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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistSun, Feb 12, 2017 13 min read

3 Reasons Inbound Marketing Is Failing And How Agile Marketing Fixes It

You Don't Need To Run Inbound Marketing And Agile Marketing At The Same Time, But The Results Speak For Themselves

Inbound Marketing And Agile Marketing Produce Better ResultsI’m going to take a guess – you found the title of this article interesting because at least some aspects of your inbound program are not performing up to your expectations. Maybe you’re not seeing enough organic visitors to your site, or you don’t have enough people reading your blog, or your top landing pages are not converting at a high enough rate. Maybe the situation is so bad that you’re considering scrapping your inbound marketing efforts.  

A lot of things could be preventing your inbound marketing program from producing the expected results, but if you’ve following the basics of inbound marketing and you still don’t see the needle moving up, try being more agile.

Agile marketing is not a replacement for your inbound marketing. It’s not something you do instead of  inbound; it's something you do in addition to inbound. It’s an approach based on how you deliver your inbound tactics.  

While results vary by company, here are three common reasons inbound marketing programs fail, and how we work with our clients to fix failing programs with agile marketing techniques.

Reason #1: Your Inbound Marketing Is Set On Autopilot  

“I was told I should do all this stuff: weekly blogging, two social media posts a day per channel (excluding Sundays) and a monthly email newsletter for both my prospects and my customers. I have done all of this and it is not working.”

At first glance, inbound marketing might seem like it’s easy. You simply set it and forget it:

  • Get your personas mocked up with their cute photos
  • Write eight blog articles
  • Design an Apple-worthy e-book
  • Make CTAs so clickable your grandma would know to click on them
  • Be witty on Facebook

Get all this stuff written, designed, on your website and then – voila! – the leads start pouring in. The tactics may be right, but the thinking reflects a dramatic oversimplification of inbound. There is no such thing as autopilot in marketing, especially in inbound marketing.

The listed tactics are valuable, but a lot more needs to be wrapped around them. One simple example of this is your website. You can drive a million new visitors to your website with inbound tactics, but if the messages on your site don't differentiate your company, or if the flow of the site doesn’t create an emotional, engaging and disruptive story, you're doomed.

Tactics like these need to be orchestrated with other tactics, such as lead nurturing, landing page optimization, content promotion and influencer outreach.

How Agile Marketing Fixes This

Agile marketing helps you organize the complex collection of tactics in your program, and prioritize them each month. It also gives you the methodology to execute them, based on real-time performance data. This combination always produces the best results.  

You may have done an excellent job getting your program up and running, but if you are not responding based on the data and results, then your inbound is on autopilot. Let’s be clear – this doesn’t mean changing your focus, story or strategy every 30 days, but it does mean responding to metrics and adjusting your tactics on the fly.

One tool for doing this is the tactics backlog, a running list of ideas, tasks and tactics that you think will produce results. Each week (or month), you pull from the backlog to create the package of work for that week (or month).

Your need to prioritize that list, since you can’t do everything – you have a budget, or you’re limited by the number of hours in the day. To decide what to work on, prioritize based on what produces the best results with the least effort. Start with these tactics when you set your goals for the week (or month).

Reason #2: Your Inbound Marketing Is Based On Assumptions, Opinions And Attitudes

Agile Marketing Drives Prioritization With Data“I shared my blog in an industry group, I used the right social channels, it had plenty of keywords – but the only people who have viewed it are looking for jobs!”

Unless they’ve been secretly stalking Google Analytics, most of our clients come to us with very little data on the performance of their marketing. So the first iteration of your inbound marketing program will inevitably be based on assumptions. If you’re smart, you make some educated guesses with the help of inbound marketing experts who apply their experience to your program. But in all transparency, some guessing is unavoidable in the beginning of the effort.  

The original foundation of inbound marketing is the analytics platform. In its DNA, inbound should be managed based on data, real-time results and analytics. Inbound marketing was designed to add science to the art of marketing, to change guesses and opinion into fact-based decision-making. Don Draper would be out of his element. 

But having data and knowing what to do with it are very different things. If your inbound marketing is still relying on a first iteration of your persona or a content strategy that was developed months ago, you’re still operating based on assumptions.

Good inbound marketing involves continuous improvement; it should be getting better week over week and month over month. If that’s not happening, you’re not doing it right.

Maybe you were spot on the first time, but if no one is engaging with your content, finding you organically through your keywords or giving you the time of day on social, chances are your assumptions need to be challenged, and they need to be challenged immediately.

How Agile Marketing Fixes This

We have learned that long-term planning needs to be replaced by shorter 30-day planning cycles. We do this with every client, every month. Agile marketing helps organize the planning and the work. It helps us prioritize what’s going to have the biggest impact, and it forces us to keep our eyes on the data and use that data to make decisions about priorities and focus. Are you are planning monthly? If you’re not seeing results, this could be one of the issues.

  • Do your messages and your stories resonate, connect, disrupt and engage your prospects?
  • Does your content encourage prospects to convert on your website, social sites and blog?
  • Does your website create an experience that moves prospects through their buyer journey?
  • Do you nurture your leads effectively, further improving the conversion rate of prospects to leads to new customers?
  • Does your sales process match your marketing, so prospects get a remarkable click-to-close experience with your business?

The answers to those questions should not be guesses or opinions; they should be based on data. Once you know the answers, apply agile marketing methodology with inbound marketing tactics and make the adjustments necessary to drive results.

Reason #3: Your Inbound Marketing Program Is Already Stale

“I just invested half of my yearly marketing into a brand new website and it’s not producing any more leads than before!”

If you’re finding that the results of your inbound marketing program have stalled – or never really took off – it’s possible that your inbound marketing program is stale or incomplete.

Building a marketing machine takes time. We’re not talking about buying ads; that’s easy. What we’re doing is creating a true asset for your business. It takes research, analysis, interviews, copy creation, healthy debates and discussion, coffee, website optimization, the deployment of technology, emails, more coffee and more analysis.

Everyone starts with expectations before a single key has been pressed. Hearing that your effort is stale or incomplete might be hard to swallow. Don’t be discouraged: Our failures should make us stronger. It doesn’t matter why you got knocked down, it matters that you get back up and keep trying.  

Today the world moves at a breakneck pace, and your marketing needs to do the same. Agile marketing gives you the ability to roll out work faster, get feedback instantly, make adjustments on the fly and produce better results faster.

How Agile Marketing Fixes This

We’re not saying that the blog you have scheduled tomorrow will be irrelevant by Tuesday; we are saying that taking an agile approach to your inbound marketing ensures that you’re only investing in tactics, strategies and spends that will ultimately produce the results you’re after.

 A nonlinear, adaptive approach, which involves starting with a little strategy, implementing it quickly, getting insight into its success (or failure) with customers, adjusting and continuing to learn, is preferable to the conventional, linear big-bang campaigns, where big ideas are built, launched, and often either fail or are justified with metrics designed to tell a story. The iterative, emergent, agile development process sometimes doesn’t work in the first few iterations, and may require a pivot to trying something else entirely different.  The Agile Marketing Manifesto

Through the build-measure-learn feedback loop, you’re able to get your message in front of the real people. If it works – great, keep doing it! If it doesn’t, learn from that experience. Make the necessary adjustments and get it back out there. This approach applies to website, content, email, social – almost every aspect of marketing can be deployed in this agile way.  

No one believes in creating, publishing or posting poor quality work, but agile marketing embraces “done is better than perfect.” By the time it’s perfect, it’s too late. Get it done, get it out, get data on it and then make the necessary adjustments and start all over again. This constant iteration means better results in less time.

Start Today Tip – If any of these situations sounds like you or your company, you need to make a change. Expecting different results from the same effort is the definition of insanity. Start with the prioritization method discussed here. Analyze the performance of individual components of your marketing. Make small adjustments quickly and keep track of the results. Add in some extra complexity to help deliver a more comprehensive experience for your prospects. But most importantly, don’t give up. The more you do it, the better you’ll be and the better your results.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.