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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Sep 25, 2015 10 min read

How Do I Know If My Inbound Marketing Is Working Right?

Ask The Inbound Marketing Experts

Is My Inbound Marketing Working?I love answering questions on the blog, and this is a big one. I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn't. 

It’s different for almost every program. Why? Because the term “working right” is often subjective.

But, let’s say for the sake of argument that “working right” means getting leads, and at a decent clip. Fair enough?

I’ve written about this before: Marketing really has only one purpose, and that is to drive leads for the sales team so they can convert them into new customers. With that as the backdrop, our definition of “working right” is in line.

So, the question remains: How do you know if your inbound marketing is working correctly?

Check The Leading Indicators

Even before you see your first leads, there are indications as to whether the program is working. You should be seeing increases in site visitors. Those visitors should be coming from organic search, social media, referring sites or email marketing, or they should be coming to the site directly. If you launched a new website, expect these numbers to dip initially, as Google and other search engines reindex the site. The numbers should return and increase in about 60 days.

You should also see increases in social reach and total audience numbers. That means your email list, social followers and blog subscribers should be elevating month over month. You should see increases in rankings for selected keywords – but not all of them. It’s virtually impossible to optimize a website or content for hundreds of keywords. You should have a list of prioritized ones, and those rankings should be on the rise.

Keep an eye on blog views and blog subscribers. These let you know whether your content marketing strategy is resonating with the target personas. If these numbers are going up, you're on the right track with your content. Not every blog article is going to go viral, but you should see an increase in social shares as you get more subscribers.

Inbound takes time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. These early indicators are windows into the performance of the program, and even if you haven’t received one qualified lead, your program is working if these other metrics are increasing.

Make Sure The Tactics Are Aligned With Performance Expectations

There is a direct correlation between budget, activity, number of tactics and results. You might think your program isn’t working, but the problem could be that you’re just not doing enough to make it work better.

If, for example, you want to grow site visitors aggressively and your keywords are very competitive, expect to be blogging three or more times a week. If you have aggressive lead goals and a lot of visitors to your site, plan on doing at least one piece of long-form, premium content every 30 days. This means publishing a new whitepaper, e-book, infographic or slide deck every month. If you don’t have a lot of visitors and you want a ton of leads, you'd better do both of these.

The more aggressive the lead goals, the higher your budget should be for everything related to inbound. I see so many people who want to go from $10 million in revenue to $20 million in revenue but only want to spend $5,000 a month on inbound. It’s not going to happen. I want to drive an Aston Martin, but I can’t drive a luxury vehicle if my budget is only $500 a month.

Align your performance expectations with your budget expectations. Your inbound program might be working perfectly at the $5,000 level, but you’re expecting the results of a $10,000/month investment.

Make Sure The Strategic Thinking Is Solid

You did an inbound marketing strategy and plan before you started with the website, blog, content, social efforts and email marketing, right? Tell me you did, please. If you didn’t take the time to plan your program first, that could be the reason why it’s not working right.

Nine times out of 10, when we see a company with an inbound program that's not working, it’s got nothing to do with the tactics  and everything to do with the marketing strategy. You might be saying the wrong thing to the right people, or the right thing to the wrong people. You might be saying the right thing to the right people at the wrong time in their buyer journey. I said it’s complicated.

Don’t do anything without a strategic marketing plan first. If you skipped this step, stop everything. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Start again. It’s critical. If you want to see what should be included in a marketing strategy, click here to get all the details.

Be More Patient

Inbound results take time. Your program is probably working exactly the way it should for its age. Expect to spend almost the entire first 12 months getting the program up and running. This is a very complex set of tactics that require perfect configuration and then at least three months of optimization.

I was speaking with an internal marketing person at a prospective company last week, and she had the perfect perspective. She said, “I know this is going to take us a year to get up, running and fully optimized. I’m much more excited about the results in year two than those in year one.” This is the type of attitude you need if you’re diving into inbound. It’s not easy.

If you want immediate results or can’t wait for inbound to work, just buy ads. But, make sure you have enough money budgeted to buy and buy and buy. You’ll also have to accept the fact that you’re paying for people to see your ads who will never see them. Inbound is efficient, focusing on ONLY those people who are looking for what you do. Outbound is inefficient, focusing on those people who should be looking for what you do, regardless of whether they actually are.

Ask For Help

There are many people out there to help you plan, build, implement and optimize an inbound marketing or inbound sales program. The good ones are more than happy to talk to you about inbound until you’re 100% comfortable, you thoroughly understand the way it works and you grasp the expectations around performance. Make sure you find the good ones. Anyone with packages of services, who doesn’t think you need strategy or who is telling you that you’ll see leads in just weeks, is someone I’d suggest you move on from.

Unfortunately, inbound is not like buying ads. You don’t plunk down your money, do some creative and cross your fingers. While that was fun, it rarely worked. Inbound is much more complex and requires much more expertise to make it work. If done the right way, inbound has the ability to self-correct, which is much different than traditional advertising. But, you need someone who knows what to look for.

Start Today Tip – There shouldn’t be any doubt as to whether your program is working. It’s either underperforming, performing at level or overperforming. If it’s underperforming, you need a 30-day plan to get it on track. Anyone who really knows what they’re doing with inbound tactics should be able to get a program to perform in 30 days. That being said, don’t tell your experts what to do, and don’t tie their hands by limiting what they can do. If they say that you need to do more blogging, that you need to add more downloadable content or that your messaging is too vanilla, take the advice. Don’t wait three weeks to think about it. Let them do what they know how to do.

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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.

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