Inbound marketing has been the standard for quite some time now, but maybe you’re still wondering what the inbound marketing benefits are, how an inbound marketing strategy works, and how long it takes to start seeing meaningful inbound marketing results. If you’ve asked any of those questions, don’t worry; you’re not alone.
When approaching inbound marketing, there are usually a few questions that come up: does inbound marketing work? This is often quickly followed up with something along the lines of how long does it take to start working or what does inbound marketing success look like? The answer to the first question is easy enough—yes, inbound marketing absolutely works—but the remaining questions are, for better or for worse, a little trickier to answer.
Inbound marketing is built on the premise that the customer is in charge so that when they’re ready to make a purchase, they’ll come to you with their needs. To get a customer to come to you, however, you need to not only be on their radar, but you also need to own that radar. This means establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, and doing that takes time.
Even if you’re a veteran in your industry, you still have to earn the trust of your target audience. Trust isn’t built overnight either—although it sure would be convenient if it did. Instead, trust is built through the development and implementation of your company’s inbound marketing strategy.
You’re undoubtedly familiar with the idea of inbound marketing—at this point you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t—but for the sake of this blog, let’s revisit HubSpot’s definition: “Inbound is a method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust.”
Inbound marketing is a process, and that process will look different to everyone who partakes in it. While you will see results, there isn’t a convenient “one-size-fits-all” marketing timeline that will give a company an irrefutable roadmap for all their present and future success. However, with the right expectations, and more importantly, the right goals, you can outline a roadmap that will help you stay on track and see the results you should be seeing.
Good Results Come From a Good Inbound Strategy
Inbound marketing is almost more of a lifestyle than it is a strategy. While you certainly need an airtight strategy to see quantifiable results, you also don’t want that strategy to be so insulated that you can’t adapt it to the ever-changing needs of both your company and its target audience.
In case you need a reminder, here’s a simple outline of what an inbound strategy should look like:
- Step 1: Define your buyer personas
- Step 2: Describe your marketing triggers
- Step 3: Create a list of target keywords
- Step 4: Set your goals (more on this in a moment)
- Step 5: Build a content strategy
- Step 6: Design a lead nurturing process
- Step 7: Invest in a marketing platform
- Step 8: Recruit experts with the skills you need
These steps are pretty universal, and you can’t easily go wrong by sticking to them. But these steps are also reasonably broad, and that’s intentional. Nothing here tells your brand what kind of buyer personas to create, or what your marketing triggers should be, or even what marketing platform is worth your time. Your strategy needs to be yours, which means you need to customize it to your brand’s goals.
Once you’ve established goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, then you’re ready to get going. These SMART goals will give your company a direction to strive toward, so make sure that everyone on your team is familiar with them.
For example, if one of your goals is to increase traffic to your website by 25% by the end of next quarter (the more specific you can be with your goals, the better off you’ll be), then you can start taking actions that will help you achieve that goal. This could mean producing more blog content, investing in paid advertising, or overhauling your SEO strategy.
The actual goals you set aren’t as crucial as just having goals of some kind. You can set up a meticulously detailed inbound marketing strategy, with every one of the steps listed above broken down into a series of sub-steps, but if you don’t have goals to pursue, then your strategy will just run its wheels without going anywhere meaningful.
Without goals, you can’t be sure of your progress, and if you don’t know how you’re progressing, then you can’t measure your inbound marketing results. Inbound marketing is all about growth, and if you want results (and everyone does), then you need to build up to them by creating and launching a thoughtful, SMART-driven strategy.
If you need an illustration, then take a look at this example from HubSpot, which outlines the steps of an inbound marketing strategy and assigns a timeline to each marketing activity:
This isn’t an iron-clad strategy, of course, but as an example, it can help you visualize what an inbound strategy looks like. It’s a multi-step process, and as such, it takes time and commitment to see success in each phase.
Even if you’re getting anxious and want to see more results faster, it’s crucial that you don’t skimp on the strategy process. Like Forbes says, “the information gathered here is foundational to all future inbound endeavors. Without spending appropriate time interviewing and researching personas, researching content, understanding pain points for these personas, and mapping their journey, you can seriously hamper the impact of all inbound content you put out.”
Remember, you’re building a foundation here, and without a firm foundation, the results you hope to see may not reach as high as you want them to.
What Types of Marketing Produce the Best Results For Your Inbound Marketing Strategy?
Once you’ve set up an inbound marketing strategy, you can start producing the content that will kick that strategy into high-gear. The tricky part is that all of the many forms inbound marketing can take will yield different results at a different rate.
A good strategy is going to have a diverse variety of marketing content though, so even if a specific kind of collateral doesn’t sound like it will be of value to your brand, remember that the goal is to build your expertise and trustworthiness in the eyes of the consumer. With that aim in mind, here are some of the best types of marketing you can (and should) make use of to produce meaningful, actionable results:
- Social Media: Marketing content on social media can be the secret to magnifying your brand’s relevance, visibility, and approachability. Social media connects you with your audience in a laid back environment where you can get to know them, learn what their interests are, and then use that information to generate and nurture actionable leads.
- Blogging: If you don’t already have a blog for your company, then you should remedy that immediately. Relevant, industry-specific blog posts are fundamental to your success, as they equip your website with evergreen content that will build ROI and SEO-authority over time. Like Entrepreneur says, “Ensure that you blog effectively. Don't post thin content.” And don’t worry about giving away all your industry secrets either. “Give people so much value that you instantly become an authority in their eyes.”
- Emails: Every good marketing strategy should have an email marketing sequence built into it. Emails are the best tool for lead nurturing, as they make it easy for you to follow-up with someone who has reached out to you. Did someone fill out a form on your site? Email them with relevant content. Are they already a customer? Then regularly send them updates that keep your brand top-of-mind so when they’re ready to do business again, they know who to turn to.
- Content Offers: Also known as “gated content,” these pieces of content provide ebooks, whitepaper, case studies, or other high-value material in exchange for a filled-out contact form. This generates a lead for your sales team to follow-up with while also demonstrating that your brand is a trustworthy industry expert.
There’s a lot of content your marketing team can produce that isn’t listed here—infographics, videos, calculators, podcasts, press releases, webinars, and more—but these four should be the foundation for your content marketing strategy.
Evergreen content can help build ROI and SEO over-time, content offers will generate leads, and email marketing will nurture those leads. They each bring something unique to your inbound marketing strategy and produce valuable results, but the delivery of those results is still a building process. The more content you produce, the more results you’re likely to see, but be patient. Even the best content takes time to gain traction.
Can You Speed Up the Inbound Process?
Inbound is anchored in the idea that customers should come to you, not the other way around, and that means you need to be patient and focus on producing the best content, offer the best services, and be ever-prepared to welcome anyone and everyone who reaches out to you.
If you need more immediate results, however, then there are ways you can help expedite the results you see in certain areas of your inbound marketing strategy. If you broaden your budget and start investing in paid media and ads, then you can fast-track your lead generation and build a more significant contact database in less time.
Even the most helpful content on the market isn’t beneficial if no one can find it, and the odds of someone coming across your content accidentally is very low. While you can (and should) have an SEO strategy in place to help make sure your content gets seen, it will still take time before your content begins to appear in organic search results.
This is where paid media can help. By paying a fee to leverage a third-party channel, like Google, you can put your content and brand in front of more people. Paid placements and advertisements in channels that you know your target audience already frequent can give your brand a stronger voice and a higher chance of being discovered, shared and embraced by the right people.
You can even do this on social media (especially on LinkedIn) via group sharing. When you get connected to your target audience—and industry peers—on social media, you unlock a direct-line to the people you most want to be marketing to. Leveraging social media groups, and increasing the frequency of your posts, can go a long way toward expanding your brand’s reach and help speed up the inbound process by exposing more people to your brand and its offerings.
If you’re looking to expedite the inbound marketing process, then you should not only familiarize yourself with paid media but also with the difference between owned media and earned media. To help illustrate the distinctions between these three forms of marketing media here’s a graph that Forrester Research Inc. created, and Small Business Trends shared:
All three forms of media contribute in their own way to the overall success of your inbound marketing strategy, but if you’re concerned about your marketing timeline and the inbound marketing results you hope to see, then emphasizing paid media can go a long way toward generating more leads in less time. Be careful, though, as there are forms of paid advertising that stray into outbound marketing methodologies, and these ads will turn prospects away from your brand instead of inviting them in.
Building a Foundation for Success
Inbound isn’t a rocket; you can’t flip a switch and catapult yourself into the stratosphere of success. As convenient as that would be, that’s not how inbound works. And even if it was, immediately launching your brand into success isn’t a sustainable strategy, as even the most powerful rocket engines eventually burn out.
Instead, you need to view your inbound marketing strategy as a staircase that evolves into an escalator that will later become an elevator; you’re always going up, and the more time you spend moving, the faster that movement will become.
According to a HubSpot study that collected data from over five-thousand customers and surveys from 236 professionals, it was revealed that not do 93% of companies see an increase in lead generation as a result of inbound marketing, but also that over 80% saw results within the first seven months of their strategy.
While it’s not impossible to see results from your inbound marketing strategy within the first month or two, results take time to truly get moving. If you’re growing concerned with your marketing timeline, remember that you’re building something, and building a foundation for all your future successes can’t happen overnight.
Forbes says it like this: “To truly be successful in inbound marketing, you need to jump straight in. No trial run. No dipping your feet in the water. Fully commit, stay engaged and patient, and you will see positive results.” Inbound marketing is the most reliable way to grow your company and its audience, and the more you invest into it, the more you’ll get out of it.