Ask Yourself These Questions If You're Not Sure Whether Your Inbound Marketing Is Working
It should be obvious if your inbound marketing is working or not, but sometimes the results can be obscure or hidden, especially in the beginning. One of the advantages of inbound marketing is access to real-time data and transparency into the performance of the program.
Regardless, if this is your first inbound effort, you might be uncertain as to the progress you're making. If this sounds like you, not to worry. Here are some questions you can ask to uncover or confirm whether your program is working or not. Keep in mind that these questions might generate different answers depending on the stage of the program (strategy, implement, optimize) and based on your priorities.
For example, if you tell us to focus on making the website look great and we put most of our resources toward that, you can expect to see a dip in some of the metrics we identified as questions below. Almost everything has a cause and effect relationship with inbound. Keep that in mind as you do your own evaluation.
Here are the questions:
1) Are We Getting More Visitors To Our Website?
Month over month you should see increases in overall website visitors. Almost every business has some degree of seasonality. This means it might also be good to look year over year for the same period. So when we talk to clients about results, we’re comparing month over month and also this month to the same month last year.
2) Are We Getting More Visitors To Our Website From Organic Searches?
This is a better question than "how are we ranking for keywords?" Yes, you want to improve rankings for targeted keywords, but Google is preventing us from seeing actual keyword performance every month. So while we do get some keyword data, it's better to simply make sure you’re getting more organic search visitors month over month.
3) Are We Getting More Visitors To Our Website From Other Websites?
The same applies to visitors from other sites. These sites are usually called referring sites and the visitors are called referral visitors. These visitors are most often a result of backlink building, which is very important. Blogging is one of the best ways to build backlinks. You write a great blog and someone talks about it and adds a link in their site to your blog. Now you have a new backlink.
Keep in mind this data does not refresh weekly. In fact, it takes some time to see the aggregate backlink data. For example, our site recently saw a jump from 318 backlinks or inbound links to 368, but I saw backlinks in blog articles I wrote every week. I believe HubSpot might just update this data monthly.
4) Is Our Site-Wide Conversion Rate Improving Month Over Month?
Every website has a site-wide conversion rate number that represents all the conversions across the entire site. Average site-wide conversion rates are between 1% and 3%, but we have clients with 8% and 9% site-wide conversion rates. This is a number that you should be actively working to improve month over month. Small changes in this number can have a big impact on your site's ability to generate leads.
5) Have We Expanded Our Reach And Audience On Social Media?
I’m less of a fan of social media than most other marketers, but I recognize it has its place as an amplifier for content. Social media does also drive a lot of visitors to your website, so it's worth looking at to see if your program is working. Basically, you should have more reach (all your friends, followers and connections) than you did last month. This reach number is important as a company asset. The bigger your audience, the more ability you’ll have to reach them, when and if you need to.
6) Is The Content We’re Creating Working To Convert Visitors Into Leads?
Content marketing is important and almost everyone recognizes the need for content. What most people miss is the ultimate goal of content is not to simply publish, but to publish to generate leads. This means you need to know how each piece of content is doing. Is this content turning visitors into leads?
Is this CTA button being clicked on and is the landing page being completed and submitted? If not, your program is not working. Blogging helps you get found and content generates leads. If you’re creating content and it's not generating leads, you're either not doing enough or you're writing on the wrong topics.
7) Are We Getting More Inbound Leads Today Than We Were When We Started?
It all comes down to leads. If you’re running an inbound marketing program and for some reason you don’t care about leads, you’re probably not really all-in on inbound marketing. You might be all-in on digital marketing, but you’re still thinking about marketing as awareness. I think about marketing as lead generating.
You should be aware of how many leads you’re getting today, yesterday, this week, last week, this month and last month. I use my iPhone to check on lead generation a few times a day. I just checked and I know we generated 339 leads as of two minutes ago. I know that’s 3% above last month at this time in the month.
One of the benefits of inbound is this real-time access to data and the ability to respond to that data. Since we’re ahead of last month and on target, I don’t have to do anything. But if we were behind, I’d respond with adjustments to our marketing that would help us catch up before the end of the month.
8) Are We Getting Sales Opportunities From Our Existing Contact Database?
Leads are great and they’re a big part of marketing, but the real goal is new clients and revenue, so you want to track sales opportunities too. This is important as a measure of quality associated with the leads. If your leads are not turning into sales opportunities, you’re generating the wrong leads. Tracking sales opportunities month over month will be a very important indicator of a successful program.
Since some of these leads are going to come from your existing contact database, this measure is also an indicator of the effectiveness of your lead nurturing campaigns. Only about 10% of all your leads are going to be ready to buy today. The 90% who are not ready need to be nurtured so that eventually they too ask to speak with you, fall down to the bottom of the funnel and start the sales process.
9) Are We Getting More Sales Opportunities Today Than When We Started?
Once you get into an inbound program it's easy to forget what life was like before inbound. It's important to benchmark your pre-inbound state and look back to see how you’re doing compared to when you started. A lot of companies look back and realize they were getting no leads, no new sales ops and very few visitors to their site. Keep this perspective in mind as you continue to work on also making month-over-month improvements.
10) Does Our Team Know How To Adjust The Program When We Run Into Declining Results?
Let’s be honest: Not every month is going to be up and to the right. Seasonal factors, economic factors and business factors impact these numbers. It’s not ALL on marketing; other variables are in play.
However, your inbound marketing team (internal or external) needs to know how to respond to declining results. The team needs to be able to look at data, come up with a plan, implement the plan and then evaluate the results of the plan. Did it work? If it did, why? If it didn’t, now what? This is one of the most challenging aspects of inbound, but absolutely one of the most important ones.
11) Do We Have A Plan, Are We Following The Plan And Am I Involved In Creating The Plan?
Random acts of marketing are not going to get you results. You need a plan. You need a mid-term plan and a 30-day plan. You need your team to be coming to you with recommendations, advice and guidance around the creation of the plan, and you need to be contributing to that plan and signing off on the plan. Changing the plan every few weeks is a recipe for poor results.
BONUS QUESTION: Are You Following The Advice Of Your Inbound Marketing Team?
Finally, if you find that you have to tell your inbound team what to do, it’s likely one of two situations and both are not good. Situation 1: You’re overly involved, you’re treating the team like a vendor and you’re probably not following its advice when it comes to using inbound to generate leads. Situation 2: The team doesn’t know what to do, so it doesn’t come to you with ideas and simply says, “What do you want us to do? Tell us and we’ll do it.”
In situation 1, it’s your fault. Sorry, but it is. You hired a team of experts and you’re not letting them do what they should know how to do, so you can’t judge them. Let them do what it takes to get leads. I think you’ll be surprised when you let them do what they’re good at. In situation 2, you have the wrong team. Any professional who is asking you what to do doesn’t know, and you should probably consider making a change.
If you answered "no" to any of the questions above, then your inbound marketing is not working. No need to be scared; admit it and let’s do something about it. It could be your team, it could be your agency and it could be you, but it's definitely something. There’s no need to guess. These questions will help you decide if the program is working or not. Now, take action.
Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!
Posted By Author 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.