how well it works and how long it takes.
The real issue here is whether the program works to the expectations of you and your team vs. the expectations of the people setting your expectations.
(Every time we write an article like this that includes half a tip, people want to know what half a tip includes; in this case it’s this bonus tip:)
10.5. BONUS: People Who Don’t Know How To Do It Are The Ones Who Prevent It From Working As Advertised
This is an industry-wide dirty little secret that's hurting many of the people who actually know how to get inbound marketing to work. Agencies that call themselves inbound marketing agencies and then don’t deliver, and companies that try to tell other inbound agencies what to do (and when and how) are negatively impacting the results from inbound.
There are even certain software companies (not HubSpot) that sell inbound marketing software, yet practice outbound marketing tactics, indicating they might not fully understand inbound marketing. There are people who are telling the community that inbound marketing doesn’t work; practicing content marketing and calling it inbound marketing; and pushing a whole host of other configurations that are not properly performing.
In the end, there are very few people who actually know exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it; how to measure it; and then how to adjust what’s getting done in an Agile and productive way.
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