We live in impatient times. They demand instant gratification – like hungry infants or quarterly-driven Wall Street. This mentality and the short-term expectations it drives affect marketers who, today, are the offensive line of revenue generation. Sales still has to take the ball over the goal line, but the game plan and the snap are in marketing’s hands.
We at Austin Lawrence and a growing number of forward-thinking marketers at companies and agencies are convinced that Inbound Marketing is crucial to accomplishing sales objectives in a world where the prospect is in control of the pre-sales process. If you need a definition of Inbound Marketing, I describe it as successful marketing for the digital age.
It’s not an approach that companies should “try on for size” and discard in a few months because, “It’s not working fast enough.” Inbound Marketing is a sound methodology with ROI that increases over time. In other words, it takes a long term commitment.
Inbound does yield short term results but it yields more and better results over time. And we can prove it. I’ll say more about this later on.
So how long does it take?
Given the environment we’re all working in, it’s not surprising that, almost universally, prospective clients are concerned about how long it will take to get measurable results from Inbound Marketing. The answer to that question is highly dependent on a variety of factors.
- What results do you need? More web traffic? More qualified leads? More sales?
- What are you prepared to invest? Can you properly fund the marketing program required to reach your goals sooner rather than later? (The more frequently you publish new content the earlier you’ll see results.)
- What foundation do you need to build before you can implement Inbound Marketing successfully?
- How well do you promote your content?
- How thoroughly does your sales team prosecute leads and to what degree does sales coordinate with marketing.
You can see there are a lot of knobs to turn.
The Early Timeline
Regardless of the above variables, having implemented Inbound Marketing programs since 2008, I can state with confidence that if you do it right you’ll get results. It can take three to six months to build out the basics of Inbound Marketing (depending on your own business complexities and online starting point).* Once you put these stepping stones in place, you’ll often begin to see increases in web traffic within weeks of implementing your inbound plan.
Management will be happy to see the needle moving on this top-of-the-funnel metric. But driving leads and sales is a longer term result that depends on how quickly you can create a body of quality content assets to guide prospects along their purchase journey. This takes either the budget to hire outside expertise or committed and capable in-house resources.
Content is the fodder for lead generation and sales conversion. It has a cumulative effect over time. If you’re committed to consistent content creation, the leads will follow. Within three to six months or so of implementing inbound, you’ll see qualified leads begin to come in on a regular basis.
The timing for converting sales is partly dependent on the normal sales cycle of your industry and product or service. Over time, the expectation is that you will drive more sales more quickly with Inbound than you could if you were still using only the traditional outbound marketing and sales techniques (advertising, trade shows, cold calling, etc.) that have declining results because of shifting buyer behavior.
Nonetheless, traditional marketing channels can still contribute to results when properly integrated with Inbound techniques. Recently, Austin Lawrence shared a blog post about the compounding effect that outbound promotion and sales prospecting can have on your content. I recommend that you read it.
If you take steps to integrate sales and marketing and add Inbound Sales tools to your Inbound Marketing program, the bottom of the sales funnel will come alive with rich opportunities and you’ll begin converting leads to sales much sooner.
The Role of Analytics
Here’s where I’ll talk about what we can prove. Inbound marketing incorporates robust analytics that show you how you’re doing and indicate where you can do better. We can measure:
- Where people are going on your website
- What content gets the most downloads
- How visitors found your site
- Which campaigns got the best results
- Which emails got the most opens and clickthroughs
- Which social media posts get the most sharing and clicks – and almost any other aspect of your online presence.
Early on, this raw data serves to set direction. As you create more content, you get more and more data points. Did I mention that 'content assets' have earned that title because the content that resonates best with your most qualified prospects continues to yield returns over time? They generate leads long after you first post them – for months and even years!
Time Leverages Results
The more data you get, the more relevant content and campaigns you can create. And beyond driving even more leads, your data can begin to support strategic as well as tactical marketing decisions. Here’s a case in point.
At a recent meeting of the Fairfield County, Conn. HubSpot User Group (HUG) that Austin Lawrence Group founded, members got into a discussion of how they’re using analytics. One member manages Inbound Marketing for a division of a Fortune 100 technology and business services company. She started Inbound Marketing using HubSpot about four years ago and told us a compelling story.
Recently she was able to point to Inbound Marketing results to make a case to management for expanding her department and adding headcount. Although early on she had been able to deliver sufficient results in traffic and lead growth to justify ongoing commitment to the Inbound process, the cumulative data points from a full four years allowed her to leverage results in a bigger way.
Another member – an entrepreneur who is a more recent adopter of Inbound -- shared his recognition that, while his initial expectations had been overly optimistic, he sees his metrics moving up and to the right month after month after month. He can see a clear path to continuing lead gen success and is managing his own impatience to enable longer term commitment to Inbound Marketing.
In Conclusion: Inbound marketers who stay the course are rewarded with a predictable number of qualified leads every month. Those who incorporate Inbound Sales strategy and tools boost their lead conversions to generate greater revenue.**
It takes time. And it’s worth it.
An Idea Worth Exploring
One additional -- and important -- point: Content is the fodder of Inbound Marketing, but not just any content. It must be credible content - based on your business and industry expertise - that is helpful to your prospect’s purchase journey, while differentiating your company from the competition.
To help companies and marketers develop high quality content that meets today’s demand for less commercial information, Austin Lawrence has developed a concept called Inbound Journalism to help customers differentiate and profit by featuring solid, constructive editorial coverage of their business linked to their CRM system. Learn more about it by downloading their new white paper here at no charge.
*What goes into developing Inbound Basics - and why - isn’t the point of this post, but we’re planning a future review of this critically important step. So subscribe to the blog to be notified when it posts, or check back often.
**Another reason to subscribe to our blog or return frequently is to read upcoming posts about Inbound Sales and Marketing integration and how it can build your business.