In days of yore, you could realistically expect that an ad buy would have a pretty quick turnaround for ROI. You’d spend whatever money you were gonna spend on getting the spot written, cast, filmed, and scored, it would air between plays at Super Bowl Umpty-Two, and you’d either see a spike in sales…or not. A campaign either worked or it didn’t, and sales either went up or they didn’t. There was a pretty easy 1:1 correspondence to draw between an ad buy and the numbers on the ticker tape.
But sadly, the Mad Men-era is over, and even the great advertising blitzes of the ‘80s and ‘90s have come and gone. The rise of digital has changed the marketing landscape irrevocably, and it’s slowly obliterating mass media as a viable channel period. So we’re left with a distinctly different situation: permission-based marketing focusing on long-term growth rather than short-term sprints. This can be a good or a bad thing, but on the balance, it’s a positive development.
The long-term nature of inbound marketing is what I want to focus on, because that lack of immediate, short-term marketing results can be really frustrating. After all, isn’t sales what successful marketing is supposed to do?
Well, that really depends. Inbound’s focus is all about driving the growth of your audience, and then reeling them in; this isn’t like a Super Bowl ad where you’re guaranteed 60 million sets of eyeballs glued to the screen. Your audience is smaller, more focused, and harder to find. So step one is recognizing that finding them matters. And that it’s going to take time.
How Long Will It Take?
Well, that’s hard to say exactly. Like everything, you get out of it what you put into it, and half-hearted inbound isn’t going to do any more for you than a cheap commercial that runs at 3AM on a public access show about vintage bath soap packaging.
Your success is going to be in very large part determined by your investment of time and resources.
Think about it. What’s going to get more attention – a blog that updates twice a month or a blog that updates every day? A Twitter account that shares an article here or there, or one that is actively and constantly engaging with customers, colleagues, competitors, and influencers? Because putting out great content is how you get attention – and attention is how you build your audience.
A resource-poor and undedicated inbound campaign or social media marketing strategy may not ever show you results. But something run well, given proper attention and care, and the means to succeed? You should expect positive movement within six months, and significant growth over twelve to twenty-four.
And that’s a far cry from the 24-hour turnaround a big ad buy could garner.
But there’s a really big difference between your big ad buy and dedicated inbound marketing: once the ad stops running, the leads dry up. These are short-term gains that don’t get you anywhere. You’ve sold your product, and now you can be safely forgotten about. Your customers won’t buy again because they won’t return to your website, they won’t follow you on social media, and they won’t engage with you again in any capacity.
They might even forget you exist.
Now, at Hudson Fusion we do sometimes do pay-per-click ad buys, but it’s in the service of building up an initial mailing list we can then begin to nurture and turn into brand ambassadors. The point isn’t the sale. And that’s good, because if you’re spending money simply to make every sale, what you’re really doing is wasting money. You aren’t building up an audience that engages with you constantly, is primed to your brand, and will think of you every time they’re shopping for what you do.
And when you’ve got the right people listening, they’re shopping for what you do all the time.
Your ROI isn’t an immediate sale – it’s the volume of sales you’re doing in one year, two years, three years with the foundation of a dedicated, invested audience that cares about who you are, what you do – and needs what you offer.
So it’s a matter of focusing on the right end goal: a strong foundation to propel long-term growth instead of a quick bandage on a bad quarter. That has a time and a place, but it can’t be the whole of an effective marketing strategy.
So yeah. Your marketing ROI is hard to track. It probably won’t turnaround for a couple of years. It takes diligence and effort to till the soil to ensure a harvest. But what you get is lasting, sustainable growth powered by well-nurtured leads and a plethora of brand ambassadors. And this is as true for a staid, respectable B2B company as it is for the most bubbly, entertaining B2C business you can imagine. Because if you’ve got customers, you’ve got someone to market to.
And you want them with you for the long haul.