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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Dec 15, 2015 9 min read

Inbound Marketing Prediction #9: Marketing Strategy Still Being Skipped

Inbound Marketing Tactics Without Inbound Marketing Strategy Equal Poor Results

Inbound Marketing Strategy And PlanNot all of our predictions for 2016 are positive. Unfortunately, we continue to see businesses attempting to practice inbound marketing without the necessary strategy to support the initiative. Inbound tactics are not enough to rescue a poorly thought-out or planned-out marketing strategy.

No matter how many blog articles, whitepapers, email campaigns or infographics you create, if you’re business is not remarkable and you’re not telling compelling, engaging stories to your prospects, NO number of magic landing pages is going to convert visitors into leads.

We’ve seen this over and over again. Businesses come to us with less than expected results from inbound, and they want us to help fix it. Our first response is: “Tell us about your marketing strategy. Is it written out? Can we see it?” The results are mind-boggling. Over 80% of businesses do NOT have a written marketing strategy that includes the necessary components to successfully plan, build and grow an inbound program.

What are the necessary components of an inbound marketing strategy?

Some of this is obvious, and some of it is consistently delivered by the companies that engage with us. For instance, almost everyone knows you need detailed personas to get started. Whom do we want this marketing program to attract to our business? But, from there, the drop-off is often dramatic.

It’s critical that you understand the pains, challenges or issues that each of those personas is experiencing. It’s equally important that the solutions you provide to satisfy those challenges are presented in a compelling and easy-to-digest way. Typically, these take the form of stories. People remember stories, like sharing stories and easily understand stories. If your company doesn’t have a collection of stories, you might be working with an incomplete marketing strategy.

These stories also need to make it obvious why your business is remarkable when compared to the other businesses in your space. If you’re not remarkable, you’re invisible. Finally, the marketing strategy needs to include all the programmatic elements of an inbound marketing effort, perfectly orchestrated and planned to deliver efficiency and the correct number of leads required to get you to your revenue goals.

Why are they all critically important?

If you’re missing the stories, you might be saying the wrong thing to the right person, the right thing to the wrong person or the right thing to the right person at the wrong time in the sales cycle. If your business isn’t remarkable, it’s very difficult for a prospect to know to select your company over a competitor.

No matter how great your new website looks, if the messaging is off, it’s never converting any new visitors into leads. The same misalignment occurs when it comes to tactics. If you don’t have compelling offers for each stage of the buyer journey, you’re going to see disappointing results. If you don’t have the right content strategy aligned to your search strategy, the content you create won’t attract the right types of prospects.

Inbound marketing is very complex and can be a complicated exercise, especially if you’ve never done it before or if you’ve only done it a couple of times. There are a lot of places to go off the rails, and they all impact the results of your inbound program. Search impacts content. Content impacts web. Content impacts lead nurturing and email. Content impacts social media marketing. If you’re running pay-per-click campaigns, content and search are even more tightly tied together.

Failing to see all the interconnectivity of an inbound campaign does impact performance in a negative way.

What breaks down if strategy is missing?

There are two obvious breakdowns if strategy is missing or even incomplete. The first is the actual results. You might be investing a lot of time, money and energy in creating content and assets, yet youre not seeing the results you expected. While you shouldn’t expect hundreds of new leads the first month out of the gate, you should expect to see some early indicators of success.

The other outcome that companies with poor strategy see is a much longer time frame for their results. Looking for faster results? Going slowly in the beginning actually produces better and faster results down the line. Here’s an illustration of my point ...

Company A jumps right in and starts doing inbound tactics without planning for their effort. They spend six months trying different things and messing around, and they realize only a few small wins after all that time.

Company B takes two months to create the best plan and strategy. They think through the challenges and ask the hard questions. They see results in the third and fourth month, and by the six month, their program is up and running. They’re seeing good results and are able to start optimizing their program to produce even better results during the second half of the year.

Company A might have to start again with a new partner, new team or new approach to their marketing.

Performance with strategy and performance without ...

The performance differences from programs with strategy to those without strategy are significant. While we can’t compare businesses within our client base (all of our clients have comprehensive strategy), we can compare prospects who come to us with 12 months of inbound performance data and no strategy versus other similar-sized companies who have the comprehensive inbound strategy we recommend.

Typically, the lift from having the proper strategy is between a 35% and 360% improvement in almost every major metric: more website visitors, better keyword ranking, more leads, better conversion rates and more new customers.  Perhaps the most significant impact we see strategy having on our client programs is the ramp-up month over month. So, instead of seeing flat months or modest 5% improvement months, clients with strategy see more along the lines of 10% month over month – even more in certain situations.

Everyone wants dramatic results immediately. That’s highly unlikely in almost every scenario. But, skipping the strategy in an attempt to deliver dramatic results in a shorter time frame is a recipe for disaster. Inbound is a marathon, so treat it as such. You need to plan, train, study and get ready to go. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and run a 26-mile marathon if you’ve never run before in your life. The result of that approach could literally kill you, and so could trying to do inbound without being properly prepared.

How B2B Companies Use Inbound Marketing To Drive Traffic And Leads. Start Today Tip – If you don’t have an inbound marketing strategy that includes the components outlined above, this must be your first step. Get it together on your own. Hire a company to help you with it. Or, hire a consultant to create it for you. Whatever you do, get it done. Once you have that, plan out the next three to six months of your inbound effort, at a minimum. The newer you are to inbound, the longer your plan should be. Please don’t start executing tactics without this plan, no matter what people tell you. This is going to impact your business and not in a positive, productive way. Skip this mistake by taking the time to create a 2016 inbound plan and strategy for your business.

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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.