In general, a lot of businesses are not creating a steady stream of leads from their website. Our prospects are saying to themselves “I don’t want to make the investment, wait 6 months and be dumping money into something that isn’t working, only to find that it’s going to take another 6 months to show a return. I need to know how long we invest before results show.” So let’s look at how inbound marketing gains traction from day 1, and when executed correctly, produces measurable ROI in 6 months or less.
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Betsy: Good afternoon, and thank you to everyone who is joining us on the Hangout today. Today we’re going to be talking about how to measurably profit from inbound marketing in six months or less.
Here with me today is Rob Bailey. He’s the co-founder and CEO of PageLadder. Thanks for joining me, Rob.
Rob: You’re welcome. Thanks, Betsy.
Betsy: Rob, if it’s okay with you, I kind of wanted to center today’s conversation a bit more around a statistic. It’s one that I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with because you discussed it before.
Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, recently stated that 93 percent of business to businesses do content marketing, but of those only 49 percent have a content strategy. I was kind of hoping to look at content and discuss it in terms of this statistic, and revolve and break down this stat, and try and understand why this is the case.
Rob: Yeah, definitely. This is a great one to talk about because I think there are two main things, two interesting things, about that stat. The first one is that Joe wrote sort of a state of the content marketing industry intro article in his last CMI Institute magazine. In the cover article he just sort of explained how he thought that things were getting better in the content marketing industry. The marketing was getting better for content marketers, definitely improving.
But, one thing that he found was that there was this large discrepancy in the B2B space in particular where the companies that had a content marketing strategy had a clear advantage. We can talk a little bit about how that relates to time to get to ROI here in a second I guess.
But, one of the other really interesting things he said was that even though about 49 percent of those B2B marketers reported having a plan, he thought it was a little more like 15 percent had an actual plan…
Betsy: Oh wow.
Rob: …which is a big… Yeah. His take on it was that most of the marketers that reported saying they had a plan really just had something that looked more like a glorified blogging calendar. In other words, they were publishing content on a consistent basis, but there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy or planning behind that content. So, it was more like just an arbitrary output rather than something that sort of moves the needle…
Rob: …and achieves a bigger goal. If you look at it from that perspective, Joe’s the guy who has the pulse of the industry. You look at how many businesses are operating with an actual content marketing plan that can get them results fast. I mean there’s just not that many out there doing it right now.
That’s something to really be aware of when you look at those stats. A lot of people who claim that they have a plan have just never seen an actual content marketing plan before. So, they don’t even really know what it is yet, if that makes sense.
Betsy: Okay, absolutely. To give our listeners a better idea, what is a good content marketing plan? Clearly, we’ve established that it’s not just the production of the content but it’s the thought that goes into the creation of the content.
Can you kind of address, I guess, the initial question of how to measurably profit inbound marketing. What can you put into your strategy or plan to kind of know that you’re going to ramp up to get that ROI?
Rob: Yeah, that’s a great question. A good plan for us… Here at PageLadder we have a very distinct process and planning method that we use. Every time that we do an onboarding project for a client we do a discovery call where we identify the client personas. What we do is we spend a lot of time and a lot of energy figuring out what the client’s sales process is like.
The reason that we do that is every content marketing plan that we execute is based around the… It’s a customer centric plan, essentially. So, it’s based around your prospects’ and your customers’ wants and needs. It’s not about pushing your message out there or pushing out more content about your product.
It’s much more of a pull where you’re answering your prospects’ most desired questions and hitting on their emotional triggers by being helpful first and solving their problem mostly through blogging but through other content channels as well. Doing that first really creates this foot in the door strategy that has the highest chance of converting.
To us, we try to mirror the sales process with the inbound marketing plan and the content marketing plan. That gives us a really clear direction of what to do, because we’re no longer trying to chase after customers. We’re sort of trying to track them by answering the questions that they have naturally throughout the sales process, and then using them on the website in a way that nurtures them over a long period of time once they start engaging with that content.
Betsy: Okay, wonderful. One of the objections that kind of comes up with some of the clients we have who come in, they have a misconception, you know, inbound marketing, it takes too long to gain traction. They’re really looking at the issue of time not the time necessarily for the content production but the time of implementation.
Can you speak to that a little bit about what is a reasonable expectation to have and what is guiding the amount of time it takes for inbound marketing to be effective?
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. That’s another good question. We run into this objection all the time. The reason is it’s actually not unwarranted. Just a few years ago there were very few tools out there that you could deploy quickly within six months or a year just to even get the stuff out there and get it working and live.
But, today the tools are getting better and faster, and the processes are becoming way more efficient. A lot of that is just, again, people just don’t know that there is a better way to do it yet.
But, the things that I think get you to the under six months mark are really clear. With our clients, for example, and with other agencies where we’ve seen them have under six month’s high ROI campaigns, there are a couple of things that went on. I’ll just explain them really quickly and you can ask me about them if you want. I’m happy to…
Betsy: Awesome, yeah, thanks.
Rob: …give detail. The first one is that they deployed the campaign extremely quickly. On average, we deploy our clients’ campaigns, the initial onboarding project gets done within six weeks.
So, what does that mean? We set up the clients’ marketing automation software. We deploy the landing pages, follow up emails, and thank you emails. We create the premium content with the client. We create the premium blog posts with the client.
We get all that content deployed on the website. We use call to actions to tie it all together, and then we do all the keyword research and all the normal stuff to get it found like the traditional SEO stuff as well. We get all that done within six weeks which, again, is not like… I mean a few years ago if you talked to someone about it done that fast they’d be like well you must’ve just slapped it together somehow, right.
But, now you can actually get a really good product out there super quickly. That’s the first thing.
The second part of it is in the first 90 days we’ve found that consistently if our clients are blogging and really putting good content out there that helps their prospects, helps answer their prospects’ most burning questions, in the first 90 days in particular, that really has gotten the most amount of leads in the pipeline the fastest.
You know, I’ve seen some folks out there who are doing inbound marketing but they just haven’t even started blogging yet, and I just don’t understand that. Because blogging is the lowest hanging fruit. It’s the easiest thing to deploy and get out the fastest. Every time you create a new blog post it’s cumulative, because you start getting a little bit of traffic from each new blog post that you write. And, it stays there and continues to get traffic.
Those are the two biggest things in the first 30 days, I’m sorry, the first 90 days, like the first quarter. In the second quarter it’s all about tuning, optimizing, finding where the bottlenecks are in your pipeline, and going back and addressing those. Improve them to make them a little better, make them convert a little better based on the data.
Then, you also, again, if you have any other initiatives like promoting the premium content that’s been deployed or if you need a little exposure like going out and trying to garner some activity on the content that you created, those are good activities to do in the second quarter. By the time those come to fruition by the end of month six you should have a full pipeline of new prospects that you’ve never had before if you’ve never done inbound marketing previous to then.
So, you really can get it done within six months and start achieving ROI very fast. We’ve had a couple of clients who’ve done it in just over three months where they already had opportunities that led to closed leads that paid for the service in full and they were profiting from it from then on.
Betsy: Wow. Well, it sounds like in addition to getting that ROI there’s something to be said for the campaign becoming effective prior to that. So, even if you’re not getting that measurable ROI you actually do have an effectiveness that, like you said, is building up and ramping up.
Rob: Yeah. Keep in mind there’s more than one benefit to inbound marketing. One of the smaller additional benefits outside of just lead generation in general is that you are constantly filling your pipeline with prospects at different stages of the buying process. So, you’re building a lot of information, qualified leads, or people who you’re building awareness with.
They’re not quite ready to look at a service provider yet or solutions provider, but they’ve downloaded a white paper, they’ve engaged with some blog posts and maybe some pages on your site, and they’re not ready now but they could be in the future. They’re in your database and you have the ability to give them a soft reminder in the next quarter, let’s say.
Then, you also have people who’ve looked at different service providers and for one reason or another maybe they just weren’t ready to pull the trigger. Likewise, those people could be ready next quarter or the quarter after that as well. So, you are building up this database of leads at each stage in the buying process that everybody goes through when they want to decide on something. That is an additional benefit to building a pipeline those first six months.
Betsy: Wonderful. Well, I think that’s going to be really helpful for our listeners. My takeaway kind of from it is it comes really down to the plan, and having that plan, and executing that plan so you can do the speed of implementation with it. That will probably strongly guide along with the content production…
Rob: It is. It’s…
Betsy: …having that return on investment.
Rob: It means almost everything. Because if you publish content and it’s not compelling to your visitors they’re just going to skip right over it. There’s too much out there. There’s a lot of noise, and it’s very hard to cut through the noise and get to the crux of it.
It’s very hard to sit down and write a blog post that’s customer centric when you don’t take the time beforehand to really think about, digest, and analyze, excuse me, what your prospects’ needs and wants are. It’s very hard to do.
You’ve heard of that saying it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. It’s just really tough. We have the same problem here with our business. You’re so close to your business day in and day out that you take the small, like the FAQ’s that you get every day, for granted. You’re like oh yeah, of course, we get that question ten times a day.
Well, it’s like a blog post is going to help a ton of people that missed it. It’s ten times a day. It’s going to help ten times a day online without you having to answer that question manually. And, you’ll probably help people that you never even get the chance to speak with, or that you’re not going to have a chance to speak with now I should say.
It’s very, very important. It’s difficult to do, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.
But, the other thing I wanted to touch on really quick before we go is just that there are stats out there that show the effectiveness of blogging. They do these crazy research studies on what the ROI of blogging is in the scope of inbound and everything.
That is something that is another push back we get, like why do we need to blog. Or, we’re already blogging, but we’re blogging about our products and services. That’s just a complete wrong thing to start off with. Because if you think about it, when you go to buy something you just need helpful information. That’s the first step that you always take.
So, if you come right in and you start talking about the products and services it’s a little bit like skipping to the head of the line or like… I always use the analogy hitting on someone before you even introduce yourself at a bar or nightclub. [Inaudible 00:13:17]
Rob: You really use your blog to draw people in. The stats that are out there show that it’s literally the most effective vehicle for executing.
So, if there’s one thing I could say it is the plan, like you mentioned, and the strategy, but the very close second is blogging. It’s so super important to start doing that today. Honestly, most B2B companies especially haven’t done it yet. Those are the two biggest takeaways, I think.
Betsy: Wonderful. I think that’s going to be really helpful in kind of helping people guide and understanding it. Because I know it’s probably a common question that comes up, naturally, wanting to know when you get that return on investment.
Rob, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. I think this is going to be really helpful. And, have a great afternoon.
Rob: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Arbitrary Output or Meaningful Strategy
Even though 49% of B2B companies think they have a strategy, do they? Joe Puluzzi says no. A vast majority of that 49% reporting that they have a content strategy really just have a glorified blog calendar. In his recent cover article for COO Magazine November 2013 Issue, Joe Puluzzi states that he believes it’s more like only 15% of business to businesses who do content marketing have a content strategy. If this holds true 85% of B2B content strategies are publishing content on a consistent basis but don’t have any real strategy behind that content.
Create Content that Serves Your Customers
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. It’s just really tough. We have the same problem here with our business when you’re so close to the day in and day out that you take the small, like the FAQ’s that you get every day, for granted. How is a blog post going to help all your customers who have those typical daily questions? It’s going to help ten times a day online without you having to answer that question manually. In addition you’ll probably help people that you never even get the chance to speak with, or that you’re not going to have a chance to speak with.
If you come right in and you start talking about the products and services it’s a little bit like skipping to the head of the line or like hitting on someone before you even introduce yourself at a bar or nightclub.
Publishing content that’s not compelling and your visitors are going to skip right over it. There’s too much out there. There’s a lot of noise, and it’s very hard to cut through the noise and get to the crux of it. It’s very hard to sit down and write a blog post that’s customer centric when you don’t take the time beforehand to really think about, digest, and analyze what your prospects’ needs and wants are.
Fill Your Sales Pipeline From Day 1
Keep in mind there’s more than one benefit to inbound marketing. One of the smaller additional benefits outside of just lead generation in general is that you are constantly filling your pipeline with prospects at different stages of the buying process. So, you’re building a lot of information, qualified leads, or people who you’re building awareness with.
- Information Qualified Leads: These customers are not quite ready to look at a service provider yet or solutions provider, but they’ve downloaded a white paper, they’ve engaged with some blog posts and maybe some pages on your site, and they’re not ready now but they could be in the future. They’re in your database and you have the ability to give them a soft reminder in the next quarter, let’s say.
- Marketing Qualified, Sales Ready Leads: These are the customers who’ve looked at different service providers and for one reason or another maybe they just weren’t ready to pull the trigger. Likewise, those people could be ready next quarter or the quarter after that as well. So, you are building up this database of leads at each stage in the buying process that everybody goes through when they want to decide on something.
The Secret Sauce: A Proven Strategy
Strategy is arguably the key difference maker for getting a measurable profit from inbound marketing quickly. Just a few years ago there were very few tools out there that you could deploy quickly within six months or a year just to even get the stuff out there and get it working and live. Today the tools are getting better and faster, and the processes are becoming way more efficient. The things that get you to the under six months profit mark are really clear to identify:
Month 1 – 3
Identify target personas and sales process, create a customer-centric plan that captures the two main pieces of information that will allow you to create a lead generation and lead nurturing strategy for them:
- Target Persona and buyers needs in the marketing place
- Existing Sales Process
- Deploy the Campaign Quickly
We’ve had a couple of clients who’ve done it in just over three months where they already had opportunities that led to closed leads that paid for the service in full and they were profiting from it from then on. – Robb Bailey
The most efficient way to build the inbound engine is to start at the bottom of the funnel and work your way up. This will allow you to re-purpose copy as you promote content you have already created, also minimizing the need for client review and approval of copy.
- Blogging – Feed the Engine
It’s much more of a pull where you’re answering your prospects’ most desired questions and hitting on their emotional triggers by being helpful first and solving their problem mostly through blogging but through other content channels as well. Doing that really creates this foot in the door strategy that has the highest chance of converting.
Month 4 – 6
- Find the Bottlenecks and Address Them Depending on your traffic at this point you probably have some limited data to work with. The data gives you the answers to the test. Your analytics should be setup so that they illustrate where your inbound marketing is performing or under-performing or bottle-necked. So if you are getting lots of information qualified leads but not many are moving onto marketing or sales qualified lead quality status then you might need to improve your middle or bottom of the funnel offers. The data should tell you this.
- Tuning and Optimizing the Engine An important step once the campaign has been executed is the ongoing improvement of the engine. Over time you will get more and more data and be able to optimize the content and engine to make your leads convert better based on the data you are collecting.
- Garner Activity On the Content That You Have Created Creating the content is step 1 of a two part process. When creating blog content syndicating that content so that it gets in front of the eyes of your customers is key. Good content that answers your customers questions should naturally rank well and will be found organically by your target persona, however, if you can syndicate that content to then all the better. There are many effective strategies for content syndication but at it’s core you are simply seeking out where you target persona hangs out and supplying them with content that answers questions they are asking.
6 Month Mark
If you start your content marketing efforts with a strategy and follow a proven process, you should be able to calculate measurable profits within 6 months. Sometimes you can see results earlier but the anticipated timeline for ROI on your content marketing campaign ties in largely with the length of that sales cycle. But it is reasonable to expect that if you execute effectively within 6 months you will have a full pipeline of qualified new prospects that you’ve never had before.
- Company: Bedbug covering manufacturer with an indirect sales model targeting pest control business owners.
- Measurable ROI: Website visits from organic, referral, social media and email marketing grew from an average of 400 visits/month to 700 visits/month. Lead volume from these traffic sources grew from an average of 5 per month to 20 per month.
If you are a business executing content marketing but not seeing results, it’s essential to see where the point of failure for your inbound strategy is. Often times we find that a strategy gap is to blame and a more thoughtful plan for content creation and campaign execution will be the bottlenecks holding up a measurable profit for inbound marketing. As you can see from the example above, measurable profit from inbound marketing within 6 months can be achieved and the statistics overwhelmingly show that inbound marketing works and is profitable.
Are you a business whose found ROI from your inbound marketing efforts within 6 months? Share you story and point of success below!
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