According to Search Engine Journal, inbound leads cost 60% less than outbound leads. You've likely heard this and a slew of other statistics that have brought you to believe in the power of inbound marketing. And maybe you're ready to remake your marketing strategy — but don't sign on that dotted line just yet. There's a costly mistake we see many companies making in an inbound marketing package.
In our experience, there's one way to royally doom an inbound marketing strategy: by promising "deliverables." We'll get into what deliverables are exactly, why they're a bad investment, and how to choose a better alternative.
The downside of deliverables
Is an inbound marketing agency promising you a package of goodies each month?
For example, two blog posts a week + three premium content offers + four nurture workflows?
We call these little chunks of content "deliverables." They're often predetermined and predictable line items that could include blog posts, emails, social media posts, workflows, premium content offers, and more.
At the surface, this can be an appealing offer. The "deliverables" model gives you predictability in what you're receiving. It might be an easier sell for the C-suite. But one of my favorite quotes by Andy Warhol becomes very relevant: "Security breeds stagnation."
A set of predetermined deliverables each month keeps your inbound strategy churning at the same pace, time and time again. It doesn't innovate — it stagnates.
This is a common model, but why is it broken? There are too many variables determining scope to lean on a one-size-fits-all set of deliverables. For example, how fast do you want to reach your goals? How much do you want to spend? How heavily do you want to be involved?
The answers to these questions change from one business to the next, and even over time. It makes more sense to invest in an adaptable plan that's tailored to each business and its set of needs.
For a while, we used the deliverables method ourselves. But we readjusted our approach when it became apparently clear we were fulfilling on a formula that didn't always work for our clients. We were affording them predictability, but at the expense of flexibility.
Soon, our new revelation became clear: scope must determine strategy. Now, we're migrating all of our clients to this new mindset. Here's how it works.
Scope determines strategy
There's no magic formula for inbound success.
X number of blogs x Y number of landing pages x Z number of nurture emails does not necessarily equal XYZ number of customers.
In reality, your business and its ideal strategy is a much more complex algebraic problem. Throw in an x and a y, and it's easy to handle. But, once you start throwing in the whole alphabet, you're opening up a Pandora's box of unpredictability.
Which variables should be factored into your strategy? Scope is determined by a wide range of factors. For example, your business has:
- A specific set of challenges and goals.
- A unique audience, and several separate buyer personas.
- Timelines and budgets you must adhere to.
- A vertical market that defines industry expectations.
- Particular internal capabilities to create content.
What's more — your needs change month by month. It might make sense to publish eight blog posts in June... but in July, it might make better sense to go a completely different route and focus on nurture emails. If you're tied to a set of deliverables, you can't adapt to changing needs. As you move into the future, you're essentially stuck in a framework you determined in the past.
What's the solution to unpredictability? If you're truly adhering to the inbound marketing methodology, you know you must continually improve your strategy.
We'll explain a new model that's a nimble alternative to the "typical" inbound marketing package of deliverables.
Partnership + seat at the table
There's a different model we subscribe to at SparkReaction: a seat at the table in an ongoing partnership.
What does this mean, exactly?
Instead of a slew of deliverables, a partnership model gives you a seat at the table when decisions are being made. Here's how it works:
- Your inbound marketing agency will explain what's happening in your portal with periodic reports.
- In regular meetings, you'll be told transparently what's working in your strategy, what's not, and how it can be fixed.
- You can offer suggestions based on your business know-how — and you'll let the inbound marketing experts do their best work to modulate your strategy accordingly.
Why do we like this model as an inbound marketing agency? It's giving us more freedom to be flexible with a strategy that adapts based on success and failure. We're not tied to a broken framework once it stops working.
For example, maybe an agency conducts a marketing audit and reveals that there's too much content being written for your website, and the real problem in your funnel lies in nurturing existing leads, not attracting new ones. In the following month, the agency will adapt its focus to middle-of-funnel content creation and portal upkeep. If that works, they might turn to a new problem in the following month — like bringing in more traffic.
It's a bit like hiring a stock portfolio manager. If you're investing in the same set of stocks that repeatedly underperform, you want to put your money elsewhere! The same is true of your inbound strategy. An inbound marketing agency can point you towards better investments.
(Curious how it works in practice? Here are some real inbound marketing case studies that show how our strategies adapt with time to generate great results.)
So, how do I prove ROI?
There are some objections to this new model. The main qualm is this: How can I prove where my money is being spent?
In an inbound marketing package, you might be paying for a specific set of line items — but in the partnership model, you're paying for results. Results might come in the form of increased traffic, lead conversions, or qualified leads passed off to your sales team. No matter which goal you're focusing on, you're relying on the fact that your money goes where it will generate the most ROI each month. Maybe this is in a pay-per-click ad, an innovative premium content offer, or a set of nurture workflows. The only constant is a commitment to your goals.
Long story short? Your goals determine where the money goes, and an inbound marketing partner will use expertise to choose the best investments to get you there.
When you're looking to hire an inbound marketing agency, make customization a priority. If your inbound marketing package is based on deliverables, you're sticking yourself into an inflexible model.
Instead, opt for a partnership that offers you a seat at the table. Put your money into results, not stagnant line items. If you're curious how exactly a strategy would work for your business, grab our free guide below!