One advantage to running the largest and longest-running inbound marketing agency is that we’ve seen almost every single situation in an inbound marketing engagement. We’ve seen clients sell their businesses for multi-millions because they had a high-quality lead-generating machine, and we’ve seen clients change their entire business strategy in the middle of the engagement and require us to basically start all over again.
The number-one issue that impacts the results from inbound marketing programs is a lack of patience. I know we live in an instant gratification society, and that CEOs, business leaders and VPs of marketing want results fast. But, inbound marketing requires a methodology that produces modest results over a longer period of time.
These results are much more sustainable, more predictable and more data-driven than those from traditional marketing methods, so the trade-off is time.
Here’s why you need to be more patient with inbound marketing.
Earning Attention Instead Of Renting It
If you need a car, you can rent one today, no problem. It’s going to be expensive on a per-day rate. And while getting it is relatively easy, you never own anything. When you return it to the rental company, you’re back to where you started: with no car. However, if you save your money and earn enough to buy a car, you have an asset for life. Yes, it takes longer to save up, and you might have to apply for financing. But, the car is yours.
The same holds true for marketing. You can quickly rent an audience’s attention by attending a trade show, buying an ad in a magazine or purchasing an email list. But, you never own those names. You just borrow them. It’s quick, but it’s not yours.
Inbound recommends you earn your prospects’ attention by making it easy for people who are searching for you to find you quickly in all the right places. Create a remarkable experience for visitors when they find your website, and fill your site with educational content that converts anonymous visitors into leads for your business. Then you have to nurture those leads and continue the educational experience. This hard work goes a long way to helping your prospects know, like and trust your company.
Renting your audience’s attention does nothing of the sort and is extremely expensive to do over and over again. Just like renting a car every day to commute to work would be silly, you can think about your marketing strategy the same way.
Not Everyone Is Ready To Buy Today
Every business wants hot leads: people who are ready to buy today. But, our research shows that only 10% of all leads are in the bottom of the funnel. So, 90% of your leads are NOT ready to buy today. Accept the fact and build your plan with that key information in mind. If you have 1,000 visitors to your website each month, you won’t be getting 100 hot leads anytime soon. If our math stays true, your 10 leads would produce ONE sales-qualified lead, which might not even turn into a sales opportunity. Know your numbers and make sure they’re realistic.
Factor these numbers into the expectations around your inbound marketing program. Yes, a 10% increase in website visitor traffic month over month produces a year-over-year growth factor of around 250%, which is dramatic. This is going to impact your lead numbers, but it won’t transform or save your business in the first few months.
Remember, most of the leads are going to require lead nurturing. Since 90% of the leads are not ready to buy, you have to continue to send them educational information, build your case and work hard to make them feel safe. Each of these marketing-qualified leads is an opportunity in waiting. They’re little seeds you’re planting, and if watered and fertilized, they could ALL grow into giant oaks. Be patient while that takes place and recognize that you’re exerting very little effort and very little money to nurture those leads.
Once they spring forth, they should close quickly, for higher dollars and with a lot less competition. If that thought doesn’t help you be more patient around inbound results, you might want to consider a different approach to your marketing.
Consider Your Own Sales Cycle
If you have a six-month sales cycle, you’re looking at the end of year one before you see any return on your investment in inbound. But, is that a reason to NOT go forward? Definitely not. Your sales cycle is yours, so own it. We can help you shorten it with inbound sales services, but while you might see a reduction of 30 days, you won’t see it go from six months to one month.
Instead, consider your first year an investment in the future, and start looking at potential revenue gains in the second year. Think about the buildup of potential sales during the first year that you’ll harvest in the second year.
This Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
To win a marathon, you need physical stamina, mental toughness and proper training. Inbound marketing is no different. The planning stage, building stage and optimization stage of an engagement all contribute to putting your company in the best position to be successful with inbound.
The planning stage helps us see what we need to do and when we need to do it. It ensures we have a comprehensive plan, one that we’re confident will deliver the desired results. During the build stage, we’re putting all the pieces into play. During optimization, we make sure the results follow as expected, tweak based on data and continue to look at the results, make adjustments and test new configurations.
All of this takes time, collaboration and a partnership between your inbound team and your leadership. If you decide to quit the race, you’ll never finish, you’ll never know what you can do and you’ll never win. Thinking about inbound like you think about running a marathon is paramount to seeing results.