Opinion: Inbound Marketing and Instant Gratification Don’t Mix

By Rick McElaney, Principal at brassCycle

seeking-instant-resultsHaving been in the marketing game a long time, I’ve seen a shift from clients being reasonably patient for results to expecting immediate results. A big contributor to this shift is our ability to instantaneously execute marketing campaigns and their associated measurement activities with the push of a button.

The reality today is that even though execution is instantaneous and measurement velocity has vastly improved, it still takes time to fully assess the efficacy of your marketing activities. I don’t run into many people who refute that statement – at least in discussion. Typically, where the manifestations of instant gratification pop up is right after a campaign execution. Within hours or a few days of execution, the expectations surface and when results don’t materialize, or more likely – when they’re not yet fully formed, disappointment and frustration quickly set in. This can be highly problematic to achieving solid results over the long term because potentially good campaign ideas are scuttled due to lack of results.

If you find yourself going from one campaign idea to another without much success, here’s a framework to consider when evaluating results. It should help suppress the instant gratification reflex.

1. Think about the process your clients go through when buying your product or service.(I’m primarily addressing the B2B world with higher priced products or services – i.e. considered purchases). To make things simple, I’ll use the traditional AIDA advertising model: Awareness, Interest, Decision and Action.  Typically, the higher the average transaction value, the longer the full cycle is. It’s not uncommon to find companies with 18 to 24 month sales cycles.

How long does a typical prospect take to go through each of these four stages in your world? Look at your most recent data to get a current read on this. It’s tempting to speed through this process but take your time to get it right as it sets the foundation for success.

 2. Define your metrics for each stage and your goals for each metric.  Here are some examples:

  • Awareness – site traffic, page views, time on site, top traffic pages, blog comments, social shares of content.
  • Interest – repeat site visits, cumulative page view counts, content downloads, form submissions, webinar attendance.
  • Decision – requests for information, quote requests, free trial initiations, case study requests, appointments set (online and/or offline).
  • Action – reference requests, trial conversions, order form submittals, new client percentages, repeat client percentages, average transaction value, profit margin.

 3. Baseline your current performance so you can compare results. It’s important to pick the metrics that are most meaningful to your business growth. For example, if you double your blogging activity and focus on the volume of social shares of your blog content, you might be disappointed. If the increased blogging activity correlates to landing page form conversion increases, you’re in much better shape than you think.

If you’re new to tracking this information then collect the data needed in the time frame that corresponds with your sales cycle stages and build your baseline. So if your awareness stage typically lasts for a month – collect data for a month and establish a baseline. Keep moving through each stage until you have enough data to baseline each stage and eventually, your entire sales process.

 4. Set realistic timelines for measuring each stage. In the case of companies with longer sales cycles – looking for action metrics within one month of increasing awareness metrics is not realistic – they’re not allowing enough time between stages to fully measure campaign impact.

When you look at performance measurement this way, it provides a better sense of the overall timing of measurement.  If you look at your marketing from a campaign execution, results analysis and refinement viewpoint, you begin to realize that making snap decisions based on incomplete results can really delay your progress.  Plan well, execute efficiently, and patiently measure across your entire sales process and you’ll be in command of your business growth.