Inbound marketing has become somewhat of an industry buzz-word over past several years, and I’m hearing more and more people ask about it. Besides asking ‘what exactly is inbound marketing?’, the most common question I hear is ‘does it really work? It’s a fair question and one that I personally had as recently as two years ago.
I’d like to tell you the story about our own personal experience with inbound marketing at Waypost. But first, a little background. I founded the company in 2003 and for the first 4-5 years our primary focus was on web design and maintenance. We slowly evolved into an internet marketing company that still did web design, but focused more on lead generation by using a variety of tactics – SEO, PPC, Email marketing and social media. By 2014, I felt like we were treading water.
Something Had to Change
Our growth was stagnant and the number of quality leads we were receiving online was relatively low. In addition, our processes were fragmented. We were performing a mixed bag of tasks for clients and using a variety of disconnected systems to manage it (WordPress, MailChimp, HootSuite, etc.). We were still generating good results, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage and produce quality content.
About this time, we also came to recognize that a significant shift was occurring in the way people use the internet. People want information. The buyer now controls the sales process. They determine what information they want and when they want it. And they do all of this before you even know they’re a prospect. This concept, better known as the “Zero Moment of Truth” is that moment when a customer goes online to have a question answered and makes a buying decision. The reality is that if your business is not being found when people are looking for information, then you’re very likely to never have an opportunity with that prospect. In our case, we were missing the boat…and potential new clients.
So, we began exploring new directions for the business. There had to be a better way for us and our clients.
Enter Inbound Marketing
After a couple of months of research, we decided to make a significant change in our business model. We decided to go All-In on Inbound Marketing. Specifically, we decided that we were going to focus on clients that needed a comprehensive strategy, and avoid prospects looking for help with only a few tactics. Our primary objectives were:
- Generate a steady, stream of qualified, organic leads for Waypost
- Target bigger clients with larger retainers.
- Provide better results for our clients…faster.
- Streamline our internal processes. Spend more time on strategy and creative.
- Increase our profit margins.
At this point, I was still somewhat skeptical as to whether this conversion to inbound marketing would really work. What I did know is that we were going to give it our full attention and if we failed, it wouldn’t be from a lack of effort.
We decided to choose one marketing automation platform and get really good at it. After doing our research, we elected to go with Hubspot. We spent the latter part of 2014 only working on our own business with inbound marketing. Everyone on our staff became inbound marketing certified and Hubspot certified. By the end of 2014, we were starting to see results from our inbound efforts in the form of quality, organic leads. That positive trend has continued. We’re currently getting about 2,500 visits per month from organic search alone.
Traffic is Good, but Revenue is Better
Anyone that is involved in marketing online knows not all traffic is good traffic. The proof is in lead generation and sales. Is the traffic you’re generating impacting the bottom line?
In our case, the answer is yes.
In 16 short months, we have seen our monthly recurring revenue increase by over 160%. Our team has doubled in size and we’re on track to grow revenues by over 60% in 2016. The majority of our new business is coming directly from organic search and our inbound marketing efforts. Life in our agency is much better too. We’re working with fewer clients and doing more meaningful work. Our processes are much more systematic and reporting is much improved thanks to Hubspot’s marketing automation software.
As I mentioned earlier, we chose to get really good with Hubspot. But, Hubspot is just a tool. We still think it a great platform that only continues to get better, and we have no regrets with our decision to partner with Hubspot. However, the value we are now able to provide lies in our strategy utilizing the inbound methodology. We’re consistently producing really good content for ourselves and clients which enhances our ability to deliver results in terms of lead generation and sales.
What We’ve Learned
Probably the single biggest lesson we’ve learned is that inbound marketing is hard…and it takes time. If you’re going to be successful at it, you have to be committed to consistently doing the work over a long-period of time. And you need to be doing really great work.
The good news is that once you start to gain some traction, you’ll start to see rewards in the form of a repeatable flow of qualified organic leads that will continue to grow over time.
If you decide to engage in inbound marketing, my advice is that you should fully commit to a program for a minimum of one year. If you can’t do that, then you should seriously consider whether making the investment. You will likely end up with a feeling that inbound marketing doesn’t work.