Throughout 2016, I had the chance along with my team to work with a dozen of clients developing and implementing their inbound marketing and sales enablement strategies. It was a crazy year for us here at IDS - we started the year with 3 clients and we ended the year with 12.
I have learned a lot from this experience and I would like to share what I have learned with the world.
Inbound Marketing when implemented correctly can be incredibly helpful with demand generation, and growing and scaling your businesses. However If you don't have the a good strategy or poorly implement a good strategy, chances are your investment will be in vain and your Inbound efforts will fail.
Here are my top 9 reasons how Inbound can fail
1. Your SMART goal is not so smart
Having a vague business goal like “ I want to sell more” or “I want to grow my business” is not Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant or Timely .. you need to focus on goals that have an impact on your bottom line.
For example, Francis is the CEO of a SaaS company. His software is sold as an annual subscription for $1000. Francis currently has 1000 active subscribers. His smart goal for 2017 will look something like this: I want to increase the number of my active subscribers by 20 - 30% after 12 months of doing Inbound. That means 200 - 300 additional subscriptions, bringing in an additional $200,000 to $300,000 of increased revenue by the end of 2017.
Goals that are this specific have a higher change of getting reached. This goal can be meaningful to every stake holder in your business; sales, marketing, customer excellence, product development, and your CEO or board.
2. How well do you know your customer
If your buyer personas are too generic, or they are just segments focused on demographics then you are missing out on knowing who your customers are. You need to dig deeper into the behaviors and characteristics of your buyer personas, their goals, values, attitudes, the process they follow to get information, and most importantly to understand the reason behind every behavior, characteristic, and the mental prosess they follow to look for information or make a purchase (always ask why?).
3. You're not producing enough content
Don't make the mistake of blogging when you feel like it. Make it part of your weekly routine, encourage all your team to blog, adopt everyone writes culture at work, encourage your customers to blog or participate in content creation like case studies and eBooks, implement a guest blogging program and incentives. According to eMarketer 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day. Also website with over 310 pieces of indexed pieces of content in Google enjoy 236% more traffic than those with smaller sites.
You need to have a solid content strategy that is regularly producing fresh content otherwise this space will be taken up by your competition.
4. You're not producing the right type of content
Producing content for the sake of content will not work. Your content has to be in context to your buyer persona and the stage they are in their buyer journey. Your content needs to be of high quality and educational so it resonates with your buyer personas.
Producing content that is promotional, that talks about your brand is not of interest to your buyer personas - buyer personas wants to know the stories behind the brand.
We all like to consume different types of content and your buyer personas are no different. Sticking to one type of content will not cut it. You need to experiment with different types of content such as blogs, webinars, infographics, videos, podcasts etc. You can easily repurpose a single piece of content into 2 - 3 different types.
5. You are not promoting your content
The number of pages that Google has indexed grew from 30 trillion back in 2013 to over 130 trillion today. This means that producing content and waiting for your buyer personas to discover it is not an option . You need to have a new and well thought of content promotion strategy. You need to understand which social media networks your buyer personas use, and promote your content there in a non-invasive manner. Also, you need to promote your content over dark social media by engaging with your buyer personas online on sites like Quora and Reddit.
You need to publish and engage with other users on LinkedIn Pulse and Meduim. Here is the most improtant part - you need to experiment with every new trend and social media network that is out there like Snapchat and Facebook live.
Identify your best performing content and promote it with social media advertising and adwords.
6. You do not have the right team
Inbound Marketing is no different than a lot of things in life. To win you need two things; an amazing team, and a coach with a vision.
Your Inbound team needs a multiple skill set such as; SEO, Inbound strategy, content strategy, digital content production, copy writing, social media, analytics, UX design and project management. This means that the idea of a "dedicated someone” in your team will not work because no single person can have all these skill sets combined. Also, Inbound Marketing is a time consuming process so that single person will not be able to effectively execute all these tasks.
The second thing you need is the coach… this is someone who can create the internal buy-in inside the company pushing for real engagement across the different levels of the organization. The internal buy-in is to neutralize the gatekeepers. For example, when Sales don’t want to share their customer databases, or HR is not adopting employee social media policy, or IT is pushing back on providing the necessary initiatives for integrating marketing automation platforms with their infrastructure .. ownership of leads etc... I am sure you know what I mean. This is so common!
7. Your sales and marketing are not aligned, and you did not implement an Inbound Sales Strategy
The reason behind a business to invest in Inbound Marketing is to be able to sell more, and this is where sales and marketing alignment comes in handy. The role of marketing is to generate leads, and the role of sales is to turn those leads into customers, therefore maximizing ROI, both in sales and marketing. Marketing and sales need to work towards acheiving the same SMART goal, and they need to agree on what the characteristics and behaviors of a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead are.
You need to transform your traditional sales team into an Inbound Sales team making sure that they have the tools to provide them with lead insight, business intelligence and resources to develop effective conversations.
8. Your not tracking the right KPIs'
93% of CMOs say that they are under more pressure to deliver measurable ROI.
Just 21% of B2B companies are successful at tracking ROI of their content marketing. And 15 percent say they do not track ROI on content marketing at all.
If you are not measuring the right KPIs’ therefore you can’t really measure ROI of your marketing. In order for your Inbound Marketing Startgey to succeed you need to be able to track what is working and what is not working, identify opportunities for growth, be able to know at any point of time the cost per lead and cost per customer (CAC), and the life time value of your customers (LTV) of your customers. Not measuring the right metrics is like driving with your eyes closed - it is a stressful and dangerous experience, and without it you will not be able to present how well you did your job to the stake holders .
9. Your website User Experience sucks
Your website is the touch point with your prospects and customers. This is where you need to shift your priorities from a pretty website design with all the colors you like, to a website that is focused on delivering an outstanding user experience - and again I don’t mean pretty designs. I am talking about speed, responsiveness, how easy and trivial it is for your website visitors to find the information they are after, how easy it is for them to complete the tasks they want to do, how well the information is presented, did they leave your website with a pleasant experience, will they ever come back, and will they recommend it or share it with a friend or a college? Lots of questions to ask there!
In order to do this your website must be designed for your buyer persona and not your CMO, CEO or stake holders.
Tools like AB testing, heat maps, session recordings and user testing can help you understand the perspective of your buyer persona, and how they behave on your website.
Your website is a a living entity that is constantly evolving. It is not static so you should always be improving your website experience to make it better for your buyer personas.
There are my thoughts on what I have learned this past year. Just to wrap it up, the Inbound methodology is not a failure. It is the new way to market and sell your products or services, and when implemented correctly it can have a positive impact on your bottom line, but you have to consider the 9 points above to avoid the pitfalls. I would be happy to learn more about your Inbound experience in 2016. Feel free to comment or connect with me on twitter or linkedIn.