If you've started an inbound marketing program at your company, you know it's no easy feat. Grasping the concepts of inbound and putting them into action are two very different things. You have a never-ending editorial calendar to manage, gated content to create, social media activity to stay on top of, SEO strategy and tactics to execute on, website changes, endless metrics to analyze, etc., etc., etc.
The more you dig in, the more complicated it gets. New challenges continually surface and the thrill of the new program starts to wear off amongst your team. How do you prevent burnout, move to "2.0" sophistication with your program, and keep the results on an upward path?
Consider these guiding principles for sustained team success.
Resources, Capabilities and Expertise
Doing anything well requires the right resources, capabilities, and expertise. Of course, you'll need the right budget to execute an inbound marketing program well, but you'll also need the right team to make the most of that budget.
Inbound marketing is a comprehensive approach, not a tactic, that requires specialized skillsets. Your team is only as good as your weakest link. And if you're missing a link to this comprehensive approach, your results will suffer. Does your team have specialized experts for writing, social media, web design/development, strategy, analytics, SEO, and lead management?
One-person marketing "teams" cannot execute inbound marketing alone. We've seen this approach fail time and time again. If you don't have the right resources, capabilities, or expertise, it may be time to consider outsourcing some activity to an inbound marketing agency.
Results Stem from Accountability
Your inbound marketing program starts at the highest level with your desired goal. What are the business growth goals you are working towards? Is it 30% sales growth over prior year? 25 new customers by the end of your fiscal year?
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) will help point you in the right direction each month towards this goal, exposing the areas in which you’re excelling and those in which you’re falling short. These are important, but you’ll manage by metrics much more frequently than your KPI’s. Manage your metrics daily, weekly, and monthly to improve your performance.
Once you have your goals, KPI’s and metrics in place, it’s important to remember that inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Results will take time and keeping your team and leadership engaged means celebrating the progress and small victories. Showing the cause and effect of your inbound activity can keep the momentum and excitement going. When you see a particular blog generate significant traffic or a new content piece generate an exceptional amount of leads, share the results and learnings with the team and leadership!
Conversely, showing the effect of a lack of activity can be just as effective. If your subject matter experts have been lax with blog assignments, which, in turn, has slowed your pace of blogging, present the negative effect it has on your traffic and new leads.
Everyone Plays a Role
One of the most common reasons an inbound marketing program fails is because of a lack of organizational and/or leadership buy-in. Your inbound marketing team cannot carry the entire weight of an inbound marketing program on its back. The faster your organization adopts inbound marketing as a company-wide priority and sets the expectation that everyone plays a role, the better off you’ll be.
Be sure to invest the time needed to educate your organization on the why, what and how of inbound marketing. Start from the top and include everyone that interacts with your customers or your prospects (sales, customer service, account managers, leadership) as well as those that are adding value in other ways (engineers, for example). We’ve seen organizational buy-in accomplished in different ways, but we've seen a half or full day workshop that's inclusive of everyone in these roles work wonders for gaining that buy-in.
Not a writer? Not a problem.
Often times, those outside of your Marketing team may think the only way they can contribute to the inbound marketing plan is by writing. Not the case at all.
Your subject matter experts (SME's) that are less comfortable with writing can be just as helpful being an interviewed by someone who is, as long as they are willing to participate. Or, they may be better speaking on video. Find out where each SME shines and cater to what works best for them.
Ideas for content can be just as valuable as your content generators, too. Your customer service, account reps and sales reps hear the questions your customers and prospects ask everyday. If they all embrace a publishing mindset, you should have a never ending stream of content ideas. Just make sure you have an outlet for them to share the ideas with you.
Marketing + Sales = Growth
Lastly, don't under estimate the importance of Sales in the planning and execution of your program. Without Sales, your carefully nurtured leads will never be converted to customers. Working together to define what qualified leads look like, how many leads your Sales team needs, and the protocols to manage them is part of an ongoing process. Start with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the two departments and enable a culture of Sales & Marketing teamwork to accomplish your goals.
Bringing It All Together
Managing an inbound team has it's own unique challenges, but hey, that's what makes it fun. Add the right attitude and enthusiasm to these principles and your team, as well as your organization, will be in great shape for business growth!