2017 Continues With Companies Skipping Inbound Marketing Strategy And Executing Disconnected Tactics
I write about this every year hoping it will change, but it never does. Companies don’t value strategy, don’t want to pay for it, don’t want to work on it and don’t even want to talk about it. Yet its quality and presence within an inbound engagement is a direct predictor of inbound lead generation success.
So many factors contribute to this habitually absent element of almost every inbound marketing program that we’re asked to comment on. I recognize the complexity of attempting to get a company to change its messages, tell different stories and actually operate in a remarkable way. But if you want leads, it’s not an optional element — it's mandatory.
Instead of telling you why you need marketing strategy to make inbound work or which elements of marketing strategy are a requirement, I’m going to tell you all the ways a lack of strategy directly prevents your investment in the tactics from producing any measurable return.
No Marketing Strategy Means All Your Tactics Might Be Delivering The Wrong Message
You can pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into marketing campaigns and marketing tactics and never see any return if you’re not telling the right story to the right person at the right time. If you don’t understand your prospects' buyer journey, their pains, their challenges and their motivations for using your product or service, you'll never move the needle no matter how much marketing you do.
In fact, inbound often gets a bad rap because if it doesn’t work, it’s the methodology that gets blamed, when in reality the company had no marketing strategy to support the tactics. When we look at inbound marketing programs from prospective clients, this piece is missing almost every single time. Without it, you’ll never see real lead generation results.
No Marketing Strategy Means You Don’t Have Anything Interesting Enough To Say
I’m also sorry to say that it’s not enough to have a compelling message. Your message must be different than ALL your competitors and it has to be so different that everyone recognizes its differences. This is why we use the word "remarkable" so often at Square 2 Marketing. Seth Godin nailed it 20 years ago when he first introduced the concept of being remarkable.
If your business is not remarkable, it's invisible. It’s so important I want to repeat it. If your business is not remarkable, it’s going to be invisible. If your business is invisible, it’s impossible to create any marketing that has any hope of generating leads. Again, is your program not performing? It’s not the agency's fault or your marketing team’s fault or even the tactics you're using — it’s that your business looks, sounds and feels like all your competitors.
No Marketing Strategy Might Contribute To The Tactics Not Working Together
Now that the softer side of marketing is covered, let’s talk about the tactics. Everyone loves digging into the blog, the website, the emails, the SEO, the content and all the other options for driving leads with inbound. Here’s the challenge when the marketing strategy is missing: You don’t know how to connect the inbound marketing tactics, and inbound needs ALL the tactics to be orchestrated for it to work. Notice how I didn’t use the word integrated. Integrated marketing has been around for years, but with inbound all the tactics should be orchestrated perfectly.
Think about an orchestra. I chose that word for a reason. You can have a flutist who plays beautifully. You can have a pianist who is amazing. However, if they don’t play from the same song sheet and there’s not a conductor to keep them on tempo, the music they produce is awful. Once you get them playing together, wonderful concertos are delivered to the audience. Inbound marketing works the same way. Every single tactic must be perfectly aligned for it to work. Again, this is missing almost every time we get involved with helping companies generate leads.
No Marketing Strategy Means Your Revenue Goals Might Be Unattainable
If you haven’t thought through your strategy, you might have goals that are unattainable given your market, your opportunity, your product/service, your existing resources or your team. We’ve had many opportunities that appear to be sound, but after talking to those CEOs about their company details and lack of strategy we realize they’re never going to get to their goals.
Just because you want to do $10 million next year doesn’t mean you can do $10 million next year. Just because there is $10 million worth of business doesn’t mean you're going to get it. Working through the marketing strategy exercises often uncovers areas within the business that need attention. This is a good idea because what’s identified can be worked on, fixed and then removed as an obstacle. But if you don’t go through the planning effort and the hard work associated with marketing strategy, you’ll fly blind and eventually crash.
No Marketing Strategy Means You Might Be Investing Too Much Or Too Little In Marketing
This also comes up a lot. People have lofty goals and think they can attain them with super low marketing budgets. A lot of articles illustrate that you should be spending between 1% and 5% of total revenue on marketing. If you’re a $10 million company, that’s between $100,000 and $500,000 a year on marketing. If you’re going to be hyper aggressive with growth goals, 5% is where you need to be. If you can be more conservative, perhaps 1% is OK.
There’s also a relationship between your goals and where you are today. For instance, if you have 200 visitors to your website a month and you need 20,000 visitors to hit your goals, you need to invest more to close the gap. If you need 100 leads a month from your website and you’re only getting three leads a month, you need to invest more to remove the delta. Make sure that the level of investment is aligned with your goals and your current state. Any inbound marketing agency worth its weight should be asking you these questions and helping you come up with a reasonable budget.
These are not small issues. They are not insignificant challenges that you can overcome with a great sales team. These are not risks you should be comfortable dealing with. These issues are “program threatening.” There are reasons some clients get great results while other clients get little or no results. It has nothing to do with us; we do the same work for everyone. Issues like the ones above can torpedo your entire lead generation effort before it even starts.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the entire conversation is it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few weeks of patience, any company can have an inbound marketing strategy that gives you exactly what you need to build the assets, deploy the assets, optimize those assets and over time create a lead generation machine that is scalable, repeatable and predictable.
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