All Inbound Marketing Results Are Not Created EquallyAs inbound marketing gains speed, more and more people are trying to do it. That means more and more novices are attempting to get results from inbound. The question is this: As they fail, will inbound take the brunt or will people recognize they need actual inbound experts to get results? We’ll consider this and reveal the trends.
We’ve noticed a trend over the past few months. More companies are contacting us with a similar story. The story goes something like this: “I’ve been working with an inbound marketing agency for the past 12 months and now that we’re coming to the end of the engagement, we’re not sure it’s working. We talked to you 12 months ago, but went in a different direction because of price. Can you look at what we’ve been doing and give us some guidance?”
Our response is: “Yes, we’re happy to review what you’ve been doing. We’ll look at your inbound marketing assets and with access to your HubSpot account or Google Analytics, we should be able to identify if anything was missed or executed differently than we’d do it.”
Inbound marketing is very complicated and takes a well-orchestrated set of processes, tactics and team members to produce results. There are a lot of places for the effort to go off the rails. However, if you, your team or your agency only have a handful of inbound experiences, this effort becomes exponentially more complicated and the chances of success are low.
Here are some of the major differences between programs executed by experts and programs executed by people still learning inbound.
Skipping The Marketing Strategy And Planning Phase Of Inbound
Ask a new inbound marketing agency if it's OK to skip the planning phase and just start working on inbound tactics. You'll likely be told "yes." Ask a novice inbound marketing individual if a plan is necessary to start generating leads with inbound marketing. You'll probably be told "no."
Now ask a group of seasoned inbound marketing people their opinions and the answers will sound dramatically different. No, you can’t start working on tactics until the plan is in place, unless you want less-than-optimal results. Yes, you can skip the planning phase, but only if you’re OK with a less efficient rollout that might require some rework.
The difference is the experiences that have come to shape the experts' opinions vs. the application of old-school marketing tactics to inbound marketing and a lack of understanding around the connection between the tactics and the marketing strategy work. It’s not that the novices aren't smart; they are smart. But until you see the difference between a well-planned engagement and one that you create ad hoc and on the fly, you just wouldn’t know the implications associated with your decision to jump right to tactics.
Deploying A Set Of Disconnected Inbound Marketing Tactics
If you haven’t deployed over 20 inbound marketing programs, you might not even know how important it is for all the different inbound tactics to be perfectly connected. This is one of the three areas that typically torpedo inbound results the fastest. The others are poor or non-existent strategy and a lack of optimization. If you think your blog has nothing to do with your website and your website has nothing to do with the content you’re creating, you are mistaken. Also, if you think your search engine optimization efforts don’t impact website, content, conversion, email and other inbound tactics, you’re on your way to lower-than-expected results.
Inbound marketing demands that all the tactics are perfectly orchestrated right out of the gate, especially if you're looking for big results in a short amount of time. I’m sure you’re all reading this and saying, “duh, of course.” But without experience, you’re going to make a mistake in this area.
Here is the biggest and most obvious example. You have a website that you redid last year. You started your inbound marketing work with the website that was built without inbound in mind. You didn’t want to redo the website because it was a big, painful project. Now you’re blogging, emailing, creating content and posting on social media with a website that is missing the right messaging, the right pages, the right search support, and the right content for conversion up and down the funnel. This is a recipe for poor results.
Making Unrealistic Predictions On Leads
Everyone wants to know the answers to these questions: How many leads are we going to get from this effort? How many new customers? How much revenue? We get it. Of course you want to know that; they're the right questions to be asking. However, the answers are much more complicated than the questions.
Doing lead projections is like doing sales projections. The projections are only good the day they’re done. After that, they deteriorate quickly. That's why you need to do these projections more frequently. I’d recommend every 30 days. In most cases, something changes about once a month, and those changes impact the lead projections. It could be a delay in the release of a conversion asset. It could be the insight that social media is driving more visitors than expected. It could be that you thought you’d be able to redo your website and now you’re finding it's not in the budget.
No worries, but all three of those changes impact a program’s ability to produce leads. The more frequently you update those projections, the more accurate the data and the smarter your program adjustments to help hit those new projections.
Not Knowing What To Look For During The Optimize Phase
I can tell you whether the marketing we’re doing today is going to produce the leads I need tomorrow. Can you do that? Can anyone on your team do that? Can anyone who works in the agency you hired to help you do that? Again, it’s not that they’re not smart people, but without hundreds of inbound experiences it's difficult to make the connection between tactics and results.
So much data is available to marketers today. You must know where to find it, what to look for and then know what the data tells you so that you can prepare a series of experiments to decipher the data, test your hypothesis and recommend changes that will move the needle. Every client program performs a little differently, so knowing how to identify what’s working and what might not be working as well as expected is a mandatory skill set for the expert inbound marketer.
Not Responding Fast Enough To Data-Driven Results
Inbound marketing, when done right, provides data on how your marketing is performing right now. I can tell you how many visitors you’re getting to your website today. I can tell you how many are coming from organic, social, referring sites, email and direct. I know those numbers right now. The key to getting amazing results is being able to act on that knowledge. We have the data right now, so we need to be able to act right now to take advantage of that insight.
When you have a lot of experience with data from a variety of different companies and a variety of different program configurations, it gets easier to create systems for reviewing the data, analyzing the data, responding to the data with action and then putting those action plans in place. You then “rinse and repeat” by doing this repeatedly to take advantage of the real-time access to the data.
The faster you cycle through this analyze, review, respond and act cycle, the better your results. This is one of the secrets to getting leads from inbound marketing.
The worst-case scenario is that you blame inbound marketing (the methodology) for your company’s lack of success with it. While some businesses might not be right for inbound marketing, those are few and far between. There are many more cases of people not planning, executing and optimizing inbound marketing programs effectively than there are of misplaced inbound marketing.
It's also important to consider the alternatives to inbound marketing. What’s your plan B? If inbound marketing doesn’t work, do you want to go back to more cold calling? More email list purchases? More trade shows or conferences? More direct mail letters? Are these old marketing tactics going to deliver improved performance over time or diminishing performance over time? You know the answer. You can’t possibly think buying email lists is a sustainable approach to lead generation.
If you’re thinking about marketing like we do, you don’t go back to old tactics. Instead, you stick it out and learn how to make inbound marketing work at your company, in your industry, with your products/services and with your target prospects. It’s an attainable goal, but it might not be as easy as you originally thought.
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