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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Feb 4, 2015 8 min read

Inbound Marketing Strategies To Reduce The Risk Of Underperformance

Limp Prickly CactusThe answer to why you still don’t trust inbound marketing is simple: You don’t trust it because it’s new.

Despite all of the data that says it works, despite all of the evidence from other businesses that have proven it works, despite all of the agencies that are moving to inbound from traditional tactics – you’re still uncomfortable, uncertain and skeptical. Why?

It’s new. We’ve never done it before. We don’t have any experiences with it. So, we’re just not sure about it. We’re not sure it’s going to work for us, for our business. I don’t think our prospects are online searching for what we do.

As human beings, most of us are skeptical at the start. We approach new things with an inquisitive nature. As we get more educated and the uncertainty disappears, we become more comfortable. We start to consider how this new way might work. Over time (that period is relative), we feel more and more comfortable until, eventually, it’s something we do as habit.

I guess it’s a little like the first time you were told about Facebook or the iPhone. You had to see for yourself. You had to touch it, feel it, use it and make sure it worked like everyone said it did. I get it. However, inbound marketing is a little more complicated than using Facebook or an iPhone.

Sure, you don’t have any direct and personal experiences to get you feeling good about inbound marketing. There’s nothing anyone can do about that. But, there are a lot of references, stories, case studies, research materials, videos, slide shows, infographics and proof points that should get you some of the way there. After all, we’re not talking about recommending a door-to-door marketing effort here. While that might feel safe to some of you, I doubt it’s going to get you the leads you need to hit your revenue goals.

I think part of this conversation is also about risk mitigation. This is a concept I use a lot internally. Often in business, we have to do something that is risky. What separates the good business people from the bad business people is how they plan on mitigating the risk, or how they work to limit the downside. So, if we want to mitigate the risk associated with moving to an inbound program when you have little to no experience with inbound, here are some ways to limit the downside.

Work with people who have a proven track record

Dig deep here. What looks like deep experience might not be deep in terms of inbound. Most of the people practicing inbound have only been practicing it for a few years, and most of those people have only limited experience over that time period. You want people who have worked on upwards of 50 different engagements. You need to feel comfortable that they have the rich depth of experience to make an impact on the results. Make sure your advisors have deep experience in the creation of marketing strategies.

Ask the right questions before you start

It’s challenging to make decisions associated with areas that are new to you. This is where you can benefit from asking a lot of questions. The people answering those questions should be happy to help educate you. When it comes to evaluating how inbound is going to work for your business, one of the key questions should be around results. Anyone who is good at inbound should be able to give you an idea of the key performance metrics, like website visitors, conversion-rate improvements and leads at all phases of the sales funnel: top, middle and bottom.

Set expectations around performance

Make sure you set the expectation that you’re looking for performance. This sounds like a nuance, but it’s a big deal. Having an understanding of what you expect to measure and an agreement on how you expect to measure it does wonders for mitigating the risk associated with performance.

Look for repeatable processes, systems and methodologies

Inbound is a process. It requires systems, proven methodologies and defined processes that have delivered over time. If you’re not seeing this or hearing stories about process, you're likely to go down a road of helping your partner create those processes. This can be very problematic.

Get independent validation and verification

This is the most obvious risk-mitigation tactic, and one that most people already do. But, there are some extra verification steps to further protect your business. Check with people other than past clients or delivered references. After all, if you want to check our references and you ask me for them, do you think I’m going to give you anyone who might say anything less than positive? No. But, if you called HubSpot and checked on our reputation, or if you called clients we’ve actively disengaged with, you’d get a dramatically different perspective.

Doing anything for the first time is going to feel uncomfortable. Whether it’s playing golf with a different swing or transitioning from old marketing tactics to some of the newer inbound tactics, you need to accept that it’s going to be scary in the beginning. That feeling should quickly disappear as you get into the campaign and start to see some results. As you begin to understand more about how inbound works and see how the pieces fit together, you should start to feel like the expert.

Start Today Tip – This tip is different from most of the other tips we give because it has more to do with managing the very human feelings associated with fear and doing something you’ve never done before. There are a lot of smart people who have written about this topic, and most of them say the same thing: Fear of the unknown, while useful in protecting you, is usually limiting your upside. What I mean by that is you know what to expect from your suboptimum traditional marketing. You don’t know what to expect from your new inbound marketing. So, while there’s a chance that your new inbound approach could be a total disaster, there’s a better chance that it'll make you a marketing superstar – especially when you limit your risk with mitigation tactics. Give it a fly and watch your results soar.

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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.