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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Nov 4, 2016 12 min read

It's Always The Agency's Fault If Your Inbound Marketing Isn't Working

Does It Matter Whose Fault It Is Or Does It Matter Why It’s Not Working?

Blame for Inbound Marketing Failure.jpgThe headline was meant to get your attention. It’s very rarely the agency’s fault even though that’s usually where the blame gets placed. When you think about it, how could it be the agency’s fault? If the people at the agency didn’t know what they were doing, they wouldn’t have any clients. So, they must know something.

But what I don’t understand is why it matters whose fault it is and why blaming anyone is productive. Instead, let’s put our energy into identifying why your inbound marketing isn’t working and what we need to do to fix it, and then get it back on track delivering leads and new customers for your business.

Here are some common causes of failed inbound marketing and what to do about it.

You Keep Changing Your Mind And Direction

I know, it’s a CEO’s right to change her mind. Sometimes you should pivot to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. I get it. No one is saying change isn’t productive, but you need to keep in mind that changing direction means starting over again from a marketing perspective. You just need to know that.

In some cases, it’s not about big strategic direction shifts. Sometimes, it’s about more tactical marketing shifts. If we’ve gotten your approval on a website and we’re working on it, but you change your mind and want different messages, that’s going to take rework and might impact more than copy creation. Again, this might be a positive course correction, but the change is going to require your marketing team or inbound marketing agency to redo work that’s already been done. This impacts you budget, your results and the effectiveness of your overall campaign.

The more you can stay the course, the better results you’ll realize in the shortest amount of time.

You Want To Tell Us What To Do

I understand, you’ve achieved a level of success by doing things your way. That’s impressive. But we’re doing inbound marketing. How many successful inbound marketing programs have you planned, built, optimized and delivered? More than likely, this is your first experience with inbound marketing. That’s why you bring in an expert because they have skills, experience and learning you (and your internal team) do not.

Since you’re paying the bill, in the end, we’ll do exactly what you tell us to do. In our case, we’ll tell you what we think, what you should do and why. But if you tell us to do it your way, it’s your company, so we'll oblige. However, if the results don’t follow, make sure you realize how you contributed to the less-than-expected results.

You Underbudgeted Marketing Based On Your Big Goals

ThinkstockPhotos-161954599.jpgLet's say you have a $10 million company and want to do $20 million in revenue next year. You need a lot of leads to reach that extra $10 million. However, you only budgeted $2,000 a month for marketing. News flash! You’re not getting to $20 million in 2017 on $2,000 a month. You’re not getting to $20 million if you have anything less than 10,000 visitors to your website a month. You’re not getting to $20 million if you have less than 500 leads a month.

How did you come up with a revenue target like that? Don’t tell me. I know. Instead of pulling it out of thin air, use your current marketing metrics to create a more attainable goal and then match the goal with a realistic marketing budget. Most businesses that are growing spend between 1% and 5% of total revenue on marketing. At $10 million that’s $100,000 to $500,000 a year. The more you spend, the higher your goals can be. If you’ve underinvested in marketing, you might be underwhelmed by the results.

Your Marketing Team Might Not Know What To Do In This Scenario

Inbound marketing is NOT one size fits all. What worked at Company A might not work at your company. What did well for Company B might not work as well for your company. On the flip side, you might have something that works well but wouldn’t move the needle at all with Company A or Company B. Every inbound program is different because every company is different and every client (individual) is different.

You need to make sure your team (internal or agency) can analyze your situation, review the data and make some assumptions, respond to the data with a course of action and then implement the action plan. The results will cause another series of actions and repeatedly. This cycle is pivotal for getting inbound to work. The faster you can cycle, the faster you’ll get results.

You Or Your Team Might Have Skipped Steps Or Taken Shortcuts

Inbound marketing requires a series of defined steps to make it work. If you skip them, it’s not going to work as well. The steps we see skipped most often include strategy and planning steps. If you don’t spend time working on your messaging, stories and differentiation, it won’t matter what tactics you deploy because you’re going to be saying the wrong things to your prospects.

Another step that’s often skipped is the step that tightly orchestrates all the inbound tactics together. For example, you can’t build a website without knowing what keywords you want to be found for, what content you’re going to create and what conversion approach you’ll be taking on the site. Search, web, content (long, short and mini) and conversion tactics all need to be sewn together perfectly for them to produce results.

The last step I see skipped is the optimization step. Most people think you build all the assets, get them out and then sit back, reaping the rewards. Nope. It doesn’t work like that. A whole host of adjustments, tweaks, upgrades and modifications will need to be made based on program data. You’ll have to analyze the performance, identify underperforming areas and then run a series of tests to improve performance. You should be planning on doing work like this every month.

Your Team Or Agency Might Not Have Enough Experience

You might not know you need this optimization phase of the engagement if you’ve only implemented three or four inbound engagements. To master anything you need 10,000 hours under your belt. Inbound is no different. If your team only has experience with one or two other engagements, it's likely going to be learning on your dollar. If your agency only has five or six inbound clients, it's likely to be learning on your dollar. If you’re OK training these people and watching them make mistakes with your program, you should be good to go.

But if your expectation is that you’re bringing in experts, make sure your experts are actually experts. This means they need to have experience with hundreds of engagements, not 10 engagements. This ensures they’ve seen it all, and when they see an issue with your program, they’ll know how to fix it. We went from page two to page 10 on Google because we changed a website URL. The change made sense, so the only way I’d know its impact on rankings would be from making the change and experiencing the drop. I also know how to fix that situation now because I had to fix it for us. This is knowledge you only get from doing.

You can see there are a lot of places your inbound marketing can go off the rails. There is risk associated with any marketing, but with new marketing methodologies, sometimes the risks are larger. The key is to work hard to mitigate any risks with solid planning and contingencies.

One of the best ways to mitigate the risks around inbound marketing is to work with a partner that is going to help you, not do what you want. This might sound extreme, but vendors (companies that do what you want) are a dime a dozen. Partners (companies that are going to work with you, help you, get to know you and have your best interests at heart) are hard to find.

The other major way to mitigate the risks is to work with a company that has extensive experience delivering the same results you're striving for. If those results are leads, great. If those results are new customers, great. If they’re new visitors to your website, great. But make sure those results have been delivered, repeatedly. Cheap doesn’t ever equal good in my experience. Four experiences are not even close to 40 and 40 experiences aren't even close to 140 when it comes to a team’s ability to deliver results with inbound marketing.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!


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.