You have a marketing budget. You need to see a return on this investment. I get it. A bunch of smart people have worked to quantify what ROI you should expect from inbound marketing.
These are articles you should take the time to read, probably more than once. This is important stuff.
2013 MIT ROI of Inbound Marketing Report
Be Like Mike (HubSpot CMO's 2012 Inbound Conference Session)
But a word of warning - focus on ROI alone and you’re sure to fail at inbound marketing.
The internet is here to stay (shocker, I know).
Not that long ago this was not a certainty. The internet was new technology and many thought it wouldn’t last. Does anyone think this anymore? Statistics aren't necessary to show you how fast the digital world is growing. You can see it. You can feel it. It’s all around you.
This change has drastically changed the business landscape. Most companies have a hard time accepting it. They know its important and run digital sprints trying to keep up. They get enthused about all the possibilities and discouraged by the lack of immediate results.
Most companies fail to see the big picture; that your digital marketing will never be done; and that your digital presence is your business storefront, if not today, in the next five years.
Don’t agree? Let me ask you, do you exclusively see and communicate with your customers face to face? Companies who still do are the exception. In the vast majority of cases, customers see your virtual company exponentially more often than your physical one.
This online interaction is why an isolated focus on the ROI of inbound marketing, or digital marketing in general is shortsighted. Gary Vaynerchuck articulated this brilliantly in his Inc 500 Keynote specifically about social media. It applies to your online presence as a whole.
Caution: Language is NSFW
Your digital marketing is so critical to your business; the perceived value of it cannot be solely based on what you can quantify.
The truth is, you will waste money.
I hate wasting money. The other day my wallet fell out of my pocket at the dentist never to be seen again. It physically hurts me to lose money through this sort of stupidity. I understand when someone wants to know that every dime they spend on their marketing is going to show dividends. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you it won’t.
The digital world is changing quickly. Because of this, digital marketing must change just as fast. Best practices change by the month. There is much trial and error. And because of this trial and error, occasionally your cost will outway your benefit. But through this trial and error you will learn about your customer and the best ways you can help them. You begin to make a digital presence for you company that works for your customer. The growth that this brings is shaping your success in the future.
What should I do?
Your business depends on you taking this seriously otherwise you will fall behind your competitors and eventually fade into irrelevance. Even when you know this is important, how do you know you are doing it right?
Don’t be cheap. This is vital to your business. Don’t expect it to work without spending time and money.
Do be smart. Find digital marketing experts, either internally or externally that you can trust.
Don’t be scared. Technology can be scary. It can make you feel dumb. Your company needs courage here. Even for industry experts inbound marketing is relatively new. We are all learning.
Do keep learning. The digital world is evolving quickly. An expert today will be a novice a year from now if they haven’t kept up with industry’s changes.
Don’t stop trying. You're going to waste money occasionally trying something that doesn’t work. You're going to feel like this is not worth the time and energy. Don’t let it deter you. Getting your online presence right is work, but I wouldn’t suggest waiting to find out the cost of not having an online presence.
Stop Asking About ROI
Just kidding. You should ask about the ROI of any business decision that you make. Ask me this question about your inbound marketing, however and I’m not going to be able to give you a number that will make you happy. Here’s what I am going to tell you:
Inbound marketing is about making your digital presence more helpful to your customer. The companies that are so helpful they can’t help but grow an online community of customers will be thriving in five years. The ones that do not won’t be here.
Photo Credit: SalFalko via Compfight cc