In my recent LinkedIn post, I talked about 3 reasons why your inbound marketing is failing.
The most common reason why inbound marketing (or online marketing) fails among SMBs is the lack of an inbound marketing strategy, or in many cases lack of strategy period (but that's a different story). In 6 years I have yet to talk to a business that has an inbound marketing strategy. If they do inbound marketing, they do it sporadically and without any thought as to why.
The problem is a combination of what I call “hearsay marketing” and “Hail Mary marketing.”
Hearsay marketing is simply engaging in marketing activities because someone told you to do it. In many cases, looking for quick fixes, you read blogs and watch videos that cover something specific, something that might fix your immediate pain (big might). Next you do it. It doesn't work, you blame it on inbound marketing being ineffective.
Hail Mary marketing is something similar to hearsay marketing, but it doesn't have to be hearsay marketing. It doesn't have to be something new you've learned. You engage in a marketing activity that has almost zero chance of success simply because you have no other options, you just need to get some sales. Like a random email blast, or direct marketing campaign, or spending $100 on Adwords.
The problem with both is that they are in vacuum, out of context, and are simply random acts of marketing.
Having no inbound marketing strategy is like trying to operate a locomotive without having any tracks.
Inbound Marketing Strategy Sets Tracks
When your train has no tracks, it's not going anywhere. That's exactly what happens when you have no strategy in place, you shoot right, you shoot left, up, down, but never on target. Let me be clear, knowing what topic to blog about or sending a monthly newsletter is not a strategy. That's random acts of marketing.
When you take the time to create your minimum viable strategy, it gives you clarity and clarity drives action. You set your goals to achieve, so you know your success destination. And when you know your destination, you begin laying tracks in order to get there. At certain points, you know you need to review your progress and adjust your course to make sure you always keep heading towards your final destination. Monthly and quarterly reviews to analyze your progress are crucial to catch issues early and to correct your course as needed.
Having your strategy in place eliminates agony of sitting in front of your computer screen with Word open, starring at a blank page. You are prepared, you've done your work, all you have to do is look at your strategy and begin researching and typing away. Writer's block be damned!
When it comes to content marketing, as being part of the inbound marketing strategy, having tracks in place for your locomotive ensures that you create relevant content for your buyers. Each stage of the buyer's journey has specific needs and challenges, that's why creating relevant content for those stages is critical to helping buyers reach their decision and also the bottom of your sales funnel.
IDG Connect surveyed technology buyers in 2014, what they found was not a surprise. For 79% of buyers, level of relevant content affects how they feel about vendors and their likelihood to make the shortlist. That's almost 8 out of 10 buyers that judge a business by the content they produce. The more relevant the content to their stage and needs, the better your chances of being on their short list to contact. On the other hand, 66% of buyers feel that digital content needs to be more aligned with organizational objectives and relevant to the decision making process. What that tells me is that 66% of buyers think your content isn't relevant to them.
Don't heave a sigh of relief because those were technology buyers in the survey. This applies and happens in all B2B and B2C marketing and sales. Just last month I talked to 2 prospects that were with HubSpot for 2 years (trying to leave it), one in B2B space where inbound marketing is really effective and the other one in B2C space where they failed to understand their ideal customers. The problem they had was the same, 2 years with HubSpot and barely any ROI to show for it.
It was not HubSpot's fault, it's just a tool. Both did not produce content that was relevant to their buyers, they thought it was relevant but after reviewing their stuff I could clearly see that they've been very busy for 2 years writing blog posts, creating lead nurturing emails and lead magnets, but that's all they did – stayed busy. They were not effective, they did not have a strategy in place. They were spinning their wheels for 2 years. B2C prospect did not realize that their niche was one of the few where inbound marketing is actually not very effective yet. For B2B prospect, their content was not relevant – it was simply on topic. These are very common stories I hear on consulting calls.
Marketing automation is something I do a lot of, be it consulting to choose the right platform or helping get things setup. One of the most common questions I get asked is what to automate. For example, couple of weeks ago one of you requested to watch my marketing automation mistakes webinar. One of the form fields is a question about the biggest challenge, here's what the answer was:
Having a hard time understanding the usefulness and the return on the investment when choosing one.
The perception (or misconception) of marketing automation is that it will do marketing for you. So businesses buy into marketing automation before having a strategy or any sort of processes in place to automate, which they later realize was a mistake. Unfortunately, marketing automation doesn't improve the quality of your marketing, it improves efficiency of your marketing.
When you have an inbound marketing strategy in place you'll know exactly what activities are subject to possible automation. Keep in mind, not everything that can be automated should be automated. You might end up with a PR nightmare.
It becomes very easy to understand usefulness of marketing automation if you can look at your strategy document and say “Let's automate these lead nurturing emails for our ebook campaign next quarter.”
Focus on Strategy
It all starts with your strategy, the thing that most of you don't have. Inbound marketing strategy provides clarity – a clear and tangible plan of action that you need to follow to reach your goals. When you have that clarity taking action is easy, just follow the tracks to your success destination. That's why I decided to write an ebook (practical handbook you can use) on how to create an effective strategy, and I know how hard it is to create one. To ease your (and mine) pain I've created a visual framework to help brainstorm, research and layout your strategy.
One of my favorite tools to use is the Business Model Canvas, that's why I've created (or rather it was inspired by) my framework that uses the same visual elements to help create a model of your inbound marketing strategy. There are actually 2 canvases in my framework, one for your strategy and one for your campaigns (each campaign will have one), those bad boys need their own canvas to plan them properly and effectively.
The handbook is due to be out in August, but if you want a sneak preview into my strategy framework I'm running a webinar next week on Wednesday – it includes a small workbook to get started now. You can get details here.
Strategy is your secret ingredient to successfully use inbound marketing to attract and convert ideal customers.