We had two fantastic meetings yesterday, one with a client and one with prospects. Both conversations were around expectations on the return on marketing investment (ROI). The first company was largely an outbound sales organization and the second was a large organization largely dependent upon database marketing and direct mail response.
Both organizations understood, down to the dollar, how their sales budget and marketing budgets are working for them. The sales organization understood that, with each salesperson hired, they could expect a substantial increase in closed leads. The second organization is starting to see diminished returns on direct marketing as they continue to fine-tune its efforts. They recognize that the opportunity is to move online.
Key to both organizations is setting expectations on how their marketing efforts will make a return with the efforts of our inbound marketing agency. Given this opportunity, I think that inbound marketing agencies due a disservice to many companies by setting terrible expectations. Often, they believe that if a customer has a marketing budget – they want it.
This is a terrible strategy. We’ve already mentioned that inbound marketing has dependencies, but there are other strategies that work incredibly well and have a legitimate return on investment.
For example, if a client told us they had a limited budget and needed to build immediate demand so they can grow their company, we’re absolutely going to push them into more pay-per-click. Ramp-up and optimization are quick and we can absolutely get a client to predictable results. Cost per lead (CPL) may be high, but response and results are great so they’re fantastic. Over time, if a client is working with us on inbound marketing strategies, they can use paid search for seasonal demands or ramp sales when they need to increase growth outside the limits of other strategies.
Outbound sales work fantastically, but it takes a while to ramp up an employee. We see outbound perform incredibly well – over time – when large engagements require nurturing and the expertise of a great business development consultant. Unfortunately, though, a person reaches a maximum threshold… and when they do, you have to hire and train more salespeople. Again, we’re not downplaying the impact of an outbound sales professional. We’re simply trying to set expectations.
Advertising often has a low cost and low return on that investment. However, advertising can often contribute to brand recognition and can help ease sales. We’re not opposed to advertising, but if the demand and quality of leads need to be high, we may advise our clients to invest in other areas.
Inbound marketing utilizing an effective content strategy is somewhat unique and has caught on in popularity because of the high impact and low cost per lead. However, it’s not an instantaneous demand generator. Content strategies that utilize both search and social strategies often take time to build momentum. Since it’s a continuous effort, a company is compounding results over time. That is, as you provide content today, content you wrote a month ago is still working to drive leads to you.
As well, inbound marketing strategies can provide scoring opportunities to better recognize highly qualified leads from less attractive ones. Inbound marketing can also supply additional insights for your outbound team to become more intelligent about a prospect’s intent. Understanding what they were reading, what they were searching on and captured form data can prepare and close leads quickly and effectively.
The decision to invest in inbound marketing is typically a sound one if you have the right strategy and the resources to properly execute it. That doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for every company at every stage, though. Given limited resources and different demands, you may wish to distribute your budget and resources in other strategies. At least for now!