Inbound marketing is hands-down the most effective way to generate leads and sales in the era of the self-educating buyer. So why is it that having poured your heart and soul into doing things the inbound way you're still not getting traction, your website traffic is stagnating and the hoped for avalanche of leads and sales opportunities hasn’t materialised?
There are many reasons why you may be seeing disappointing results but in our experience it nearly always comes down to one of these three things:
1. You've skimped on the strategy phase
To get results with inbound marketing you need to integrate your business and marketing strategy and plan, plan, plan. That means:
- Setting SMART metric-driven goals that provide focus and direction for your inbound efforts and the basis for measuring ROI.
- Investing time in understanding your ideal customers, capturing their pain points, challenges, hopes, fears and goals in detailed buyer personas, mapping their unique buyer’s journey and all the content they require at each stage.
- Articulating what makes your company truly remarkable and then creating compelling stories and messaging that will clearly differentiate your company and engage prospects.
- Planning out your content, social media and other promotional activities, deciding on the right mix of tactics for each of your audiences to draw them into your marketing funnel and sales process and then assigning numbers to each of those tactics.
Skimping on the strategy and jumping straight into tactics to generate some quick wins may seem like a good idea but without a coherent game plan you're going to find it almost impossible to deliver hard-hitting campaigns that produce stellar results and sustainable improvement.
2. Flawed Execution
Even with a solid strategy and the right tactics many companies fail to get inbound traction because their execution is flawed. With so many moving parts in any inbound marketing campaign it's not always obvious where the problem lies when results fall short of expectations but here are some common issues we encounter when working with clients:
- A company website that isn't designed with the buyer's journey in mind or optimized to convert strangers into leads.
- Not giving enough emphasis to lead nurturing or aligning email nurturing sequences to the buying cycle.
- Not enough content to move prospects effectively from the awareness stage of the buyer's journey through consideration to decision.
- The wrong bottom of the funnel offers.
- Broken lead qualification and management procesess resulting in the wrong leads being passed to sales reps or ready to buy leads not being followed up quickly enough.
- Sales teams not having the right context to engage prospects or the right content and process to close inbound leads effectively.
- Sales and marketing not aligned and constantly at loggerheads.
- Not implementing tactics on a consistent basis - for example, not having a regular schedule for publishing blog content and posting to social media accounts.
- Not tracking key metrics on a daily or weekly basis and adjusting activities to ensure that monthly goals are achieved.
3. You haven't build a strong and sustainable inbound culture
When you're sure you have the right strategy and processes but your inbound marketing still isn't cutting the mustard you need to take a long hard look at your company culture. In fact, you should do this even before you make the inbound investment or start work on developing your strategy or building out processes and content.
Carrying out a culture audit is one of the very first things we do with every new client as part of the onboarding process.
Over my 30 year career as a senior leadership team member and business consultant I've led many complex change initiatives and business transformation programmes. Those that were successful followed a change methodology that gave equal weight to strategy, processes and people. Those that focused on strategy and processes at the expense of soft people issues fell well short of expectations and in some cases were spectacular fails.
The same is true of making the shift to inbound marketing. You can have the best strategy and processes in the world but if you haven't built a sustainable inbound culture you're only ever going to see partial results.
In previous posts I defined the 5 essential characteristics of a healthy inbound marketing culture and the 3 culture killers that are derailing our inbound marketing efforts. Here are some of the tell-tales signs you have an inbound culture problem:
- Your leadership team aren't acting as role models - for example, by contributing to the company blog or being active on social media - and demand instant results.
- Your teams are still working in silos and struggle to work at pace or change direction quickly when things are not working.
- You frequently hear people say "it's not my job".
- It's an uphill battle to get subject matter experts to contribute to content creation.
- Your IT team are working to their own set of priorities rather than supporting the marketing team.
- Marketing decisions are taken based on the opinion of the highest paid person in the room or gut feel rather than data or are often passed up the line.
- Information and data is hoarded rather than being shared openly.
- Your people are reluctant to try new things or take risks because they're worried management won't have their backs if experiments fail.
- Sales and marketing operate in their own bubble and often point the finger of blame at one another.
- Your sales people are still using old-school tactics and pitching instead of focusing on helping your prospects and guiding them through the buyer's journey.
Inbound Marketing is not a magic bullet – it requires strategic planning, careful execution and aligning your culture and people management to the strategy. Companies that see the best results adopt an integrated approach that gives equal weight to all three. So if you're not getting traction with inbound, start by diagnosing whether you have a strategy, process or culture problem (or all three!) and if you haven't got started with inbound yet make sure you fully understand what's involved and are willing and able to make the commitment before investing.