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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Feb 22, 2016 9 min read

If Your Inbound Marketing Isn’t Working, Check Marketing Strategy First

Diagnosing Poor Inbound Marketing Performance? Check Strategy Before Everything Else

Inbound Marketing Needs Marketing Strategy In Order To RunIt’s the last week of February. Perhaps you’ve been running an inbound marketing program for the past two months. You hoped to get off to a quick start in 2016, so you proceeded with inbound marketing tactics for the past seven weeks. You’re looking at results, and they seem less than you expected. Now what?

First of all, you might need to be a little more patient. Sometimes inbound tactics take upwards of 90 days to show real results. But, there might be something else that’s holding you back. The biggest mistake we find when CEOs come to us for assistance is a weak or non-existent inbound marketing strategy. You might be executing the right tactics, but you could be missing a major element that’s present in every single successful inbound program: marketing strategy.

Here’s how to know if you’re missing inbound marketing strategy in your company’s program.

Check Your Persona Work

This is, by far, the easiest part of the inbound strategy work. Almost everyone comes to us with their personas or, at the very least, an idea of who their personas should be before they start the marketing. Did you do this? Do you have clear profiles for your best prospects? Have you prioritized them?

One of the challenges with people doing inbound marketing for the first time is that they have too many personas. If you have 12 personas, you’ll end up with too many different messages for too many people, so you won’t be saying anything interesting to anyone.

Another challenge around personas is that you have to fully build out their online profiles. Since inbound relays so heavily on getting found, you need to know the full online behavior profile for each of your personas. What blogs do they read? What emails do they subscribe to? What sites do they visit? What LinkedIn Groups do they join? What industry pages do they visit regularly? What webinars have they attended in the past? Whom do they follow on Twitter? You need to know all of this.

If you’re missing these details, it’s going to be difficult to drive the right traffic to your site.

Tell Me Your Story

Inbound or outbound doesn’t really matter when it comes to your story. You need to have a story that’s easy to remember, that’s easy to share and that emotionally connects with your potential customers. It has to be simple, and everyone needs to be able to tell it in 30 seconds or less. If you don’t have this or it’s not being delivered consistently, you’re missing a major portion of marketing strategy.

Marketing strategy is designed to deliver these stories so they can be provided to prospects at the right time and in the right context. You might need different stories for different personas or different stories for people who have different challenges. Regardless, you need this inventory of stories and messages to connect with potential prospects, bring them into your sphere of influence, convert them from anonymous visitors and nurture leads with additional stories.

If you skipped this step, don’t know how to create the stories or felt like you already had these but now you’re realizing you don’t, it’s like being in a car without any gas. You’re not going to get far.

Are You Remarkable?

What makes your business special? No, really. What? If you tell me it’s your people, your experience, your product or your equipment, I’m going to tell you it’s not enough. Your competitors are all saying the same thing, and your prospects want more. How you differentiate your business is critical to whether your inbound marketing works or not. It’s so critical that if your business doesn’t have anything remarkable, we’re going to tell you to stop all of your marketing and save your money. Why? Because there’s very little chance even inbound marketing is going to work.

Inbound is not a remedy for lack of marketing strategy. If you give me three businesses that look alike, sound alike and act alike, no amount of marketing is going to help them drive revenue. You need to stand out. You need to be different in a way that gets your prospects to say, "WOW!"

Marketing strategy should provide you with the raw materials you need to create a business that is remarkable, and inbound marketing easily handles the rest.

Are Your Tactics Interconnected?

There’s one more major mistake that marketing strategy corrects 100% of the time. Marketing tactics can no longer be executed in silos. That means you’re search strategy needs to be connected to your content strategy, which needs to be connected to your social strategy, which needs to be connected to your website strategy, which needs to be connected to your conversion strategy, which needs to be connected to your email marketing strategy. Are you starting to get it?

For inbound to deliver as designed, all of these different marketing tools must be seamlessly woven together with solid messaging, remarkable differentiation and easy-to-share stories. But, we need to know what keywords you want to be found for to create the right content. We need to know your prospects questions in order to create the conversion tools for your website. We need to understand their buyer journey to give them the website experience they need in order to convert. And, we need to match the search and content strategies perfectly with your website to build a highly efficient, lead-generating site.

If you don’t plan, build and optimize your inbound marketing program like described above, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the results.  

Are Your Goals And Metrics Achievable?

This is also very common. In 2015, you were a $10 million business, and you want to be a $50 million business in 2016. But, you only have two salespeople, average revenue from new clients is $10,000, you have 1,000 people visiting your website each month and you’ve budgeted $2,000 a month for marketing. I give you props for being super positive, but experience shows you’ve set your revenue goals much too high. The math doesn’t add up.

Make sure your business goals are achievable. In this case, you need to increase your marketing budget by 10 if you want to keep those revenue goals. A better option would be to come up with more reasonable revenue goals AND increase your marketing budget by a factor of five. Once you come up with a set of achievable numbers, create your marketing and sales funnel metrics to match and keep a close watch on those numbers weekly.

This is the only way to track progress and the only way to measure the effectiveness of your inbound marketing program.

The Science Of Inbound Marketing Strategy Start Today Tip – If you’ve begun tactics without a solid inbound marketing strategy, you might want to suspend them long enough to go back and create the marketing strategy. Once you do, you’ll see exactly where your execution is exposed, you’ll be able to fill in around your existing program and you can quickly adjust where the messaging needs to be upgraded. Sometimes taking a step back is the best way to take two steps forward. The advantage of inbound is that once you get your program fixed, you’ll see improved results quickly. It’s still early enough in the year that you can make up for a slow start. 

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!

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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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