Inbound Recap: Why Your Well-Planned Marketing Strategy Still Falls Short

7 min read

For the last two years, I've sat in session after session at marketing and sales conferences––listening to some of the brightest minds in the biz talk about the concepts and ideas that drive our industry forward. I always walk away from Inbound feeling inspired. That can't-wait-to-get-home-and-try-some-stuff kind of inspired. 

It's a great feeling, but if you've been to a conference or even just a great networking event, you know it doesn't last. How many times have you gotten home, spent hours catching up on email, and been thrust back into your routine––just to get swept back up in all the things that you were doing before those lightbulb moments at the conference? 

You came back with a million ideas for video creation, new tools to research, blog topics, website tricks, and more "hacks" than you could count. It all seemed so shiny and interesting, but then the days go by, and you lose the momentum.

You retain maybe one or two ideas after it's all over. *Poof*, the rest evaporates into a post-conference coma.

This isn't a new idea, though. If you've been to more than one or two events with jam-packed lineups and diversified topics, you've experienced it before. 

But I entered this year's event with a slightly fearful cringe, knowing I've suffered from the post-conference coma before.

My first session of #INBOUND17 was fittingly a session by George Thomas (of The Sales Lion) that stuck the problem right back in my face. With a ton of energy and a bullsh*t-free attitude, George's session was by far one of the most motivating I've ever been to.

He drilled home one point to kick of his presentation that sticks with me: We spend so much our time focusing on education as marketers: what's the hot new trend, what quick lead generation wins we can get, and where to spend more of our marketing dollars. 

We absorb, absorb, absorb. 

But we retain only a few nuggets of knowledge. Maybe not even nuggets we wanted to retain. Maybe not even things that are useful or even relevant.

After a handful of sessions, what sticks with us may just be a biproduct of our caffeine level at the time of the session or whether we got more than a few hours of sleep the night before––not what we strategically wanted to remember and test.

But what if we focused more on execution? What if you took just one or two core concepts from every session––every inspiring keynote––and actually dedicated real, uninterrupted time to seeing it through? 

If instead of jotting down a page of notes, taking pictures of every slide, and trying to grasp the big picture with every presentation, what if I just found one, realistic thing for me to accomplish when I got back?

This is a universal thought that we can start applying directly to our work as multiple-hat-wearing marketers. 

Without dedicated resources and execution, a genius marketing strategy will never yield results

If you invested in going to Inbound, sending a team member, or are just generally tired of always trying to keep up with the latest trends in marketing (but feel like you're spinning your wheels), listen up. 

I'm tired of spinning my wheels on certain projects, too. The SparkReaction team wants to better channel and focus our inspiration from this year's Inbound. I'm right there with you.

In honor of that theme from George, I want to reflect on some of the marketing strategy time-wasters that have prevented me from actually getting stuff done and seeing results. And to take his idea one step further, I'll also lay out a few of the tactics I want to hold myself to in the hopes of getting more done with the momentum from Inbound.

If any of these time-wasters resonate with you, you're not alone. It's time to make real progress on your marketing strategy and recognize (and conquer!) the things that hold you back. 

3 Ways You're Wasting Time With Your Marketing Strategy

1. You're a compulsive note-taker, but have trouble synthesizing:

I'm great at taking lots of notes. Recording meetings, jotting down ideas, and keeping lists of tasks are my jam. But why do we spend so much time trying to capture all of the information, and only a minute or two after the meeting extracting the core takeaways from the meeting and setting a new, concrete S.M.A.R.T. goal for that idea? 

Let's try this instead: I'm going to lean heavier on project management (we use Teamwork and love it) to keep priorities clear and communication lines open. What are our top priorities, numbered #1-#5? What are the specific goals and timelines around those priorities? When we get a new idea, it goes in the queue, or ordered in the top 5 priorities if it's a great idea. If it's a good thought, but just not impactful for our business right now, stash it away in a digital notebook that the entire team has access to.

Wrap up every meeting with the action items, champions of those tasks, and ideas of how to progress toward the goals until the next time we touch base.

Don't let the barage of new, interesting marketing ideas distract from those few, key projects that could actually drive new leads, sales, and improvement across your marketing efforts. Stay focused, captain.

2. You have time for strategy, but not execution: 

While the idea of execution over education really rang true for me from George's session, the overall topic of his talk was about video strategy. For this example, he challenged us to think about how we would ever accomplish the testing and trial we wanted for video if we never dedicated a person to learning and really "owning" the video strategy. This applies to every part of marketing.

Do you have HubSpot, but not actually have an internal team member who knows the ins and outs of the platform?

Do you have a blog, but not have a dedicated champion for blog ideas, drafting, publishing, editing, promotion, and the circular motion of keeping your blog fresh and relevant? Do you have a website design that looks fine, but doesn't get the type of attention it needs?

The productive shift: Take an honest look at your workload. How much time do you need each week for the basic responsibilities of your role at your company? How much time do you need to spend strategizing and researching new ideas? Lastly, how much time does that leave you to actually do all of the work needed to accomplish your goals? 

If the math isn't adding up, you're a human. Congratulations! You may have overestimated the amount of work you could take on with your post-conference momentum to push the gas pedal to the floor.

That's okay. That's why things like agencies exist to give you 8 extra arms to actually get stuff done. And if working with an agency isn't the right fit, that's when you ramp up the open positions on your careers page. 

Because without a dedicated team member for all of the incredible projects you have on your plate, you won't accomplish what you dream of. You can't run a successful blog if you don't have time to blog––if there's no strategy or true thought behind it. You can't make interesting, engaging videos if you don't have time to strategize and execute the videos, themselves. 

As marketers, we're always looking for the quick fix to a new trend so we can move on to fawning over the next new trend. We want results, but often refuse to hire/appoint/give budget to a bright mind to lead the project.

 

It's no wonder we're spinning our wheels. 

3. You identify your problems and discuss them openly, but struggle to solve them:

In our weekly team meetings, we've adapted the "Identify, Discuss, Solve" method from EOS Worldwide. Now––we're by no means experts at it yet. But we know it's important.

We're really, really good at the first step: Identify. We're open, transparent, and love to find community in our problems (this is the classy way I'll describe something more commonly known as "complaining.") We can go 'round the room pretty quickly and narrow in on exactly where the hitch in our giddyup is: the roadblock that's getting in our way. 

We're getting better at Discuss. A lot of the Inbound keynotes and Bold Talks this year brought insightful, diverse, reflective discussion around issues plaguing marketing and our digital world today. Conferences are a great place to accomplish this step with lots of brains at the table. 

But we often struggle to Solve––and I'll bet you do, too. If you walked away from Inbound or another recent learning event wondering, "But what do I do now? What do I focus on? What's my roadmap?", then you're right here. 

This is the toughest step. It requires the most time, the most money, and often an exhausting amount of effort. 

But no goal is met without charging through this step. If you never approach Solve, you will never see results from your notebook full of ideas. 

How to focus on the Solve step: I don't have a magic solution here. No quick tip for getting more sh*t done. It just doesn't exist. 

You have to find what holds you back from solving your marketing problems. Is it time? Is it money? It is tools/software? 

The more blunt you are with yourself about saying, "I'm not good at this," or, "I don't know," the faster you'll identify your roadblocks.

If you can identify your problem, you've discussed your options and know what you want to do, but you just can't make it happen––you need to find exactly what's standing in your way.

The Takeaways

If you spend 90% of your time brainstorming new ideas, and only 10% executing them, even the best marketing strategy may fall flat. 

On the other hand, if you spend 90% of your time as a task monkey without thinking through your strategy more than 10% of the time, you might never accomplish a focused goal. 

My perspective at Inbound in 2017 didn't answer this impasse for me. Neither George, nor any of the other engaging and motivating speakers, did not give us a perfect formula for figuring out how much time to spend educating ourselves and how much time to spend executing those ideas. 

But he did bring me back to a principle I had lost for awhile: Too much absorption, and we lose sight of accomplishing real milestones to grow our businesses. Our work takes balance and reflection.

I hope this post has done the same for you.