One advantage to running the inbound marketing agency that has worked with and trained more HubSpot-certified agency partners than any other is that, if it’s possible for something to happen in an inbound marketing engagement, we’ve seen it happen.
We’ve seen inbound marketers consistently produce high-quality sales leads because they have a process for testing value proposition and honing their approach with data. And we’ve seen other marketers with huge budgets and Fortune 500-level resources give up after starting and restarting campaign after campaign with little to show for their investments.
Why do some succeed when other very capable and well-funded marketing operations fail?
The single most important factor that differentiates the inbound marketing winners from the losers is patience. Sure, we live in an instant gratification society. Heck, the internet, the place where modern inbound marketing was born, is the definition of instant gratification. And CEOs and stakeholders have been infected with an internet-transmitted strain of attention deficit disorder that causes them to expect transformational results in 90 days or less… or else.
But that’s not reality. Your prospects aren’t robots that can be programmed to buy on demand with magic keywords, slick animated websites, and Big Brother PPC ad technology. Inbound marketing success requires a strategy, tactics, and perseverance to produce incremental results that build to a consistent, predictable flow of new business opportunity over a longer period of time.
The results from inbound marketing are more sustainable, more predictable and more scalable than those generated by emotion-driven marketing methods. The trade-off is time. The benefit of patience in your campaigns is science-driven marketing that can be measured, improved, scaled, and that provides quantifiable return on investment.
Here are four reasons you need to be more patient to get better results with inbound marketing
To Earn Awareness Instead of Going for the Quick Fix
If you’re hungry, you can stop at any fast food place and feel full in under 10 minutes. We’ve all done it. It’s easy. But it’s going to be expensive if you eat fast food three times a day, seven days a week.
So while satisfying your craving with a quick fix may be easy, you pay and pay, not to mention what may happen to your waistline and health. And when was the last time you invited a friend to a relationship-building conversation over fast food?
If you took the time instead to prepare a meal — selecting the ingredients for flavor and freshness, combining them to create balanced nutrition, taste and texture — both the short-term experience and the long-term benefits are increased. And because that meal is your own creation, you might share it with another, and who knows what benefit that conversation might produce. personal note: my daughter has recently become a Vegan and has enlightened me about the evils of taking food shortcuts... and I of course saw how food advice applies to inbound marketing!
The habit and discipline to prepare a meal does require sacrifice and time but the benefits can last a lifetime. The same holds true for marketing.
You can temporarily capture an audience’s attention by purchasing an email list, spending your budget on a glitzy event at a trade show, or buying expensive PPC space with an ad that directs people to your home page. But, you never own those names. You just borrow them. It’s quick and there may be some temporary satisfaction, but you don’t own it and once you stop paying, it’s gone.
Inbound marketing is different. Inbound demands that you earn your prospects’ attention by making it easy for people who are searching for answers to problems they are trying to solve to find relevant, helpful information that you’ve provided, just because you’re a good corporate citizen, not because you’re trying to close a deal.
Once you’ve earned someone’s attention, then what? Again, inbound marketing is different.
In a quick-fix marketing model you’re conditioned to think that once you’ve gained the attention of that rented prospect, at great expense, you’d better close them quickly before someone else pays to steal their attention away from you. It’s like the car salesperson that has been told by his impatient management that he must close you when you wander onto the lot to educate yourself, because if you leave, you’re not coming back.
Really? If the dealership was a great place to learn about making a major investment like buying a car, instead of being a den of stress and bait-and-switch, wouldn’t you keep coming back?
In an inbound model once you’ve earned a prospect’s attention, you build a relationship. This hard work helps prospects get to know, like and trust your company.
You can pay for a quick-fix and rent an audience’s attention, try to close them before they question why they are giving you their attention, and then pay to do the whole dance over again. Or you can selectively build relationships based on trust and appreciation for your value proposition and let your prospects ask you for a proposal when they know they need you.
Because Not Everyone Is Ready to Buy Now
You want hot leads: people who are ready to buy, now. But, your own experience and research from firms like HubSpot & Gartner shows that at any moment, less than 50% of people online are in a buying mindset. When combining that with other reasons people are on your site, the figure drops to about one in ten being in the buying mindset; 10%. So, 90% of the people who may someday be your customer, and who now know about you, are not ready to buy today.
If all you are doing is trying to close people now, 90% of your future potential customers are going to ignore you, at best. More likely, they’ll run from you. Remember your own car buying experiences and don't make your website like a car dealer's lot!
Think of your website as a funnel, attracting many casual visitors and qualifying those whose buying needs fit your business to the point of a mutually beneficial sales engagement.
Factor these expectations around your inbound marketing program. A 15% increase in website visitor traffic month-over-month will produce a year-over-year visitor growth factor of around 500%, which is dramatic. This is going to impact your sales qualified lead numbers, assuming you have a good lead nurturing funnel defined, but it won’t transform or save your business in the first 90 days.
That’s the important point; most of your website visitors are going to require lead nurturing. Since 90% of your visitors are not ready to buy when they first visit your site, you have to continue to engage them with educational information, establish your unique value proposition, and work hard to earn trust.
Each visitor has the potential to become a satisfied customer but it’s up to you to patiently build the relationship that fosters a sale when the prospect is ready to buy.
To Align Your Inbound Marketing and Sales Expectations
If you have a five-month sales cycle, realistically, you're looking at the end of 12 months of inbound marketing lead generation before you see any return on your investment. Anyone who tells you otherwise is betting on a bluebird or being intellectually dishonest.
But, is that a reason put off starting inbound marketing for your business? Absolutely not.
Your sales cycle is what it is. Inbound marketing may shorten your sales cycle because leads will be asking for a proposal instead of your sales reps pushing for an appointment. But while you might see a reduction of 30 days because of your inbound marketing success, you won’t see a sales process go from five months to 30 days because of inbound.
Instead, consider your first 9 to 12 months of inbound marketing investment as foundation and relationship building, and start measuring revenue gains in year two. Think about the asset you’re building during the first year that you’ll begin reaping in month 13.
Because Inbound Marketing is the Long Race, not a Blitz
To run a marathon, you need physical stamina, mental toughness, and proper training. Successful inbound marketing requires a marathon mentality. The planning phase, building phase, and optimization phase of an inbound marketing campaign all contribute to putting your company in the best position to be a successful online lead generator.
The planning phase, perhaps the most critical and often omitted, establishes what needs to be done and the pace for doing it. Planning ensures we have a comprehensive plan, like the Content Marketer’s Blueprint, that will deliver the desired results.
During the build phase, we’re executing and putting all the pieces into play on your website and in your workflows. During optimization, we make adjustments to the execution to ensure results track expectations, make adjustments and test new ways to expose more prospects to your value proposition.
All of this takes time, collaboration and a partnership between your internal inbound team, corporate leadership and your agency. If you decide to quit the race or are constantly changing course, you’ll never finish, you’ll never know what you might have accomplished and you’ll never win.
From our experience with hundreds of inbound marketing businesses and campaigns, dedication and patience are the qualities common to success. If you want to be an inbound marketing winner, have a strategy, run small, meaningful experiments, execute faithfully, follow the data, and be patient!