Why is My Inbound Marketing Not Working?

Inbound or outbound, it doesn’t matter. Marketing is one of the harder aspects of your business. The complexities stretch from business strategy (what your business is designed to do) to messaging (what you say about your business) to operations (how your business takes care of its customers) and competition (what other businesses are doing).

The online marketing tactics, which most people consider marketing, are often the least important. Yet, they get the most attention. The marketing strategy, which is the most important, often gets the least attention, if any. Ask any CEO: Do you want to change the way you talk about your business, or do you want to redo your website? The website is going to get picked every time.

This insight is based on over 10,000 hours of experience working with business owners, CEOs and marketing executives. Investing marketing dollars in marketing tactics for ordinary businesses is the fast track to disappointing results.

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make with their inbound marketing program. If you see your business here, don’t panic. There are fixes for almost all of them.

Your business looks and sounds like your competition.

I get it. It’s safe to do and say the same things as your competition. However, that won’t help you differentiate your business or help your prospects know why they’d want to do business with you.

To quote a famous marketer: “If you don’t have anything interesting to say about your business, don’t spend any money on marketing.”

Your business has to be different from all of the competitive options available. It has to be so different that it’s obvious why someone would pick you over your competition. You might not agree with or believe this, but it’s true. When we look back at all the companies we’ve worked with, the ones that got sold, doubled in size or hit their revenue growth goals were all remarkable in their industries.

You haven’t planned out your full complement of inbound marketing tactics.

Inbound is one of the most complex marketing exercises you’ll ever undertake. Your search strategy has to be connected to your content creation. Your website has to deliver a remarkable experience to your prospects in 10 seconds or less. Your content needs to talk to everyone up and down the sales funnel if you want leads. Your content has to drive social media engagement. Your content has to be interesting to influencers so you drive new visitors to your website. Is your head spinning yet? It should be.

Because it’s so complicated, planning becomes critical, but it gets worse. Don’t even think about planning for the entire year because it’s a waste of time. Inbound gives you so much data on the performance of your program that you should be adjusting your tactics every 30 to 90 days. Planning for the year gives you a plan you’ll never execute.

Now you have to be much more agile, adapting to the data and responding to what your prospects want in a very dynamic way. The faster you respond, the faster you get leads. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes expertise. And yes, it takes time.

Your tactical execution is not integrated.

We understand. Inbound is much different than the kind of marketing you're used to do. We know that you’re used to working with one company for your website, one company for your PR and one company for your SEO. That doesn’t work anymore.

If you have internal team members, keeping them focused on one aspect of marketing is a mistake, too. Take your event marketing person, your email marketing person, your social media marketing person and your website person, change all of their titles to Inbound Marketing Manager, and make them work together under the guidance of one single director who knows the strategy.

Now you have a team that can tie each of these historically disparate tactics together. Search drives content, content drives web, web drives social, social drives email, email drives video – everything is perfectly interconnected and orchestrated. The result? The kind of lead-gen you’re looking for.

You’ve underinvested in your marketing ROI.

If you’re a $10 million company, you should be spending at least $200,000 on marketing. Two percent of revenue is reasonable for a company that is in modest growth mode. That doesn’t include tickets to ball games, holiday cards, presents for your best clients on their birthdays, company SWAG or signage. That’s not marketing.

If you’re a $10 million company and you want to grow very aggressively, you should be prepared to spend $500,000 on marketing. Five percent of revenue is reasonable for a company with aggressive growth goals. What should be included in this budget is your website, email, search engine optimization, content creation, social media promotion (yes, even B2B companies need this), connection with influencers, technology like HubSpot, webinars, video marketing, graphic design and the agency that’s going to help you pull all of this complex stuff together.

The biggest takeaway from this part of the story is that the more you need, the more you should plan on investing. If you expect your marketing to work magic on the budget of a magician’s assistant, you’re going to be disappointed with the results.

You’re too involved.

Unless you’re an inbound expert, you’re probably too involved. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. Of all our best clients (the ones who got the best results), the consistent variable is client involvement. The clients who let us do what we do so well got much better results than the clients who insisted on being heavily involved in telling us what to do.

Just yesterday, a client told us that the website architecture and website design we recommended to them should be different. OK, I get it. It’s your business, so we’ll make it look and work like you think it should, but we’ve built and designed hundreds of sites and you’ve designed only your own. Who has a better chance of producing a site that converts visitors into leads? You don’t have to actually answer that.

Please let your inbound marketing agency do what you’re paying them to do. You will thank me a few months down the line when you’re getting the results you expected.

Actionable Advice: Inbound needs a continuous improvement approach to make it work. This means knowing when and how to make adjustments to the program based on the data presented. It requires a level of expertise and people who have practiced inbound enough to be able to interpret the data and respond to it with an action plan that produces better results, month over month.

Almost every program works. It’s the extent of that production that differs from client to client.

Get to know your own marketing, and make sure it keeps getting better month over month. If you can’t do that, you should consider reaching out to someone who can deliver this consistently.