When COVID-19 hit the scene in early March we all experienced a massive shock to the system. Businesses like restaurants and walk-up retail were the first to face the crushing impact of stay at home orders. The crash of what seemed like a steady and growing economy has no doubt impacted us all as we try to sort through things like how stable our current customer bases are, how to keep our teams employed, and the vexing issue of the vanishing sales pipeline.
Working from home and virtually have become the norm in a few short weeks. In-person events have evaporated overnight. We've all had to shift to a digital-first strategy with our marketing. For some of us, that isn't difficult, for others it's real paradigm shift, especially if you relied on trade shows and conferences for leads.
My hope is that if you've found yourself in this situation, you've decided to make the jump wholeheartedly into inbound marketing (grab our playbook for inbound here). Inbound is, after all, a type of marketing that focuses on being ridiculously helpful to prospects as they move through the buyer's journey at a self-guided pace. That makes it perfect for the current time when relevance and empathy are a must for any marketing effort. And, if done well, the data shows that people are willing to engage with relevant marketing right now even as traditional sales techniques are stymied more than ever.
If You're JUST GETTING STARTED, STICK WITH IT
If you're just diving into inbound right now, my encouragement is to stick with it. You will see some quick wins. A lead will come in here and there and you'll be able to demonstrate the viability of your efforts.
But here's the key. Don't give up if things appear generally flat in the first 6 months. Your efforts will pay off. Here's a few snapshots of actual anonymous client data to prove it.
The Typical Year 1 Growth Curve
The graph above of blog views shows the typical growth curve that we see when a client begins their inbound marketing efforts. This client actively began their inbound efforts in June of 2018. Over the first 6 months they experience nominal growth while blogging 1 time per week. In October 2018, they had seen enough progress that they decided to up their blogging quantity to 2 times a week and maintained that through the first year of their program. As you can see, the results were huge in traffic growth.
Now, it's important to note that traffic isn't everything. That traffic must also drive new leads. These efforts did.
For this diagram I've extended the timeframe backwards one month to before our program was in action and forwards through the end of 2019. This larger picture does a good job of illustrating the initial bump in contacts the client received in the first 6 months in leads generate, followed by another bump at 6 months followed by sustained growth.
This growth in leads resulted in a significant positive ROI measured by deals that were won through the tight collaboration of our agency and the internal marketing and sales teams.
What This Means For You If You're Just Starting Your Program
If you're just starting on your inbound journey, there are couple takeaways:
- You'll likely see an initial bump in traffic as you get started followed by sustained growth after getting about 6 months into efforts.
- You'll also see an initial bump in contacts if you configure your paid media and site calls to actions correctly.
- Once you make it through month 6 you can expect to see sustained growth.
How To Ensure This Growth IS Achievable
There are a few things that you need to do to make sure you achieve this kind of growth with your program. Here are the three steps I'd take if I was getting started today:
- Zero in on your audience and what they care about: It isn't enough to write content, you need to find the intersection between the value your business provides and the specific topics that your ideal customer cares about. Providing relevant and practical help to potential customers is what will drive growth. If you want to get started with this you can read our recent post on persona development or download our persona development worksheet.
- Blog as often as is sustainable: Everyone always asks us what type of content creation frequency they should follow. My answer is always that they should do what is sustainable. It's better to be consistent than to start strong and then drop off. But if you really want to know a solid number, Hubspot recommends 3-4 new posts per week if you're looking to grow your organic traffic.
- Add in valuable calls to action: It isn't enough to blog. You must also capture leads that fit your ideal customer profile. The best way to do this is still to offer valuable long-form content, like our latest ebook.
Once you've taken these steps, maintain consistency. COVID-19 may have forced you into making a renewed investment in digital marketing, but if you stick with it, it can become your best customer acquisition channel for the long-term.