Let’s face it. Marketers, as a whole, tend to be planners. We like to create road maps for accomplishing our objectives. We like to have control of those plans, and we have a really hard time calling something “complete” before it is perfect.
Many traditional marketing tactics fit very neatly into packages that can fulfill the need for control and perfection. Take events and trade shows as examples. Most can be broken down into pre, during and post event activities. There’s a list of defined things that must be done by certain dates to ensure success. Checking things off that list provides satisfaction. When an event or a show is done, it is done until the next year.
For traditional marketers (and the companies they work for), adopting an inbound marketing approach can be really exciting. The promise of better lead generation and the ability to tie efforts to results is like the holy grail of marketing. At least it was for me. I couldn’t wait to get started.
Skip ahead 4-6 months. Inbound marketing is still very exciting but boy...is there a lot going on! Blogging, white papers, checklists, videos, webinars, email marketing, lead nurturing, SEO, buyer personas, social media, metrics, testing, and it all needs to be managed at the same time...and it never ends. There is no start or stop. Everything is ongoing.
At this point, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Things tend to feel out of control instead of under control. Your first inclination may be to try to slow things down to regain a sense of control. You may feel the need to step back and assess the plan.
Stopping or even slowing down is a mistake. It takes time for your inbound efforts to take hold and start producing the results you so eagerly want to see. If you stop or even take a break, it will take even longer to start seeing the results.
Instead, it’s important that you fight the need for total control and learn how to manage the storm your inbound implementation has created. Thankfully there are some things you can do to help you feel less like Dorothy on her way to Oz and more like the effective marketer that you are. Here are five:
1. Know Your Buyer Personas
All effective inbound marketing approaches are built on a strong foundation. One of the key parts of that foundation is clearly defined buyer personas.
When you’re feeling like things are out of control, go back to your personas. Everything you’re doing and creating revolves around them and helping them solve the challenges they face. Keep your efforts grounded by refocusing on the bigger picture.
Of course, if your personas are incomplete or were not clearly defined, the storm you’re facing may be even bigger.
Also, keep in mind that you can’t learn more about your personas or verify the assumptions you’ve made about them if you’re not forging ahead with your inbound strategy. In order to measure and adjust, you have to have something to measure and adjust to.
2. Understand Your Goals
It’s hard to feel like you’re making progress if you’re not sure where you’re going. Defining and sharing the goals of your inbound effort is critical to success. After all, what gets measured gets done. However, it is important to recognize that small wins—especially in the early stages of an inbound implementation—are just as important as the quarterly and yearly goals.
Be sure you're setting weekly objectives. Maybe it’s testing a new promotion for blog content, a new style of social media update, or a new CTA design. Inbound works best when it’s the sum of dozens (or hundreds) of small experiments.
3. Reward the Baby Steps
Increasing revenue is the end game for all marketing approaches. To date, there hasn’t been a proven 3-step approach to marketing that is the magic bullet for all B2Bs. A successful approach is made up of many tactics.
When things are feeling out of control, take a step back and remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Every piece of content you create, social media post you publish and landing page you create are all just baby steps toward the overall goal. Reward yourself for staying on task and building your inbound marketing assets—one baby step at a time.
4. Be Flexible
One of my favorite things about inbound marketing is data. There is data available about everything...website visits, CTA conversions, blog post clicks, email opens...the list goes on and on.
Learn from this data. Adjust your approach when the data tells you to. Don’t write another blog post on a topic—even though the editorial calendar has one scheduled—that hasn’t resonated with your buyer personas. Change direction and write about something they have responded to.
On the surface, that may feel like you’re losing control in yet another way, but it is really the opposite. The data is allowing you to take more control.
5. Focus on Progress–Not Perfection
Many marketers fall into the perfection trap. We are naturally detail-oriented planners. We want things to happen exactly on schedule, exactly as we intended. Some even have a “the sky is falling” mentality when one element of the plan is not executed to perfection.
When implementing inbound marketing, it is sometimes impossible to get all of the parts coordinated seamlessly. For example, when releasing a new piece of premium content, the experts say you should write a blog post to introduce it. You should promote it using social media. You should have a call to action on your homepage. You should include it in an email campaign.
While all of that is true and represents the ideal situation, if your premium content is ready to be released and you’ve written the blog post to go with it but haven’t had time to write and schedule social media just yet, go ahead and publish the blog post. Don’t hold up the release of the premium content because one piece isn’t ready. If you wait until all of the stars are aligned, you may never get anything done.
Creating premium content and sharing it with your blog subscribers is progress. If the other steps occur over the next few days, the roll out wasn’t perfect but still represents progress.
Inbound marketing has a lot of moving parts. Managing all of those parts can present a very real challenge—one that takes you out of your comfort zone. By accepting that an inbound approach is different from a traditional one in many ways, you'll be better equipped to deal with the storminess.