The mantra for the past few years is that content and inbound marketing is the only marketing there is. Any company that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century must execute a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy now.
Then the sales team gets itchy because they need to close sales now. The CFO sees budget going to new marketing campaigns that don't show any return yet, while tried and true advertising budgets got cut to support inbound campaigns. So now marketing is nervous because they know sales and finance are going to lay it all on the doorstep of the "typical, flaky marketing mumbo-jumbo."
This, my friends, is the inevitable inbound cluster that will develop if an inbound marketing strategy isn't brought in with wide buy-in and the understanding that's a long-term game, not short term quick fix. Here's how it happens.
You embraced the trend without making fundamental changes
Throwing up a blog and setting up some drip email campaigns are actions without impact if they aren't supported by a more thoughtful inbound approach. Successful inbound marketing requires a 360-degree view. It starts with researching and understanding your personas and what concerns and drives them. Sure, you have a blog – but is it addressing the questions your market has? It can't be a resource for them otherwise.
Let's say your email drip campaign generates a flood of active prospects. Have you worked with sales to ensure they have the content and processes in place to work these prospects? Are you collecting the right information to help sales qualify leads and identify the hottest opportunities?
The point is that inbound isn't a trend even if it's trendy. It's a sophisticated solution that can provide sophisticated results empowering marketing and sales to grow sales and operate more efficiently. But it requires reworking a number of approaches and workflows across departments in order to succeed.
Everyone had unrealistic expectations, including marketing
The most damaging unrealistic expectations marketing teams have about the inbound strategy is the myth that they can "set and forget" a campaign, and it will bring in quality leads, and that if they publish it, leads will come. These unrealistic expectations are what lead marketing teams to embrace the trend without making the fundamental changes, as discussed above.
Unfortunately, marketing can also set unrealistic expectations for sales and finance if it's not clear about what inbound can achieve if it has the time and resources invested in it. Marketing owns the inbound strategy, so it's marketing's responsibility to give the other departments clear and realistic expectations as to what to expect and when.
Inbound marketing success is a long-haul proposition with the potential to achieve serious ROI on the marketing budget and add quantifiable revenue. But a lot of work must occur first before you hit the tipping point where bottom line metrics start showing its impact.
Give the other departments realistic expectations about inbound by mile-stoning different types of metrics. Let them know upfront a timeline of what they can expect to see. The first three months, traffic and inquiry increases may be the success metric. By six months, it may be more leads, with seeing more qualified leads at the nine-month mark.
When you can validate realistic expectations along the way, sticking with inbound long enough to see the game-changer numbers becomes more likely.
You didn't set a baseline
You must baseline current efforts to show where and how inbound marketing would provide efficiencies and increase revenue. It's relatively easy to track leads coming in from print or digital ads. An ad campaign making a special offer can bring in lots of leads and result in some sales. What's the average sale value (ASV) of those sales? How does the ASV of ad-induced sales compare to your overall ASV?
What are your current cross-sales and upsell revenue numbers? What's your average customer lifetime value? If you don't know these numbers, you can't put sales numbers from your inbound strategy in context.
Old habits die hard
Let's face it. Running an ad campaign or sending out a quarterly newsletter is easy to execute compared to planning and executing a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign.
Even those inbound campaigns that could bring in relatively rapid results, such as email campaign targeting abandoned leads or upselling current customers, are a big shift from the old way of doing things and take a lot of effort. Frankly, when we stress – say, over whether new marketing strategies will work – it's natural and easy to revert to comfortable past behaviors.
Of course, losing market share and revenue are never comfortable places to be. Nobody just treads water. Are the old, interruptive, brute force ad campaigns going to improve marketing and sales efficiencies while growing revenue? No, they're not. Buyers, consumers and businesses, take very different journeys today. Inbound marketing strategies are a response to meet the needs of Digital Age buyers, regardless of where the purchase is made.
Which of these obstacles took your team off the inbound track? Pick a new initiative, say a major product re-development or new market entry opportunity, and build your new inbound marketing strategy around that. It has no baggage of past ad campaigns to weigh it down.
If you don't have a major initiative you can point to right now – no worries. That just means you have time to lay the groundwork for a successful pivot to inbound in the near future. Research and develop personas from an inbound perspective. Ask sales to specify what makes a hot lead for them. Put together the business case to get better inbound buy-in from sales and finance.