Does inbound marketing work? It depends.
If it’s actually supporting your business and marketing goals, then it is.
A common mistake many marketers make is to create content and inbound tactics for the sake of it, without a clear understanding of what they want to achieve.
So, if you want to know if your inbound marketing efforts are working for you, you must follow these four steps.
#1 - Define your marketing goals
What do you want to accomplish with your inbound marketing strategy? If there are no set goals, there’s no way to measure results.
Content creators must understand the overall objectives of the company and create materials accordingly.
Here are some common goals for inbound marketing:
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Sales (of course!)
- Customer retention
- Upsell/cross-sell of products or services
- Job applicants
It's not enough to say that you want more leads or to increase sales. You must set specific and measurable goals.
For example, a good aim would be: Our goal is to reach 50,000 visitors, 1,000 leads, and 100 customers within the next 6 months from our inbound marketing efforts, to reach $1,000,000 in sales.
You arrive at this goal starting with the end in mind. In the scenario above, senior management decided that the goal of the business is to generate one million dollars from inbound marketing efforts. Each customer brings on average $10,000, so you’d need 100 customers.
Knowing your closing rate and the number of opportunities you need to convert MQLs into SQLs, you can then define how many leads you need to obtain those hundred customers (1,000 in the example above).
Finally, estimate how much traffic you need over the desired period to generate that number of leads — which take us to the next step.
#2 - Set key performance indicators (KPIs)
You’ll use these KPIs to assess the effectiveness of your content and they include web traffic like in the goal we set in the previous step.
Here are some common metrics for each type of inbound marketing goals:
- Brand awareness: web traffic, page or video views, downloads, referral links, social media mentions
- Engagement: comments on blog and social media posts, likes, shares, tweets, email forwards
- Lead generation: completed email sign-up forms, download forms, blog subscriptions, conversion rates
- Sales: online and offline sales for specific products
- Customer retention: renewal rates, percentage of content consumed by customers
- Upsell/cross-sell of products or services: sales of new products or services to existing customers
You can even go deeper and set KPIs for each type of content you produce. Take a look at the following chart from the Content Marketing Institute,
Don’t just go after all of the above for the sake of measuring. Pick only those that support your primary goals and that will be actually useful in improving your strategy.
In the following step we’ll see how.
#3 - Develop a plan to gather data
How are you going to get information about the performance of your content? You must set up analytic tools and processes.
Google Analytics is the most popular tool but there are others like ClickMeter and CrazyEgg.
These tools allow you to see data about traffic, navigation and conversions. You can see where the traffic comes from, whether from organic search, direct traffic, paid ads or social media referrals - and you can set it up to show you the path visitors took from the moment they entered your site until conversion.
Check out this article on How to Use the 4 Most Helpful Reports in Google Analytics.
Set up a process to track the conversions of the main KPIs you’re after. If your goal is lead generation and your main KPI for that goal is form completion, don’t focus on measuring social media likes. Instead, dive deeper into that main KPI, looking into your analytics reports for data that will help you understand where those leads are coming from (traffic source, landing page, etc.).
#4 - Assign people to collect, report and analyze the data
There must be someone in your team in charge of this task to get it done. The good news is that the process can be automated so your team can access the reports you need to measure your KPIs.
However, these reports are of no use if the data is not analyzed and used to take action. You may see that your landing pages have high bounce rates (the percentage of visitors who enter your site and then leave without visiting other pages), meaning that they’re not taking your desired action (like filling out a form).
Then you must report that to the team and make some changes to your call to actions or the design, and then do some testing to see if conversions increase.
It’s all about the ROI
The overall stats show that inbound marketing works for most companies, both in cost effectiveness and social engagement.
For instance, according to a report by IMPACT, “the average cost for one outbound marketing lead is around $332 compared to the significantly lower $134 cost of an inbound lead.” The same report cites that regardless if you're B2B, B2C, or nonprofit, you are 3x more likely to see a higher ROI with inbound marketing than outbound.
I believe that aligning an inbound with an outbound strategy can yield greater results. After gathering inbound leads online, you can use outbound methods to follow up with them, qualify them and close the deals.
How? Calling those leads who have downloaded your content or visited your event stand, but have not replied to your follow up emails. And if calling doesn’t work, try all the channels in you arsenal. SMS, social, direct mail, etc. The possibilities these days are endless.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the return on investment. So if you begin by aligning your business goals to your inbound marketing goals and follow the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be on your way to making inbound marketing work for you.
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