186471131So you’ve bought into the promise of inbound marketing and – after vetting out several software options – selected one that you believe is capable of helping take your marketing to the next level.

You've already invested dozens of hours into developing comprehensive buyer personas, a solid content game plan to target those personas at the various lifecycle stages, and the various content pieces that go into launching a campaign. Everything seems to make sense.

You've tooled your social promotion strategy and have a queue of blog posts ready to deploy according to a tactically aligned editorial calendar. You’ve modified your website to account for calls-to-action, and you’ve built workflows on the backend that are precise and poised to help coax leads through the buying process. You’ve reviewed everything and after some feedback, everyone seems to have reached a general accord.

You’re full of anticipation and excitement as your first campaign launches, and you spend the next eight hours hitting reload on your dashboard every 10 minutes expecting to see a steady stream of contacts begin to populate. Only there are no contacts. There are no leads.

The campaign launches not with a bang but with a whisper. And now you’re some place in between panic and despair, not only because you are expecting to see results (after all, you believed in the plan's ability to deliver them), but because you’re confident that the approach was correct and that you did things the right way. But it’s just … not working.

You’re not alone. And here are a few lessons that – as an agency – we’ve learned from working closely with our clients.

1) Prescribe, Don’t Analyze

The best top-of-funnel pieces are oftentimes prescriptive, not analytical. Give people something that solves a specific need in real-time, rather than an educational piece that speaks to trends or currents in the market. If you can isolate a specific pain point and provide a pragmatic, utilitarian remedy, the asset will be consumed like hot cakes.

Goods that satisfy basic human needs are more popular than goods that satisfy a luxury market. In other words, it is more effective to offer bread and water to people who are hungry than a red velvet cupcake to people who are not. Pinpoint offers that that prescribe real-time solutions to commonly encountered pain points (e.g., guides, checklists, templates, etc.).

2) Customer Feedback Loop

You can mitigate the risk of launching a content offer that no one downloads by asking your existing customers whether they’d be interested in the topic that you’re planning to write about. A little voice of customer can go a long way.

Many times we think we know our customers better than we actually do and can be surprised at what topics resonate (or don’t!) if we only ask. You can help expedite success by leveraging your customer base to provide this sort of customer feedback.

3) Test Content Titles and CTA Graphics

Ever been fishing? You can sit in a boat for hours dropping your line in the water and not get a nibble while the folks in the boat 100 yards away are pulling up fish as soon as their lines hit the water. The difference is often as simple as the bait you’re using. Offer titles and CTAs are the inbound equivalent of bait. If you’re confident in the quality of your personas and the assets that would resonate with them, but the assets are not generating any leads, then it might be time to try a different type of bait.

You should be testing offer titles. You should be testing CTAs. It could be that you’re sitting right on top of an entire school of fish that would practically leap into your boat if you were using the right sort of bait. Don’t give up on an offer until you’ve tested it thoroughly!

4) Adapt Based on the Data

After testing (and more testing!), you may discover that your first content offer is not effective at generating new contacts in the way that you’d hoped it would. This does not mean that all hope is lost or that the offer has no value.

The piece may be highly effective as a component of a nurture stream for existing contacts – perhaps for folks who are a bit lower in the funnel. Adapt and be agile – while you’re creating a new offer to target awareness stage prospects, you can repurpose the original piece to target leads who are in the consideration stage. Lemons, meet lemonade.

5) Manage Your Expectations

This may be the most important lesson of all. It is important to maintain perspective that inbound marketing is a combination of art and science, and that programs are both evolving and iterative. Understanding that successful programs require persistence, patience, trial & error and – in many cases – time can mitigate a lot of the reactionary panic or concern associated with a lack of early success.

This may be easier said than done when you’re paying a monthly fee, or investing substantial time resources, and expect to generate results in the short term, but maintaining realistic expectations is imperative to providing the inbound program with the opportunity it needs to demonstrate value. It is not uncommon that success requires 4-6 months of effort, but the payoff will be worth the wait!

And there you have it. Nothing that is truly innovating or groundbreaking. In fact, most of it is common sense. However, these tips may help prevent considerable headache when launching your first inbound campaigns, and may help avoid some common early mistakes.

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Originally published Jul 31, 2014 2:00:00 PM, updated November 27 2017

Topics:

Inbound Marketing