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8 Reasons Your Inbound Marketing Isn’t Working

8 Reasons Your Inbound Marketing Isn’t Working

Inbound marketing works when it’s done right, but it can take time. If your inbound marketing isn’t working, it could be related to your goals, your targeting, your data, or your strategy.


Cold calling, print advertisements, direct mail, and other outbound marketing tactics still have a place in today’s business environment, but they aren’t half as effective as they used to be. Customers are more empowered than ever. They ignore most ads, and they’d rather educate themselves than have their day interrupted by a phone call from a stranger.

That’s why most companies now recognize the importance of inbound marketing. It’s a way of providing your customers with the tools they need to make an informed buying decision. If you’ve already implemented some inbound marketing tactics, you may have seen some small increases in your web traffic or lead conversions.

But if you aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for, it may be that your inbound marketing isn’t working. Here are 8 reasons why you might be struggling:

1. You Don’t Know What Your Goals Are

Most businesses have the same overarching goals: To increase their revenue and the number of customers they serve. But there are several milestones that must come first.

With inbound marketing, you have an opportunity to get granular and set more specific objectives. For example, you can set goals for the number of customers you’d like to close, the number of conversions you’d like to generate through your website, or even the amount of web traffic you’d like to acquire.

All your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Once you’ve set a SMART goal, you’ll know exactly what strategies you need to attain it.

If your goal is to increase your web traffic by 10% by the end of next month, set time aside to create more content, share your blog posts on social media, and do an SEO audit of your website.

Likewise, if your goal is to increase conversions on your website by 50% by the end of next quarter, you can focus on optimizing your website, creating more gated content, and pushing out your landing pages through social media. If your homepage doesn’t have any conversion opportunities at the top, put a CTA where your visitors will see it.

If you want to get even more granular, you can set SMART goals by content type, marketing channel, or target vertical. For example, maybe you want to increase your monthly blog subscriptions or increase the clickthrough rate of your monthly newsletter.

Whatever your goal, there’s an inbound marketing strategy to help you achieve it.

2. You Don’t Know Who Your Customers Are

An essential part of inbound marketing is the buyer persona: a fictional representation of your ideal customer. If you don’t have buyer personas for all your customers, your messaging may be falling flat. How can you convince someone to take action if you don’t know who you’re talking to?

You may have one buyer persona or many. But buyer personas should inform every part of your inbound marketing strategy, from what you write about in your blog posts, to what you say in your emails, to how you talk to prospects on the phone.

Buyer personas are more than just lists of demographic information. They are profiles of individuals: What they do, what they care about, and what they do each day.

The idea is to understand how your customers think and identify what they truly want. With this information, you can give them exactly what they need when they need it, whether they need helpful advice or a solution to a problem.

To create your buyer personas, you can ask yourself questions, interview your current customers, look at your conversion data, or do research online. Try to include the following information:

  • Their job role and title
  • How long they’ve been in that role
  • Their skills
  • What their typical day looks like
  • What their responsibilities are
  • Who they report to at work
  • Who reports to them at work
  • Which industry they work in
  • What challenges they face day-to-day
  • Their age
  • Their income
  • Their demeanor
  • How they typically like to be contacted
  • Their personal challenges
  • Their work challenges

Once you’ve compiled personas for each of your target customers, you can craft content that speaks effectively to each of them.

3. You Aren’t Using Data

As nice as it would be for inbound marketing to be a “set it and forget it” strategy, you can’t succeed if you aren’t checking your metrics regularly. If you don’t, you won’t know when your inbound marketing isn’t working and when it is.

Where does this data come from? If you made your website using HubSpot COS, it’s built into your HubSpot dashboard. You also have access to more detailed reports and analytics. If your website is built with another tool, like WordPress, you can embed a HubSpot tracking code to get the same results, use Google analytics, or get access to a host of metrics tools through a product like Databox.

What can you do with this data? Consider SMART goals and set KPI’s. By checking your data, you can create goals that are both attainable and timely. Once you put your marketing plan into place, you can keep an eye on your data to see if it’s working.

Generate Reports

Data can also give you insights into all your marketing assets. Let’s say you notice a huge uptick in traffic and conversions. If you dig deeper, you may discover that one of the blog posts you wrote last month was a huge hit.

Was the post longer than usual? Did you include interesting graphics? Whatever made that post unique, you can replicate it in future posts.

You can do the same thing with your emails, your social media posts, and even your web pages. HubSpot lets you generate broad reports about your marketing, but also super-specific reports about your channels, assets, and contacts.

Do you want to know how many new leads your blog has generated? There’s a report for that.

a blog leads report helps you know if your inbound marketing isn't working

Do you want to know which blog posts generate the most leads? There’s a report for that, too.

lead converting content report to tell you if your inbound marketing isn't working

HubSpot’s reporting tool lets you generate a variety of reports, including:

  • Leads by content offer
  • New contacts by buyer persona
  • New contacts by lifecycle stage
  • Highest converting pages
  • Total leads by marketing channel
  • Progress toward lead generation goal
  • Progress toward customer goal
  • Many more

You could even generate a report that tells you which channels your highest-quality customers came from. If you find that most of your best customers are coming from referrals, you could focus more on guest-blogging and getting your company listed in directories.

Identify the tactics that work and leave behind the tactics that don’t. If you do this consistently, you can use data to expand upon all your previous growth.

4. Your Strategy is Fragmented

It may be tempting to pour all your efforts into one strategy. For example, if your team is writing 28 blog posts each month, that’s great! But blogging for the sake of blogging won’t necessarily help your business.

Those blog posts need to be fine-tuned to speak to your buyer personas. They also need to be optimized for search engines, so they can be found online.

Blog posts alone won’t always convert, either. If your customers have a long buying cycle, they may want to do more research before they talk to a salesperson. At the very least, you’ll need a contact form on your blog, so visitors have an opportunity to convert.

We often recommend our clients combine social media, blog content, SEO, CTAs, contact forms, landing pages, gated content, and email automation. We also recommend they use branded sales collateral, sales sequences, and an entire host of analytics tools. And that’s just a basic strategy.

Inbound marketing is complex. It involves multiple strategies working in tandem, so doubling down on just one or two strategies won’t usually be effective. A cohesive approach creates a clear path for leads to follow.

The less friction, the better.

Inbound Marketing - How It's Done and Why It Works

5. You Haven’t Invested in Content

To succeed at inbound marketing, you need to create content regularly. In fact, content is the cornerstone of every inbound market strategy. There are many different types of content. The types you’re probably most familiar with are blog posts, content offers (like eBooks), and social media posts.

If you haven’t invested enough time and energy into content marketing, you may be stunting your results. If you have a blog, you should post on a schedule. Make sure your posts have some weight to them, too. As easy as it is to pump out tons of short blog posts, longer blog posts tend to be more effective at growing organic traffic.

But don’t limit yourself to written content. Not everyone will respond well to a long blog post. For example, 54% of consumers want to see videos from the brands they love, according to HubSpot. B2B buyers tend to like original research and whitepapers.

If you have creative people on staff or you work with a creative agency, consider some of these other types of content:

  • Animated GIFs
  • Cheat sheets
  • Checklists
  • Comics and cartoons
  • Free templates
  • Graphs and infographics
  • How-to guides
  • Memes
  • SlideShare presentations
  • Social images
  • Tools and free apps
  • User-generated content
  • Webinars

You may find that your customers respond to some types of content more than others. For example, if you create a how-to video and it’s a huge hit, make video creation a regular part of your content strategy. If tons of people download your how-to guide, commit to creating one every quarter.

6. Your Website Isn’t Optimized for Conversions

You’ve got an active blog, a solid social media presence, and plenty of web traffic, but your conversion rate is still low. If that’s the case, your website’s design may be hurting you.

To truly optimize for conversions, you need to know what people are doing on your website. Consider using a service like Hotjar. Hotjar creates recordings of visitor activity, logs where and how often they click, and even generates heat maps of which parts of your web pages they’ve viewed.

Let Hotjar run for a while before you start making changes. Once you have enough data, identify your problem areas. It could be that certain pages cause them to leave your website, or it could be they are clicking on objects that don’t link anywhere.

There needs to be a clear path to convert on your website. Boosting your conversion rate could be as simple as placing a button at the top of your homepage or implementing a live chat feature. If you get traffic on your blog, make sure you have a CTA on every blog post or at least a form for visitors to fill out.

If you have lots of conversion opportunities in place, you’ll have to dig into your metrics to find the problem. Find the CTAs that aren’t converting and replace them with CTAs that are. Do your visitors have too many choices on your homepage? Narrow it down to one or two.

Small changes to your messaging can also make a difference. CTAs with vague messaging won’t encourage visitors to click. Your message should give them a clear understanding of what will happen if they click the button. For example, if you’re providing them with an eBook offer, switch out “Click Here” for “Get the eBook Now!” or “Give me my free eBook.”

Keep it Simple

And when it comes to web design, simpler is usually better. Don’t bog down your pages with too many menus, graphics, and clickable links. If you want your visitors to get to a specific landing page and fill out a form, utilize your blank space and make the CTA the most prominent object on the page.

Finally, if your website hasn’t been updated in years, it might be time for full revamp. Building a new website is always an undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. Look at what your competitors are doing with their websites. Write up a wish list and have a brainstorming session with your team before you start drafting mock-ups and building a framework.

When it comes time to build your website, follow the growth-driven design methodology. Build a launchpad website, then make incremental improvements over time based on what your data tells you.

7. You’re Just Getting Started

It’s an open secret that inbound marketing takes time to work.

How much time? According to HubSpot, 83.9% of companies using inbound marketing see an increase in leads within 7 months. Sometimes, it can take as long as 12 months or more before you start seeing truly impressive results.

Inbound marketing takes time because it revolves around the organic traffic you generate on your website. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll have to stay determined to get noticed. By producing content and staying active on social media, you’ll become more authoritative. If your content is good, you may get referrals from other websites that will increase your authority even more.

Think of it like a train on a track. It can take a while to get it moving, but the effort will be worth it when you reach full speed.

If you’ve been doing inbound marketing for a while, don’t abandon it just yet if your traffic isn’t off the charts. You’ll see incremental increases over time if you stay consistent. Eventually, your ROI for inbound marketing will surpass anything you could achieve through advertising alone.

Nonetheless, if you need some quick wins, it doesn’t hurt to set a piece of your budget aside for digital ads when you first start out.

8. You Don’t Have Enough Capacity

When you start doing inbound, it can be tempting to pull someone from your team aside and tell them they’re the new “inbound marketing person.” But if you check with them a month later and nothing’s happened, go easy on them – they probably need help.

As we mentioned before, inbound marketing has a lot of moving parts. It takes a team to do it correctly.

You need someone to write content, someone to create designs, someone to build and maintain your website, and someone to make decisions about your strategy. If you’re particularly invested, you may also want to enlist multiple content writers, someone to handle social media, and a project manager to keep everyone on track, among team members.

And if you don’t have enough capacity to run an inbound marketing campaign on your own, you can always work with contractors or reach out for help from an inbound agency.

Inbound Marketing - How It's Done and Why it Works

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