This was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse...
If you're considering hiring a marketing agency to help you execute your inbound marketing campaign, you need to take caution. Hiring an agency before you're ready to support them properly will probably end poorly. Despite the fact that you'll undoubtedly blame them for a lack of results I know from experience that businesses who fail to support their campaigns share the blame when it goes down in flames. Before you spend your companies valuable resources you should consider whether you're failing to prepare properly.
6 Reasons Inbound Marketing Campaigns Die On The Vine
Failure #1 - Companies Have No Other Plans
From our very first conversation, we have with prospects we talk about their goals and plans to achieve them. We need to understand what they're trying to achieve, what else they have in the works, and why they think an agency like us can help. A big part of our evaluation as to whether or not we believe we can help them is understanding what else they have planned.
Companies that believe inbound marketing should be the only growth initiative in their stable don't make good partners. They don't make good partners because they don't understand that inbound marketing isn't a stand-alone solution. If you don't have a well-developed brand and offering your marketing team will struggle to differentiate your company effectively. If you don't have a strong sales department to execute effectively on the leads your new campaign produces there won't be a return on investment. Simply put, inbound can't solve all your problems.
Failure #2 - Companies Don't Have A Reliable Point Of Contact
If you want to build a successful campaign you need to forge a successful partnership with your agency. That means a lot of time and effort must be invested to review deliverables and provide feedback essential to calibration with your content team. If your organization doesn't have someone available to work with your new execution team you're going to struggle. Articles and eBooks will sit endlessly in review or get published without the proper contribution necessary to ensure the message is on point.
I've seen more than one campaign die on the vine because the person in charge of working with us was just 'too busy' to commit enough time to the campaign. If you can't find someone to spend two hours per week to assist with strategy and ensure your campaign cranks out the content you'd be better off saving your money.
Failure #3 - Companies Can't Get Their Experts Involved
You're not really expecting a team of marketers in another office to write technical content by themselves are you? If you have a complex or technical solution it's going to be extremely difficult to get truly expert content out of your agency. If they're any good they'll get your voice down and write well for you but they still need help. You likely have at least a few people on your staff with an extremely high level of intellectual property in your business. They've been instrumental to your success and they know more than any marketer can ever learn.
I advise you to establish clear expectations by building the urgency and importance from your subject matter expert's consistent contribution. If you want to publish articles with expertise that will impress your prospects you better get your very best resources to contribute. They don't have to be writers, they just have to donate a little time. Marketers know how to get the information out of their minds and into your content, you just have to make them available when needed.
Failure #4 - Companies Are Too Conservative
Inbound marketing is an arms race, above all else. Your competition is building and you have to outbuild them if you want to be found first. It’s a saturated digital marketplace, to say the least. The fact is your campaign isn't going to drive results until you build enough of the right kind of weapons (in the various forms of content). If you want to play the game of inbound marketing war you better start building weapons.
There’s a lot of work before you if you're about to begin a campaign. Think of it this way... You're about to enter an arms race as a third world country and the world leaders have a big head start. Think of every piece of published content as another weapon, you need to build a huge stockpile if we want to win a war. Take this into consideration as you develop a scope of work. If you can't afford to build at the proper pace you're going to lose a lot of battles because of it. If you want the agency you hire to drive results for you I suggest you empower them with enough resources to build aggressively. It wouldn't hurt to break out your own laptop and do a little writing either, just sayin'.
Failure #5 - Companies Want Literary Perfection
Understand this, content marketing isn't about creating content utopia. There's a false pretense that every piece of content published is going to captivate everyone that reads it to the point they can't resist buying whatever it is you'd like to sell them. That idea just isn't founded in reality. It's easy for campaigns to stall as every word of every piece of content is over-analyzed, reworked, and stalled because it's not 'perfect yet'.
You can't be everything to everyone at all times and some of your content will be little more than a building block. It's these building blocks when stacked on top of each other, that build your campaign's momentum. As your blocks stack up and your campaign builds momentum you'll attract more attention to your total presentation. It's that presentation that sells your services so my advice is that you focus your energy on getting to that point. Your campaign will be much more powerful with 100 articles published than it will be with 10 articles published.
You don't want to miss the forest while staring at the tree in front of you. People have questions and they're looking for answers, give them the what they want and be efficient. Keep your focus on the big picture and you'll find that the sum of the whole is much more powerful than any individual article. If you want results from your content work hard on setting the strategy. Then allow your writers to do their job.
Failure #6 - Companies Aren't Patient
Results don't happen overnight and there is no magic bullet. Everyone wants to know how long it's going to take to 'see results' and they're rarely prepared for an honest answer. I think this if partially the fault of agencies setting unrealistic expectations and promising things on the sales side that the marketing department can rarely live up to. Everyone you're considering likely wants to win your business and some will be willing to tell you whatever you want to hear. As our Business Development Representative Adrian Doggrell learned not to long ago, there is a downside to bending over backward to win your business.
You need to be prepared to get in this game for the long run. You need to be prepared to build, deploy, evaluate, adjust, and build some more. Until you have a library of valuable resources, articles, and campaign assets it's going to be difficult to reach your audience consistently and effectively. The short answer is a typical B2B campaign should start to see tangible production by the third or fourth month. As your campaign matures to the 8-12 month mark you'll likely see your closed-loop reporting show revenue contribution from closed business. There are a ton of variables, not the least of which is the length of your sales cycle. You have to build a healthy pipeline of leads and let them work their way through the entire marketing funnel before they go through the sales process.
Be patient, with focused efforts and careful tracking you'll see your key performance indicators rise to desired levels.
Inbound Marketing Is A Team Effort
If you're not ready to commit the proper team, tools, and attitude to make your campaign a success that's OK. The fact is many companies are not ready to execute a successful campaign. You're probably better off taking the proper steps to build your internal team and capacity before you hire an agency to work for you. Take some time to get your ducks in a row and build the proper organizational mindset and you'll find your timeline for success will be shorter once you take the leap.