Many digital marketing agencies and software vendors like to tell a similar story when it comes to inbound marketing.
Apparently, inbound marketing is incredibly easy, generates results instantly and is a good strategic investment for any organization of any size, operating within any industry.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but none of these statements are true.
While my revelation may seem obvious, everywhere I look, I still see people buying into the false notion that inbound is this cheap and easy miracle strategy. They think you can slap together a blog, build a landing page, gate a white paper or case study, and then sit back and wait for the leads to pour in.
Sure, some people might stumble across your site or even download a resource or two, but I promise you’ll never see a meaningful or sustained ROI on your program with this kind of light-touch approach.
The truth is that inbound, like anything else that actually works, requires a significant amount of resources — in terms of budget and internal bandwidth — to do it right. However, when executed properly, the ends more than justify the means.
Here are three commonly overlooked components that any inbound marketing strategy should have to be successful.
1. Great Content
While this should, in theory, be a no-brainer, it seems a lot of companies still believe that quantity is more important than quality. This may have been true back in the early days of search engine optimization (SEO); however, it has never been true of the inbound model.
Regular publishing is important, but the idea here is that your content doesn’t just boost your organic visibility on search engines; it’s actually being read and influencing your target audience’s decision making process.
In order to make a real impact, your content needs to be:
• High-quality: Pieces should be well-written, easy to understand, genuinely helpful and relevant to your audience, and they should represent an original point of view.
• Diverse: You need a range of collateral types to engage your audience at different points throughout the funnel. That means generating how-tos, topical updates, press releases, case studies, thought leadership pieces, white papers and more.
• Dynamic: Getting someone’s attention on search or social is only half the battle; you need to hold onto it as well. Your content should strike a balance between beauty and substance. Utilize dynamic media types like digital stories, infographics and video to break through the noise and communicate your ideas more effectively.
2. A Comprehensive Distribution Strategy
The second piece of your inbound strategy is distribution. There’s not much use in generating loads of beautiful content unless it gets in front of your target audience.
The most obvious (and inexpensive) outlets are search engines and social media. Your SEO and social strategies will certainly play a major role in driving organic traffic to your site.
That said, if you want to reach new audiences and generate exponential growth over time, you need to be more aggressive — and precise.
Identify the platforms that are most relevant to your base — LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. — and invest in paid advertising campaigns. It’s an added expense, but the targeting options and data insights facilitate a high degree of accuracy, giving you more control over the ROI.
Additionally, you’ll want to start contributing to well-established trade publications in order to tap into their captive base (on-site, social followers and email subscribers, etc.) and boost the visibility of your brand. Many of these publications offer paid placements, but contributor slots can often be earned if you put in the proper legwork and build your credibility as an author.
3. Robust Down-Funnel Infrastructure
So, now you’re creating great content and distributing it through all the right channels, but how does this translate to new revenue for your business?
This is probably the biggest sticking point for most ROI-negative inbound programs: What do you do with all that website traffic once it arrives at your doorstep?
First, you need to invest in some sort of automated infrastructure. There are all sorts of processes you can automate: lead scoring, nurturing, even qualification.
Ultimately, how much automation you need depends on several different factors, including the size of your business, the amount of traffic being driven to your site and the capacity of your sales operation.
Of course, automation is all well and good, but at some point, your sales team will actually have to step in and take over.
In order to ensure this handoff goes smoothly and that your marketing efforts are fueling your sales apparatus rather than stifling it, these two departments must work in close collaboration with one another.
Is marketing delivering an appropriate volume of leads given your sales capacity? Does the automated qualification align with the sales team’s qualification criteria? Is the sales team aware of and/or on board with the messaging your inbound program is disseminating?
It’s great to see an uptick in key metrics like site traffic, conversions, etc., but, ultimately, the success of any marketing initiative boils down to how much revenue it brings in. When you align your sales and marketing processes, everyone benefits. When you don’t, the whole system breaks down.
All this is to say that if you’re considering investing in a small-scale or fragmented marketing program, I would save your money. Inbound is a go-big-or-go-home strategy.
Feature Image Credit: Getty
COO of NYC-based digital agency and media company L&T. Directs client strategy and project delivery.