Inbound Marketing Works ONLY When You Give It Every Opportunity To Work
I was curious as to how many articles on expectations around inbound marketing results there are on the web. The answer: three-and-a-half pages of blog articles, whitepapers and e-books on expectations, timing, results and inbound marketing. That’s roughly 35 listings from 29 different agencies, including an article we wrote in March 2016.
Clearly, this is a hot topic for people running inbound marketing programs and the inbound marketing agencies helping people to execute inbound campaigns. The top-ranking article from our friends at GuavaBox is right on the money. They relate moving to inbound marketing like training for a marathon; it takes time, dedication and expertise to get it right.
They also included some insightful research data from an MIT study of HubSpot customers. The research found that more than 92% of customers saw an increase in website traffic and leads as a direct result of inbound marketing, while 49.2% saw an increase in sales.
After reviewing most of the articles and taking into account our own experiences doing inbound marketing for clients (more than 100 client engagements in the past 10 years,) it’s clear that inbound needs to be a long-term play for your company. When it comes to inbound marketing, here’s what you should expect.
Expect To Invest Some Time To Plan
Everyone wants to skip the strategy and planning work and jump right to the tactics. Business leaders don’t value the strategy work. Inbound agencies, advertising agencies, digital agencies and even traditional agencies report that clients don’t want to wait for or pay for strategy work. This is a major mistake and it can have catastrophic consequences on your program. Don’t make this mistake, especially when you’re considering inbound.
We’ve learned how to deploy strategy in a more Agile way, meaning clients don’t have to wait months before we can start working on tactics, but it does mean we need to do strategy and planning work before we start working on helping you get found, building your website, creating content and converting visitors into leads.
Results Are Directly Related To Your Ability To Follow Advice From Experts
Inbound marketing is an acquired skill. You get better by doing it. Most of the people who hire us do so because they’ve never done inbound before. Most of the agencies have only limited experience doing inbound marketing for a handful of clients.
The better your experts are and the more closely you follow the advice your experts provide, the better and faster your results. However, this is usually easier said than done.
Do you tell your doctor how to operate on you? Do you tell your accountant how to prepare your taxes? Do you tell your attorney how to litigate your case? Of course not, because these are your trusted experts. Marketing should be no different and inbound marketing MUST be no different. You’ve probably had experiences with trade shows, advertising, public relations and even direct mail.
You’ve probably done hundreds of campaigns that include these traditional tactics, but inbound is going to be new for you. If you want to see better results, let the people you hired guide you through the planning, building and optimizing of your new inbound program. This approach is guaranteed to produce better results.
The Time It Takes To Generate Results Is Directly Related To Your Ability To Stay Focused
All the articles I found online had one common thread: Inbound marketing takes time. If that means you keep doing what you’ve been doing, that’s fine. But don’t expect inbound to be generating thousands of leads in the first month, third month or even twelfth month.
Inbound impacts your current level of performance. If you’re only getting one or two leads a month from your marketing, then that’s your starting point. From there it’s a slow up and to the right. There are no miracles in marketing. You’re not purchasing a $5 million, 30-second Super Bowl ad; you’re building something that takes time.
What you should be excited about is the up and to the right momentum from inbound. Website visitors are increasing, conversion rates are increasing, blog views and page views are increasing, and yes, leads are increasing. Even if it’s just a few each month, that progress increases over time and it builds on itself. You need a good 12 months to lay the groundwork that will pay off in year two. If you bail out after four months, you can be sure you’ll never have the marketing machine you desire.
There Are Many Variables Out Of Your Control That Impact The Results
Your marketing doesn’t live in isolation. This means variables do impact its performance. One of the most obvious is your competition. For example, they are working to be ranked for the same keywords you are and they’re making moves to improve those rankings. Just because you used to be on page one for a certain keyword doesn’t mean you’re always going to be there, and if you do fall off the first page, it doesn’t mean anyone did anything to cause that. It only means your competition did something to move up.
Other key variables include cultural trends. Today, people do everything on their smartphones. This means your prospects are searching, clicking and buying products on their phones. As a result, your marketing needs to adjust by focusing on shorter pages, shorter emails, text messaging, app creation and websites that render quickly on devices. These are all aspects of your marketing that need to be addressed, like it or not. Your marketing team must be able to respond to these changes.
Google and other social networks are constantly changing the way their platforms work, and this too is impacting your results. If you have bad online reviews, they might be impacting your results. If you’ve ever participated in black hat SEO or if you have duplicate content on the web (whether you did it consciously or not), that might be impacting your results.
Marketing tools, techniques and methodologies are changing quickly. Having experts on your team helps you to focus on your business while you let them worry about keeping your marketing performing at the top of its game.
When It Comes To Expectations, Look In The Mirror First
The ironic part of being at an inbound marketing agency is that I can tell you exactly what results to expect based on your current marketing metrics and the scope of the inbound engagement you’re about to enter into with us. I can predict website visitor improvement, conversion rate and leads generated. I can even predict how effective you’ll be at converting those leads into new customers.
However, the irony comes in when I tell you that your program will NOT perform based on my initial predictions. Why? First, your marketing doesn’t execute in a vacuum, so there are factors that impact performance, including your competition, the macro economy, and technologies we rely on like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and HubSpot.
Next, you and your team are a major variable. Are you going to approve work quickly? Are you going to follow our advice or feel it’s necessary to tell us what to do? Is your entire team on the same page or will we get different direction from different people? Are you all-in on inbound marketing or skeptical about its ability to work? Have you funded it properly or are you expecting a miracle from a modest investment? No matter how well we predict timing or actual performance, it almost never plays out exactly as expected.
What I can tell you is the clients that have seen amazing results (and there are many) from inbound marketing all have the same persona profile. They are all-in on inbound. They trust our expertise. They follow our guidance. They are patient. They collaborate with us. They’ve learned inbound from us. They invest appropriately in their marketing. They value marketing. They have buy-in from all levels of leadership. They’ve aligned marketing and sales so they can close the leads we generate for them.
Yes, inbound marketing works. Yes, you must support it for it to work. And yes, you must surround yourself with experts who have made it work before, if you want to see it work for you.
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