Much of what I love about being in a Sales role is rooted in being able to have some truly engaging conversations surrounding my prospects’ marketing aspirations and how they’re using Inbound Marketing to reach them.
Unfortunately, the catalyst for these conversations is that they’re not getting the results they expected out of their current Inbound Marketing program, whether through an agency or their internal team.
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In this on-going series, my goal is to give voice to common challenges that companies face when their Inbound Marketing program isn’t producing optimal results and how to overcome them.
Challenge: You Didn’t “Start With the End in Mind”
We use that quote from Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to assign high-level direction to an Inbound Marketing program in its entirety. We also refer to this as your vision. Understanding that vision means you can answer the question, “What does the organization look like in 1, 2, 3, or 10 years if this Inbound Marketing program hits a home run?”
I lead with this challenge for a few reasons:
Approximately 95% of the prospects I speak with are working on a month-to-month focus, without the ability to tie their marketing activities to a larger, more long-term objective.
Without a clear expectation or vision of what this future state looks like, it becomes difficult to verify how well the program is actually working. Are your metrics increasing each month? Yes? That’s great, but are they increasing enough now and trending in the right direction to support the end-of-next-year revenue targets?
Your organization’s vision is a fundamental factor in determining the scope and aggressiveness of the inbound marketing program needed. It influences every challenge I’ll be discussing within this article as well as Part 2 of the series.
How do I fix it? Because this is a fundamental challenge, it requires the most time and attention to cure everything we’ll be discussing.
First, take a big step back.
Start with a thorough audit of all the marketing activities you’re running now and benchmark your metrics for the last three months. The goal of that activity should be to get a clear picture of your current marketing and sales funnel, and to understand the types of activities that are producing those results.
Next, organize a series of extended meetings or even a day-long retreat with your C-level leadership team to gain alignment on a one to three-year vision for the organization. What does revenue need to be? How many new deals need to be closed? Will there be a new product launching? How many people will be in the organization?
Of the questions above, the most important questions for you to answer are:
What does revenue need to be?
Why does it need to be that?
When do we need to reach that goal?
What happens if we reach it? What happens if we don’t reach it?
Armed with the answers to those questions, you should be able to create a forecasted marketing and sales funnel representative of your revenue targets, the amount of traffic, leads, and SQLs you need to hit them, and the close rate of your Sales team. Now that you have your “end in mind” targets, your team and / or agency will need to build an inbound program that fills in the gaps with a strategic activities focused on big picture, long-term results.
Although this is a challenge in itself, it is a much better problem to have then a “shotgun” approach to moving the needle every month.
Challenge: You’re Executing Without a Strategy
Much like the above point, each and every Inbound Marketing activity needs direction and purpose.
I should mention that when I use the term execution, I mean the act of tweeting, or posting a blog article, or creating a workflow nurturing campaign, etc.
Often times I will hear from prospects, “I’m blogging once a week right now.” My first response is always, “Why?” If I hear, “That’s what we read in an article,” or “it was part of the package I was sold,” I know we’re missing the strategic element.
In the particular case of blogging, for example, having a strong strategy will dictate and document reason, type, tempo, and desired outcomes for generating content.
Reason: How much organic traffic do you need to drive to the site this month or quarter to hit your numbers?
Type: Which buyer persona(s) are we looking to attract and with this content and at what level of the buying process are they? For middle of the funnel content, do your personas respond best to example or comparison articles?
Tempo: How many articles of this type do I need to post per week to hit those traffic goals?
Desired Outcomes: What results should I expect to see with this reasoning, type, and tempo?
Without this strategy documented and followed, articles may lack clarity to your personas, resulting in fewer click-throughs and traffic and lowering your chances of hitting your numbers.
How do I fix it? Let’s continue with the blogging example. Much like the fix in the first point, the goal here is to start with the end in mind.
Look at your long-term plan and objectives. You’ve got a certain number of new deals that need to be closed by the end of next year to hit your revenue objective.
Based on your close rate, you need X number of Sales Qualified leads to be handed off to sales, which means you need Y number of leads, which means you need to generate Z amount of traffic to the site.
The conclusions you draw will help you determine if you need to double your blogging efforts each week, focus on middle-of-the-funnel content, or a very specific group of long-tail keywords that are creating buzz in your industry right now.
Challenge: You Didn’t Create Buyer Personas
We’ve covered this topic pretty heavily on our blog, but to recap: your buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal clients that have been well-documented for your entire organization to know and understand and use as a guide for their campaigns.
Your buyers have unique challenges that they’re looking to overcome and they’re relying on you to understand those challenges and solve them with your content. Their unique challenges lead them to Google with some very targeted questions.
If your website content, blog articles, emails, or social posts don’t address those questions, you’re missing HUGE opportunities to drive targeted traffic to your website.
How do I fix it?The first part of any successful Inbound Marketing program begins with researching and documenting not only who your most ideal buyers are, but also the journey in which they take through the awareness, consideration, and decision-making stages of the buying process.
Below, I’ve listed some more resources on common persona questions including how many you should have and how to create them:
I often hear prospects say that their Inbound Marketing programs attempt to cover a huge list of activities that repeat month-over-month, regardless of which perform better or worse.
It’s almost like a catch-all approach: “If I do a little bit everywhere, every month, I’ll net solid results.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Your results are driven less by the ground you can cover, and more by target and timing.
How do I fix it? It sounds odd, but the way to cure some of your results-oriented issues is to do more by doing less. Focus on conversion rate optimization and turn to your data.
What keywords are driving the most traffic? What social networks are you generating the most contacts and customers from? Which offers are being clicked on the most within your email campaigns? What websites are referring the most traffic to your site?
With this knowledge, you may discover, for example, that you can lower some of your time (and resources) spent on Facebook and increase your posting on Twitter to help social traffic to your site.
By leveraging your data, you’ll be able to build more focused strategies that force you to allocate your time and budget to the activities more effectively.
Start with the end in mind: Find alignment with your company leaders on the organization’s goals and when they need to be achieved. Turn their business goals into marketing goals and use that as direction for building your program.
Strategy before execution: Create a plan that gives purpose for your Inbound Marketing activities. Make it meaningful by covering the reason, type, tempo, and desired outcomes.
Build Buyer Personas: Understand and document the problems your buyers are looking to solve as well as their journey to find those answers. Use this information to create targeted content at each stage of the funnel and buying process that your personas will react to.
Stay focused:Using a broad, cover-all-bases inbound marketing approach can lead to more work and missed opportunities. Leverage data to determine where you’re seeing the best results, and focus your time and budget there.
That completes part one of the series. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ll be covering next:
Not having the right tools in place: This will be a focus on the tools used to gather the most pertinent data and effectively monitor an Inbound Marketing program.
Just following orders: Often times, marketing programs derail based on fire-alarm orders from the top. Learn how to avoid these costly situations.
Wrong type of agency help: Inbound agencies come in different shapes and sizes. It’s important to find one that matches your type of business.
Are you experiencing less-than-expected performance with your Inbound Marketing? Does it sound like one of the above issues is the culprit? I’d love to spend some time diagnosing it with you. We’ll determine how to best get things back on track. Click here to schedule a consultation.