If You Ask The Right Questions, Predicting Inbound Results Is Doable
Everyone and anyone associated with inbound marketing is seeking the Holy Grail. How do we know what to expect and when to expect it? What results will we get from our inbound marketing effort? Should we expect a 10% increase or a 20% increase? If we blog more, will we be able to achieve 35%? Everyone wants to know.
This is by far one of the most challenging aspects of inbound marketing, but probably not for the reasons you might expect. We actually know what the lift is for proactive off-site search engine optimization. We know how many more visitors a well-designed, well-written on-site SEO website will produce over what period of time, and we also know the impact that blogging, content, social media, influencer outreach and ongoing optimization have on program performance.
But, what we don’t know is how these tactics will respond for your specific business, your specific industry and your specific target prospect, and we don’t know how you’ll be as a student of inbound marketing. After all, you’ve never run, worked on or been part of an inbound marketing effort, right?
Are you going to be patient? Are you going to change your overall business strategy two months into the engagement? Are you going to need the board to approve everything? Do you prefer a vendor who tells you what to do, or are you comfortable working with a partner who brings ideas to the table? Can you close the leads we generate for you? These are all unknown variables that come up, despite a detailed sales process designed to uncover as many of these as possible.
So, if you understand that no two inbound programs are exactly alike and what works for one company might not work for every company, here are some ways you can attempt to predict results from inbound marketing.
STOP, Don’t Proceed Without Marketing Strategy
Every prospect that calls or clicks through to speak with us gets asked the same question: What is your marketing strategy? Almost no one has anything that even comes close to a well-defined marketing strategy. If you don’t have this, don’t expect ANY significant results.
If you don’t know what to say to whom and when to say it, you’re done before you even start. If you don’t know what makes your business special, what stories to tell and how to get your prospects emotionally connected to you, you’re not going to see any real results from inbound marketing.
If anyone tells you differently, they probably don’t really know much about inbound or marketing in general. Think about it as the recipe. You can bake a chocolate cake without a recipe, and you might be fine, but unless you’re a professional baker, chances are better that you’ll make a mess. The same holds true with inbound.
Blogging Drives Visitors
Before you write and publish even one blog article, make sure you know your keywords and content strategy cold. This means you’ve done your keyword research, you have contextual search resolved and you’ve planned out at least 90 days of content in the form of an editorial calendar.
Once you have this, you’re ready to jump in and start blogging. If you’re not blogging at all, an increase of even one blog article a week is going to have an impact on your company’s ability to get found. Historically, you’re probably looking at about a 5% to 10% increase in traffic month over month for a weekly blog posting.
If you’re getting 500 visitors to your site each month, you should expect around 550 once you start posting weekly. You’re probably going to need to sustain this for at least a couple of months before you start to see the improvement. Then, if you continue to sustain it, you should see that go up to 610 and higher, as long as you keep blogging.
Stop blogging, even for a week, and you’ll see a drop off. And, don’t be confused: You still need to make sure your website is searchable, your content is targeted and your social media is helping to promote the new blog articles. Nothing with inbound happens in a vacuum. The more you connect the tactics, the better the results are going to be.
Content Generates Leads
Today, people come to your website once, twice, even three times or more. If you never add anything new to the site, they’re never converting. The more content you add to your site, the more leads you get. If you’re getting 10 leads a month today with little or no content, and you have 1,000 visitors coming to the site each month, you have a 1% conversion rate.
If you start adding new content at a rate of one new piece every three months, you’re probably going to be looking at around a 1.5% conversion rate. Add a new piece each month, and you might be more like 2% across the site. That means going from 10 leads to 15 leads to 20 leads. You double your lead results by publishing monthly.
If you’re following along at home, you might have noticed that if you also drive up your visitor traffic and improve your conversion rate across the site, you actually impact results much more dramatically. If you get to 2,000 visitors and a 2% conversion rate, now you get 40 leads a month. This is when inbound gets the most interesting.
If You Optimize All Your Visitor Sources, Traffic Increases
Speaking of visitors, most people simply focus on one or two sources. Some focus on paid search, others organic. But, did you know there’s email, referral traffic, social traffic and direct traffic, too? The key to really improving visitor results is working on ALL of these sources at the same time.
Then, instead of getting 1,000 or 2,000 visitors a month, you’re getting 3,000 because you’re working on each of these sources and treating them all as important aspects of your inbound program. Even if you maintained your 2% conversion rate, you’d be up to 60 leads a month.
If You Publish Off-Site, Visitors And Leads Increase
You’re already creating content, so leverage that off-site to drive new visitors back to your site and grab leads from the publication effort. Do you know where your prospects spend their time online? You better know this. What blogs do they read? What emails do they subscribe to? What sites do they visit? What LinkedIn groups do they peruse regularly?
Take your content and get it published on these sites. This drives new visitors and new leads if you include a CTA button. This also gets you backlinks, which Google still uses to decide if your site has valuable content or not. So, there are a number of positive outcomes from aggressively publishing your content on other sites.
Tie Everything Together
If you haven’t picked up on this, I’ll be more direct. Inbound requires that each element be tightly integrated. You need a search strategy to start content. You need a website strategy to drive conversions. You need a content strategy to drive website design and conversion optimization. You need social media, influencers and email marketing to optimize the overall visitor traffic to your site. Each of the historically individual marketing tactics now needs to be perfectly connected for inbound to work.
Make these connections upfront before you get too far down the path, and you’re going to overperform. Miss one or two of these connections, and your results will be disappointing.
Optimize Your Program Weekly
The last bit of secret sauce around performance of an inbound marketing program is the ongoing optimization. I’m not talking about page optimization; I’m talking about program optimization: macro performance metrics that get optimized over time to make a major impact on the company’s revenue projections.
What did we do last month? What were the results? What worked well, and what didn’t produce results? Stop doing what isn’t producing results and start doing more of what is. This includes ongoing testing and experiments to provide the data needed to make that decision.
To make accurate projections on the results from inbound marketing, you really need 12 months of historical marketing performance data. Very few companies have this set up. With a couple of months of data, you can make some projections. But, you have to understand that with every month of new data, the projections get smarter and smarter.
Finally, to share with you aggregate data across all our clients, I’m happy to tell you that clients who listen to us, follow our advice, appropriately budget for marketing and execute flawlessly see a 5-6x improvement in website visitors over the course of 12 months. Those same clients see a 10x improvement in leads generated.
These leads are NOT ready to buy today, but they are legitimate leads who are interested in the products and services our clients are selling. They still need to be nurtured, but over time, at least 10% of those leads become customers, assuming you have the sales techniques in place to provide the experience today’s buyers are looking for from their partners.
Start Today Tip – Marketing should be a quantitative exercise. You should know what numbers to expect from it. You also need to be aware that the more money you invest, the more you can expect. If you’re only prepared to spend $2,000 a month on marketing, don’t expect much. Your tip today is to stop looking at marketing as an expense to be trimmed, negotiated and limited. Instead, look at marketing as an investment in the future of your company. Marketing is going to impact your business this year. If you do it right, it’s going to make a dramatic impact on your company next year, too. Look at it like that, and you’ll be much happier with the results.
Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!