This is a great question. One that if you’re not asking, you’re probably thinking about. It’s reasonable for anyone starting a new inbound marketing effort to have some expectations around timing of results.
To answer the question we have to first look at how inbound marketing is aligned with the new buyer behavior vs. how traditional marketing may have been aligned with old buyer behavior. After all, we aren’t just making this up…there is some research and science behind the madness.
In the old days—before the internet and social media—marketers rented access to target prospects by going directly to the outlets that already had access. This was in the form of advertising. If your target market read a certain magazine or listened to a certain radio station, you could place ads there and, simply by having a presence, you got leads.
Place an ad—get results! Of course, this approach wasn’t perfect and plenty of ad campaigns failed to produce the results they promised. However, it was easy—create the message, design the ad, buy the media and wait for the phone to ring. It was so easy and people understood it so well, it created its own industry, the "Mad Men" advertising firms of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
Things have changed. As consumers, we have so many more options to get information beyond traditional media outlets. TV, radio, print media and direct mail just don’t work like they did 20 years ago. Now buyer behavior is based on a self-service model. Your prospects aren’t waiting for an ad to get the information they need. They are proactively looking for the information they want, when they want it.
Enter the internet, social media and the websites that serve up the information your prospects are looking for right now. Today, marketing is about creating the strategy to place, publish and serve up the exact information your prospects want exactly when they want it. Like it or not, you are on their schedule, not yours and your marketing needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Now we come full circle to the question you should be dying to get an answer to: "when should I expect results from inbound marketing?" The answer is: gradually over time. Yes, this is positive as compared to traditional advertising. Instead of a blip of activity that needs to be supported by ongoing investments in inefficient advertising.
Inbound marketing creates a slow growth track that builds on itself over time, allowing you to lower or maintain your investment while the results continue to improve. Yes, it needs to be sustained but at dramatically lower rates than traditional advertising.
We know every business is different and I am making a lot of generalizations. But show me any business and, aside from a few minor details, I can show you the same story with the same results: More sustained program performance with less investment.
The alignment between how your prospects want to buy and how you market to them should never be underestimated. Traditional advertising leaves no room to create the experience required to capture your prospects' attention today and nurture them until they are ready to buy, at least not in any sustainable way. Inbound marketing offers a clear and effective alternative that matches up perfectly with the new buyer behavior.
Start Today Tip – Take a look at your marketing expectations. Make sure they are accurate, achievable and (most importantly) aligned with the marketing approach you favor for your company. The traditional approach results in spikes in both results and investment. Inbound marketing, in contrast, delivers steady growth over time that increases exponentially as you grow your audience. Marry that with a much more efficient and affordable investment requirement and you end up with a sustainable approach to marketing your company regardless of size or industry.
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