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Optimization Leads To Improved Inbound Marketing Performance

You Need A Program Optimization Methodology

If you're on this page, then you might not be getting everything you expected from your inbound marketing engagement. It's not surprising. After a lack of marketing strategy (messaging, differentiation and stories), not being able to optimize the slew of complex tactics within an inbound marketing program is the biggest reason for lack of results.

This is because you or your inbound agency is missing an inbound marketing program optimization methodology. Yes, believe it or not, there is a method to our madness. We've created and feel strongly that you need to practice a specific methodology when it comes to using inbound to produce real business results.

The ongoing optimization starts with the analyze phase.

AnalyzeIn this phase, we're looking at data from almost every aspect of the program: keyword data, website data, visitor source data, email marketing data, conversion data, content data and more. We're poring through data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. By constantly reviewing real-time performance data, we start to see trends, set performance goals and more quickly identify when programs are working well, not working as expected and not working at all.

This helps us move to the review phase.

ReviewIn this phase, we're comparing data and looking for patterns. We're huddling internally to discuss the data and see if there are any obvious answers. Think about this like doctors collaborating with colleagues to come up with the correct diagnosis. We're looking at the data across similar clients in similar industries to see if we can apply similar solutions. Our goal is to get as much input and as many potential recommendations as possible. This helps us get ready to respond and produce improvements in the program's performance.

Now we're ready for the respond phase.

RespondIn this phase, we're getting our tests together. We've created a series of experiments we want to deploy to help validate our hypothesis on how to improve results. We've prioritized the tests based on the ones that will have the biggest potential impact and take the least amount of effort. This ensures we get as many results-driving tests up and running over the next 30 days as possible. Think about this stage like a rapid response team or a SWAT team. How do we drive results in the shortest amount of time? That's our goal.

Next, we move to the act phase.

ActNow the teams have the tests and they're deploying them. Some tests might get installed quickly, such as in a day or two. Others might require that assets be adjusted, created or modified, and it might take a week or so to get those tests up and running. The act phase is an important part of the engagement because in addition to these tests, we're also working on all the other aspect of a client's inbound marketing engagement. This is feathered into everything else we're already working on.

And then we start the cycle over again, analyzing the data, reviewing it to see how it played out, creating new responses and putting those into action. This is how we produce results for our clients month over month and this is how you'll produce results for your company.

Your Team Should Be Optimization Experts

Marketing people have never been truly accountable for results. When sales are down, sales gets blamed. But today's marketing professionals need to be part creative and part scientist. They need to be completely comfortable with the data associated with marketing.

They need to know where to get it, know how to unpack it, know what it's telling them, know how often to check it and know how to respond to it so they can produce improvements.

Anyone and everyone working on your inbound marketing program should be well-versed in the language of data, numbers and the quantitative performance of your marketing.

Unfortunately, this is only half of the skill set you need for inbound optimization. The other half is the experience required to know how to fix an underperforming engagement. If you're program is performing, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to say, "let's keep doing what we've been doing." But if the numbers are declining, it's going to expose people who don't know how to respond and improve the numbers very quickly.

At Square 2 Marketing, our expectation is not that everyone will know exactly what to do every time. That would be unrealistic, but we do expect everyone to know what to try every time based on their experiences with other clients experiencing similar performance issues and expecting similar improvements. In short, we want them to know how they resolved similar challenges with similar clients so they can pull from those experiences and make better, more productive recommendations faster, instead of guessing and hoping it turns out well.

If you have an internal team, look for the same set of experiences that can be applied to your marketing directly. This might mean they worked for a similar company running a similar inbound program or they worked for an inbound agency and ran similar programs for companies like yours.

The Faster You Cycle, The Faster You Get Results

If you're looking at the data quarterly, you're only able to respond four times a year. If you're looking at the data monthly, you're responding 12 times a year. If you're looking at the data weekly, you're responding 52 times a year. You get the idea. The faster you cycle, the faster you get results and the more significant the results.

You should be looking at and responding to some numbers daily, some numbers weekly and some numbers monthly. Anything beyond 30 days is too long for an inbound engagement. The data that you're looking at daily might not require action, but it does require an analysis, a review and, potentially, you may need to respond and act. In most cases, it's more of an in-progress check on the action plan already in play.

If every day you're doing something to optimize results, you're going to see better results than if you're doing that work weekly. If you're working to optimize results weekly, that's going to produce better results than if you're only doing it monthly. You should start to see a pattern here.

Inbound marketing is an activity-based marketing methodology, not a campaign or publication methodology. You don't post, publish or distribute your assets and then sit back waiting for the leads to pour in. Instead, you constantly monitor, adjust and optimize the performance of all your assets based on data. This is the difference between success and failure.

Prioritize Based On Impact Of Results From Inbound Marketing

The last challenge we need to discuss is this: With so many potential upgrades to work on, how do you decide which ones to work on and when? Do you start looking at new keywords for optimization? Do you increase the frequency of guest blogging? Do you rework landing pages? Which ones do you start with? Do your CTA buttons need an upgrade? Which ones? Does the home page need new messaging or better stories? What to work on when can be very complicated if you don't have a way to prioritize all these good ideas.

The way we recommend you prioritize your own optimization efforts is based on impact and effort. In other words, which tasks are going to have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort? For example, optimizing a landing page might take only a couple of hours but produce double the leads. Big impact, small effort. Work on getting these tasks, projects and tactics into your plan first and then work in the bigger projects later. This approach ensures you'll see bigger improvements in less time than perhaps you've been seeing when you tackle big, time-consuming projects that take a while to wrap up and impact results.

Being able to optimize the results from your inbound marketing program is one of the biggest barriers to sustained success with inbound.

It's also one of the hardest aspects of an inbound engagement because it requires people to understand the data, look through the data and find the opportunities, structure the tests to help prioritize the opportunities and finally create the action plan to drive the results from the insights uncovered in the numbers. You can't learn this from a video, a class or even HubSpot. The only way to get good at this is to practice it over and over again.

The next chapter goes into detail on how to track, test and create a more sustainable and predictable set of results from inbound marketing initiatives.