You Need That Many Hours To Produce Inbound Marketing Results
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in “Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours to be a master at almost anything. If you want to relate that to marketing, I’d tend to agree, especially when you’re talking about inbound marketing. Remember, inbound is not social media, email, content, web, search or influencer marketing — it’s all of that plus strategy, planning and optimization based on data and analytics.
It’s a complex collection of tactics that need a high degree of orchestration to produce a significant lift in results.
That being said, it makes sense that it would take a lot of practice to feel comfortable that you understand all of the intricacies associated with everything inbound and then be able to leverage that expertise to produce results. This explains why people have less-than-successful inbound efforts when the philosophy behind inbound is indisputable.
Does your team possess 10,000 hours of inbound marketing experience? How do you know? What might that look like? And more importantly, what should you do if you’re short on expertise?
What Does 10,000 Hours Look Like When Talking About Inbound Marketing?
It’s hard to know how many hours or how much experience anyone really has with inbound. One way to attempt to look for it is with years of experience. If you took the 10,000-hour benchmark and broke it down into years, it would take roughly seven years of experience practicing inbound to be considered an expert. That’s seven years, doing it day in and day out (not counting weekends) for six hours a day. How many people do you know with that level of experience? Probably not too many; a few of them work at our shop.
But let’s not be ridiculous, as clearly someone with five years of experience might also be an expert. So what other indicators would help us identify the masters from the master wannabees? Experiences are the best place to start. Asking experts to share stories related to the challenges you’re facing is a wonderful way to lean into their background. If they can clearly articulate what they did, why they did it, how it worked and the results it produced, you have an expert worthy of your investment. If the story seems incomplete, superficial, unsubstantiated or overinflated, it would cause me concern.
What Are Practical Examples Of Demonstrated Expertise?
I’ve mentioned before that the detailed execution of the tactics is a lot less interesting to me than the overall planning, prioritizing and optimization of the total program. Therefore, when you’re looking for expertise, blog creation, posting and optimization are a lot less likely to illustrate expertise than a demonstrated ability to analyze blog performance, recommend enhancements to the blogging effort and shown proven lift from the deployment of those enhancements.
For example, a client did four blog articles a week and that produced about 10,000 visits a month to the website. Article views averaged around 100 per article and the conversion rate on blog articles averaged around 5%. After a one-week audit, an expert was able to reduce the number of blog articles by 25% from four to three while still improving website visits by 20% from 10,000 to 12,000 a month and increasing average views per article to 150 with a new average conversion rate of 10%.
The only way to produce results like this is to have had enough experiences and run enough experiments to know how to increase the search optimization value of each article and deliver better content offers in context to the article topics to drive an improvement in conversion rates. You simply wouldn’t know what to do if you hadn’t done it before.
How Do You Improve Your Team’s Performance?
Now you might be starting to realize your current team may be a little light on experience. What should you do about it? People with 10,000 hours of inbound experience are few and far between, so I wouldn’t panic if you think you might be short in this area.
Instead, let’s focus on how to supplement your team and get them trained as fast as possible.
First, inbound is a highly iterative process and using your own company as your test environment is a requirement. You should be running as many tests and experiments as fast as possible to accelerate the iteration and drive data into your decision-making process.
Don’t be discouraged or judgmental when tests fail. Our research and data shows that 70% of our experiments fail. By fail, we mean the new configuration didn’t outperform the benchmark. It’s a failure, but failures teach us just as much or more than successes do. Just because we don’t beat the benchmark doesn’t mean the experiment failed. We learned what not to do again.
By running as many experiments as possible and cycling as many times as possible, you’ll learn more in a much shorter time frame. This is hands down the best way to teach your team what works with inbound, what doesn’t work, what to expect from what works, and how to identify, evaluate and adjust what you’re doing to produce the desired results.
The faster you iterate and test your inbound marketing performance, the faster you’ll see results and improvements on those results. This is where cycling comes into play. You should analyze, review, respond and act as fast as possible. Doing this on a weekly basis is optimal. Doing it monthly is the bare minimum if you’re looking for results. Each time period (weekly, biweekly or monthly) you’re analyzing the data, reviewing performance, responding with hypotheses and theories around adjustments, and then taking action on your testing plans to put new experiments in play.
If you’re cycling this process four times a month as opposed to once a month, you’ll be making roughly three times the progress. You should see how big of an impact this would have on the results your marketing is generating for your company.
One other consideration is to work with an inbound marketing agency partner that has an educational component to its engagement. To be a little more specific, look for an agency that has a core value around education and that feathers education into each of your interactions with them. For example, ask the agency to share with you the “whys” and “hows” behind everything it does.
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