It can take months to develop a true sense of your inbound marketing ROI. Don’t let impatience knock you off track during the tough foundational work that will gradually kickstart the inbound lead generation process. Your strategy will take time to mature and produce the coveted inbound marketing leads you’ve been hunting for. But how much time?
Inbound marketing doesn’t happen overnight. It could take six to nine months to start generating a steady flow of leads with your inbound marketing strategy. This is only a vague estimate, and your own results may differ.
In reality, the time it takes to produce new inbound marketing leads can vary wildly between businesses and depends on many factors—both inside and outside the company. Some businesses will see an impact much more quickly (perhaps in three to four months) while others could need most of the first year to gain digital traction.
This doesn’t mean inbound marketing is better or worse for either company. Rather, it’s a reflection of the unique challenges they face.
Where Is Your Inbound Baseline Now?
We’d all appreciate a standard timeline that applies to everyone, but alas. The time it will take before you start seeing a real impact on lead generation depends upon your starting point. What’s the current state of your digital marketing efforts?
- Is your website totally new or well established?
- Are you getting 3,000 visits/month, or just 300?
- Are your social media accounts all active, targeted, and engaged?
- Do you have active prospect lists that can be lead nurtured with content?
- Do you have an existing content foundation?
In addition to these baselines, you’ll be impacted by the overall speed of your strategy implementation, the resources you invest, and market context. For example, each market experiences different levels of competition, and B2B businesses use different inbound marketing lead generation strategies and face different obstacles than B2C.
Patience, Young Grasshopper; Inbound Is Near
In the 1970’s TV series “Kung Fu,” protagonist Cain is nicknamed grasshopper by Master Po, a teacher who sees patience and restraint as the epitome of martial arts skill.
Like Cain, you must practice patience and manage your expectations to see inbound marketing ROI. In some cases it can take 6 months or more to see sizable traffic increases. Inbound marketing leads (and customers) can take even longer.
If you’re working with a marketing agency, it’s common to feel disappointment or disillusionment after that initial onboarding honeymoon phase starts to fade away, but the results haven’t shown up yet. This delay between the effort required for an inbound marketing strategy and the returns on your investment creates the “gap of disappointment.”
Managing expectations is paramount to success. Think of inbound like a steam engine—it’s hard work shoveling that coal as the train chugs and chugs itself slowly up to speed, but keep at it through the tough middle period on that chart, and eventually, you’ll gain traction and the lead flow will follow.
A study posted on HubSpot tracked 18 months of inbound marketing efforts to calculate the average hourly impact. After 18 months and 862 total hours devoted to inbound marketing, the figures showed that for each hour of work, inbound marketing produced 130 visits and 3.24 leads.
HubSpot’s customers, by the way, average a total of 9,100 leads after 1.5 years of inbound marketing. So the inbound marketing leads are there at the end of the tunnel, but you’ve got to be patient and stay focused to get there. With that said, where do you begin?
First You Need to Grow Inbound Traffic
92.34 % of companies using inbound marketing see increases to their web traffic. Where there is traffic, there are potential leads. But as we’ve said, an inbound strategy is not an overnight fix.
Why the delay?
Well, this isn’t outbound. You’re building relationships, and that takes time. You’ve also got to lay a lot of groundwork. It takes time in the early months to:
- Understand the competition and market conditions
- Learn about your customers/prospects (pain points, motivations, job stories, etc.)
- Develop buyer personas
- Map a content strategy and calendar (usually in 90-day chunks)
- Do keyword research
- Optimize your website
- Set up automation software (workflows, drip campaigns, sales sequences)
- Create valuable content (blogs, webinars, podcasts, videos, eBooks)
- Build landing pages and CTAs for gated content
- Segment contact lists and distribute targeted emails
- Establish an analytics dashboard (like Databox)
That’s quite a laundry list already, and it’s not all-inclusive. But each facet makes a necessary contribution to the big picture. Lead management automation, for instance, has been shown to bump company revenue up by 10% (or more) after 6 to 9 months.
The first steps can take weeks or months (depending on your preparation and readiness). It often takes at least 6 months to see a real impact on traffic growth. You can start to monitor gains as early as the second month, but don’t jump to any conclusions until you’ve got at least 6 on record.
Next, Convert Traffic Into Leads
Traffic will only produce qualified inbound marketing leads if:
- Visitors match your ideal customer profiles (buyer personas)
- You include “gates” (landing pages that ask for contact info in exchange for content—eBooks, whitepapers, free consultations, etc.)
With both being true, the leads will start to fill your funnel shortly after the traffic has arrived. 83.9% of companies using inbound marketing increase their leads within about 7 months.
Still, you won’t see a clear “big picture” until you’ve got a full year of history to review. Sales metrics tend to take a bit longer before they grow—leads are not the same as customers, after all. They’re still only prospects. But 49.7% of companies using inbound marketing increase sales within 7 months.
The Good News: You Can Speed Up Inbound Results
You get out what you put in. While nothing can turn inbound into an instant fix, there are plenty of ways to lay a solid groundwork that will accelerate the process and generate inbound marketing leads more quickly. The timeline is largely up to you. Here are a few tips:
- Allocate more hours and personnel to the setup tasks (to get them done faster).
- Provide more resources. Inbound is cost effective, but your financial commitment has a tremendous influence on its potential.
- Produce more content. More blogs, social media posts, emails, content offers, and landing pages = more traffic and leads. Marketers who post 15+ blogs per month average 1,200 monthly leads.
- Quality and relevance matter. If your content is closely aligned to personas and creates real value for them, it will be far more effective at converting visitors to leads to customers.
- Budget for paid spending to increase traffic to content and conversion paths initially such as eBooks and landing pages.
- Leverage social media campaigns for spreading the word to larger groups of people, look at the frequency of posting, times of day, buyer persona groups and partnerships/ cross promotions.
Other Variables that Contribute to Inbound Success
Not all inbound marketing leads are created equal. The length of your sales cycle may vary with your industry and the LTV of an average customer. Your niche will experience a unique level of friction, competition, and over-or-undersaturation that can mess with the dials on the egg timer for your inbound lead generation strategy.
The follow up speed of your sales team is also critical to making the most of your inbound marketing leads. Use an SLA between marketing and sales to ensure that MQLs meet a rigorous standard and that sales are held to a punctual engagement timeline. Recent studies have shown that the odds you’ll even be able to contact a lead are 100 times higher if you call within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes.
New technologies (discussed in the above article) are hitting the scene to facilitate near-instantaneous response times. If you respond to contact from a lead within an hour, you’re also 7 times more likely to convert them. As you can see, effective digital marketing is not only about how long it takes to get inbound marketing leads—but what you do with them once they arrive.
Finally, place your trust in your partner. An expert consultant or digital marketing agency knows their craft—they can show you how to generate inbound leads effectively. Experienced advice and guidance are essential to making your inbound turnaround as efficient as possible.