Are agencies just buying time when they tell you that inbound marketing will take months – sometimes a year or more – to really prove itself? It may seem like it, especially if you’re used to other marketing methods that drive more instantaneous results – paid advertising, mail outs and billboards, for example.
When you’re itching to get going, being told that results may come slowly during the early stages of inbound marketing can be a discouraging message to hear. If this time lag isn’t a “safety net” or a result of incompetence, then why the long-term approach?
To get to the bottom of that question, we need to understand how inbound marketing differs from other methods.
Early Stage Due Diligence is Crucial
At the very beginning of an inbound marketing campaign, you’re setting the foundation for everything that is to follow. The research you conduct, personas you build and strategy you set during this time will affect everything that follows and all the content that is produced, so it’s critical to get right. So while you may be itching to get to content production right away, plan for time spent defining goals and plotting out your approach.
Building an Audience (Naturally) Takes Time
If you haven’t been publishing much in the past or if you’re launching new initiatives like social media accounts, newsletters and lead nurturing campaigns, it will take time to build up a base of interested customers.
One way to think about it is this: As a business person, it can take years to build up a network of trusted professionals and clients. You’ve got to get out to events, shake hands, knock on doors and prove that you’re worth people’s time and attention. You won’t get anywhere just running into a room and tossing business cards at everybody.
Inbound marketing is no different.
People won’t just flock to your business because you’ve published one or two strong pieces; it is the aggregate body of content that is what brings success. The more you’ve published, the more lines you have out in the water and the greater the amount of content a potential lead will have to pore over as they evaluate whether or not they’d like to do business with you.
Consistently publishing strong content across time is what will establish you as a reliable, trustworthy brand – not one-offs and sporadic pieces here and there. It’s a process that takes time by nature.
Testing & Refinement
Inbound marketing is a two-way conversation, not a one-way push. As your campaign grows and continues, there are lessons to be learned that will help you refine and own that conversation to find the right touch points, the most effective calls to action and the most compelling content.
Continuous improvement ought to be your mantra as you enter into inbound marketing. Though work at the outset is done to lay a foundation, there is always room for growth and learning within the space you’ve defined. To really find a rhythm, you need time to test the work you’ve already done – testing that can amplify and boost results down the line.
The Tipping Point
There’s a silver lining to all of this: As your fan base grows naturally and you publish more content across time, there is a critical “tipping point”; a scalable momentum at which point your returns increase exponentially.
This is why judging initial inbound marketing work on a piece-by-piece basis or putting all your eggs in the basket of just one major content piece is a bad idea; the returns come across the content in aggregate, not as a single push.
And though it can be slow going in the outset, full of research, testing, refinement and a lot of sweat equity, the returns will come – and when they do, they come steadily and in volume.
Patience is a Virtue – But Not Everything Must Wait
While we’ve covered why inbound marketing takes time to reach its full potential, it’s important to note that the work you do in the outset does not have a net zero return. There will, of course, be new leads and exciting new business that comes along the way; it just takes time to reach that critical mass where inbound marketing really sustains itself and develops into a mature and growing channel.
Give your inbound marketing the time, space and effort required to flourish, and you won’t find yourself disappointed.