Winning Formula 1 race car drivers aren’t born. They develop from driving their souped-up Pontiac GTO 440 around town, to taking a few laps around the local track, to attending a high-performance driving school, and then adding in many years of racing experience.
It would be crazy for a racing sponsor to say to a young, inexperienced driver, “Jump in this car and go win this race!” The hapless driver would be lucky to make it around the track without crashing!
Yet with inbound marketing, we frequently hear new clients say, “Just bring in some new revenue!” I won’t say that it can’t be done (we’ve done it occasionally), but the more common result is that the inbound marketing team is happy just to have tried something. This is not at all what the CEO was looking for. . . and inbound marketing gets shut down for that company.
Reasonable expectations for inbound marketing
So what are reasonable expectations for inbound marketing? Like race driver training, the process starts slowly. First we have to build a race car and give it a support team.
Instead of wheels and cowlings and axles, an inbound marketing program is built on databases, CRMs, content, email lists, and social media. Instead of an engine, inbound uses a variety of offers to propel your web visitors around the track (that is, down the sales funnel).
A solid inbound marketing strategy is based on assets that a company already has (like databases, email lists, customer lists, a blog, sales brochures, Powerpoint presentations, videos,etc.) and assets it can quickly re-purpose or acquire ( case studies, whitepapers etc.). The more assets available, the faster the process of implementing your inbound marketing strategy.
If your company wants to grow its reseller program and you already have 250 active resellers and a database of 12,000 potential resellers, and a training program for new resellers, and a clearly defined process of onboarding a new reseller, things can move pretty quickly. But if you have no current resellers, no clear picture of who would be an ideal reseller, and no training program, well. . . getting started building your reseller program will take longer.
Yearning for the thrill of speeding around a world-famous track in a state-of-the-art race car?
Whoa there, my friend! Let’s go to ground school and the all-important acceleration, threshold braking, and downshifting exercises. Then it’s into the classroom for an in-depth look at the complex theories of chassis dynamics, before using a dynamic skid pad to explore the boundaries of grip, chassis manipulation, and driver sensitivity to feedback and control techniques.
Similarly, once your inbound marketing machine is built, we’ll want to run a few tests. Is the messaging producing the engagement we anticipated? Are we utilizing the right platforms to engage your ideal prospects? Are there “hidden assets” in your company that could be utilized to enhance our effectiveness? Do you have processes that should should be built into this marketing machine for automation and re-use?
The adrenaline-pumping for laps around the track
After completing ground school and some basic knowledge and exercises, you’re ready for your first ride in a high-performance race car! Wow! This is really exciting!!
That’s how your marketing team feels when they launch their first campaigns. Their messaging goes out into the world, and they measure effectiveness in web traffic, engagement, downloads, email click-throughs, and other KPIs.
Like those first laps around the track, this is a real-world test . . . not yet a Formula 1 race. A few laps around the track attunes the driver to the idiosyncracies of his race car, and provides some simple feedback on his driving skills. A small test of your marketing campaigns provides real-world feedback on messaging, delivery times, delivery platforms, and attunes the marketing team to the needs and challenges of the target audience.
Review the vehicle’s performance and the driver’s performance
After reviewing your first real-world test and making adjustments, it’s time to pour some gas into the tank and reach out to a larger audience. Now our driver gets to run around the track for 20 laps with a couple of experienced drivers. . . more cars on the track, more to be aware of, and two expereinced guys setting the pace! His breath quickens as his focus narrows and the adrenaline pumps through his body.
This is the time for a quick check among the marketing team members to make sure expectations are clearly defined, activities are being clearly and regularly reported, and that the sales team understands that something different is starting to happen and that they need to change some of the ways in which they work.
Bring down the checkered flag!
Your race car is filled with the perfect fuel blend, tuned for maximum performance in today’s weather conditions and for the specific circuit you’re running.
Now it’s finally time for the marketing team to “pour in the fuel” and press the accelerator to the floor. Your campaigns are fully built and tested and tweaked for optimum performance. As more and more people engage with your campaign and become qualified leads, keep a firm grip on the wheel and an eye on the metrics. Fine tune everything, and report results to all the stakeholders.
Race car drivers race again and again, winning some races, but not all. Inbound marketing is same way” some campaigns will be strong “winners” for you, others won’t. But there is always a “next race to run.”
Photos courtesy of @airwoldhound on Flickr & Wikimedia