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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Feb 6, 2017 12 min read

Science Reveals The Complexity Of Inbound Marketing Demand Generation

Data Tells You Everything You Need To Know About How Marketing Produces Leads

the science of inbound marketingWe had an excellent kick-off meeting on Friday with our newest client, Stagen Leadership Academy, and one of the sessions included me showing them the science of search and its impact on demand generation. Stagen’s business is advanced leadership training for CEOs with a passion for becoming better leaders.

Their interest in learning about the science got me thinking about how critical this concept is when companies are undertaking inbound marketing. There were so many similarities between our two businesses and the clients who would hire us, with the most significant being the commitment to change, trusting the experts (us and them) and doing the work long term.

After the session was over, they “got it” and it made me wonder if we shouldn’t be doing more with the science aspect of inbound marketing. Today’s article focuses on the high-level science, but over time, I’m considering doing deep drill-downs into the science of search, web, conversion, nurturing, message development and content creation. Drop me a comment if you like the idea.

The Science Of Inbound Marketing

Historically, marketing has been an art. Most of the people going into marketing were creative types who married their art and creativity with business applications. Marketing agencies were filled with people who could design and write, two artistic passions. They produced all kinds of marketing assets like ads, brochures, postcards, trade show displays and, in more recent times, websites. The expectation for these assets was simple — get your name out there or build awareness. That’s it.

Today, marketing has been disrupted by software and tools that provide data, stats and quantitative performance metrics on almost every aspect of your marketing. Marketing is about the numbers, which means there is now a scientific approach to marketing. Figuring out how to produce numbers triggers scientific method, testing, experimentation, documentation and repeatable, scalable and predictable performance. Marketing is now an exact science. We know what to do, when to do it and how to do it to produce the results you request. It’s fantastic.

The days of focusing on impressions or awareness are over. Tell me how many leads you need and I’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to get those leads and more. Tell me how much new business revenue you need to generate and I’ll tell you exactly what to do from the time your prospect initiates their first click to the time they sign your agreement, proposal or contract.

Using Data To Make Decisions

How can anyone possibly do what I’m saying we can do? Ask anyone in marketing and they’ll try to tell you it’s not an exact science, but I’m telling you its 100% an exact science. I know that because I’ve seen the data on hundreds of companies and the marketing performance is the same way every single time.

What is an unknown is how your company, in your industry, with your management team is going to respond, but once you get access to the data you quickly learn how to connect the right set of tactics together to produce the right results.

Now, some companies are still making marketing decisions based on gut, opinions, attitudes and assumptions. But there are many more teams, like Square 2 Marketing, that have the experience to use inbound marketing experiments to help you be smart about your marketing.

To be even more “no fluff” (one of our core values), I’ll tell you that I don’t care what you think, what your CEO wants or even what your clients say. I only care what the data tells me and I’ll leverage that data to drive results. If I simply listen to you, it only guarantees that you’ll get the same results you’ve been getting. Which approach do you want to use?

We Should Test That

When you’re talking about science and a scientific approach to marketing, the first change you need to make is to add a testing strategy to everything. When you’re discussing your website, content you want to create, emails you want to send or any aspect of your marketing you want to impact, you have to be open to everything. The answer to almost every question should be we should test that.

Page headlines, test them. Email subject lines, test them. Offer position, test it. CTA title and graphics, test them. Almost everything should be tested. This is primarily why we love Agile marketing and specifically why we love the Agile development of clients’ websites. Instead of working with clients to plan, design, write and develop a website in a development sandbox and then make it live, we recommend creating single pages and adding pages incrementally to the site based on live site data because it always produces better results.

Application Of Experiments

testing inbound marketing experimentsUsing science to improve marketing results means you need a testing methodology. You have to understand how to plan, execute and evaluate your tests or experiments.

You must be patient and only change one variable in each experiment. Yes, this might take longer to uncover the key insights, but once you do that intelligence is supremely valuable to your company. If you change more than one aspect of your campaign at a time and it outperforms, you won’t know which variable contributed. Similarly, if the test underperforms, you won’t know which change pushed down your numbers.

The best scientists are fastidious about their methodology, and you should be too. It’s easy to want to change the headline, form, image and copy on your landing page in a desire to see the results spike up. But if you do that you won’t learn anything as a result of your experiment and you won’t be able to duplicate it again on your next landing page.

The last aspect of testing and experimentation that’s important is the size of your data set. In my opinion, theres no need to start calculating statistical relevance or confidence. You dont need thousands of clicks to know if a page is performing or not, you just need common sense. We’re not talking about rocket science, pharmaceuticals or financial derivatives. We’re talking about lead generation. If your data set is too small, no one is going to be harmed.

Use common sense. If you have two visitors to your page, you don’t have enough to make any sound decisions, but if you have 2,000 visitors you probably have too many and could have made a decision at 200 visitors. Make sure you’re comfortable that you have enough experiences to feel that its representative of your overall efforts. Then, make a decision and move on.

Focus On Business Outcomes

With all this data, its easy to be distracted by visitors, conversions, form fills, clicks, views and opens, but what you really want to be laser-focused on is business results. You must carry the results all the way through the entire process from first click to final close.

The marketing scientists who have the best careers are those who look beyond the marketing data and focus on the business data. For example, what is the ultimate conversion rate for website visitor to new client, and what is the average revenue from new customers who come from your website? If you know what data to focus on, you can project revenue directly from website visitor data. Drive up the website visitor numbers and you directly impact company revenue.

This changes your perspective, too. By focusing on the business results, you start looking at conversion rates up and down the marketing and sales funnel. When you improve close rates on proposals submitted and shorten the sales cycle by adjusting the sales process, now marketing has a strategic seat at the table.

Look, I get it. This sounds dramatically different than what you’ve been doing. This sounds like hard work. It sounds like it might require new thinking and maybe even some new tools. It’s all true. It’s also going to take time. Since you’re not buying ads, attending more trade shows, making more calls or sending more catalogs, it’s going to feel uncomfortable thinking about sales and marketing in scientific terms.

But once you see results, like we have, you’ll go all-in. Knowing what levers to push or pull to produce the kind of results you need to grow your business is addicting. More importantly, being able to predict lead generation and new customer revenue is game-changing.

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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.