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How Should Inbound Marketing Projections be Determined?


Goal setting in inbound marketing can sometimes feel like throwing darts in the dark. There are a ton of variables at play – how successful will your content be? How big of a market can you reach? Will sharing and earned media take off – or chug along?

That said, setting projections is critical – not only for proving that inbound marketing can bring in an ROI, but also because you want to be able to plan out your budgeting, predict possible income and map out the impact you expect your efforts to have down the line.

You want to be able to create some reasonable projections, and it’s important to have benchmarks and goals for measuring yourself against. There’s no magic formula that will work for every business, but there are some constant factors you should consider.

1. Start with where you’re at.

What does your existing traffic look like? How many sales are you currently bringing in through the website? Unless you just launched yesterday, chances are there’s at least some small amount of data you can pick through to get a sense for how things are currently performing. Knowing your roots is critical because without having a starting point, businesses can fall in to the trap of setting the bar way too high (E.g. Wanting an 800 increase in unit sales per month when you’re currently selling 2 every year).

Take stock of your existing numbers in:

  • Traffic
  • Leads
  • Customers

Where are they at? How much effort have you currently been putting into your online channels – a lot? None? This is your launching point.

2. Evaluate your inputs.

How much budget are you investing into your inbound marketing campaign? How much time and effort will that money be able to buy you? Your projections should take into account a hard dollar figure for the resources you’re providing to make the campaign work. The less you put in, the less you should expect to make back; there’s a direct correlation between giving your marketers the time and space they need to operate and the results you should expect back.

The more budget you put in, the more opportunity there is to tackle the many different tasks that will need to be taken on: content creation and promotion, content gap analysis, conversion rate optimization, SEO and more. All of these actions come with their own returns, but they’re stronger together than they are individually.

3. Size up the market.

There are dozens of tools available that can bring insights into how many people are looking for your business online. While keyword data isn’t the whole story, it can be helpful to conduct keyword research and see some approximate volumes surrounding how often your services are searched for.

You can never assume you’ll capture 100% of that market, but if you’re currently capturing none of it, this can bring some insights into how many people you might reach on a monthly basis.

This is where taking stock of your current conversion rate is also helpful. You may not know it – and that’s okay – but if you do know how many visitors you’re converting on average, you can start to paint a picture of how many more you might convert once qualified traffic is coming in.

4. Set some (realistic) goals.

This step ties in to the previous one. For example, if you’re investing $2,000 a month, what is a reasonable rate of return that you would be satisfied to see based on that input from other marketing channels? What historical rates of return have you seen on your other marketing efforts, such as radio ads, television commercials or mailers?

What is the average of your industry?

The power of inbound is its ability to generate more leads for less dollars. Taking into account the historical success of your other marketing efforts, it’s a safe bet to ascribe a better conversion rate to inbound marketing. If you’re just wading in, keep projections conservative; once you have some baseline data on inbound campaigns, you’ll be able to map this out much more cleanly.

That said, keep in mind that inbound is different than outbound methods in that unlike these efforts, the biggest investment is upfront, while the biggest payout comes down the line (as opposed to instantaneously, like from an ad or billboard). Inbound marketing takes time to spin up and bring in returns – a topic we outlined in another post.

Keep this all in mind while setting your projections; they should ramp up slowly over time.

Taking all that into account, set some SMART goals (Specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, time-orientated) for your business and determine whether or not the inputs you’re committing can take you to the outcomes you’re hoping to achieve.

5. Refine your projections as you gather more data.

As the data comes in, revisit the goals you’ve set and the projections you’ve made. Were you on par? Too high? Too low? The longer your business has been working on their inbound marketing efforts, the better the data you’ll have to draw upon. While initial projections can be shaky, even 6 – 8 months of inbound marketing data are sufficient for defining and improving projections for the next phases because you’re comparing apples to apples.

Making inbound marketing projections is still a challenging game, but with a few data points to start from and a process to follow, you can begin to paint a more realistic picture of how your campaign will perform.

About the Author

Matt is the Senior Director of Optimization Services at Teknicks where he focuses on website tracking, analytics, and the more complex aspects of website technology. When he’s not in the office, he enjoys attending New Jersey Devils hockey games and watching 80’s trilogies (specifically Back to the Future).

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