When Inbound Marketing Works And Also When It Doesn’t

Andrew Simon, Simon Associates Management ConsultantsFor awhile now, Simon Associates has blogged extensively about the use of Inbound Marketing. We also have a webinar series called Healthcare Innovation.

In both the webinars and our blogs, we talk about the value of Inbound. Simon Associates also has a number of our clients on the HubSpot platform which we believe is a terrific tool for executing an inbound marketing campaign.

As we’ve gotten more and more familiar with Inbound and HubSpot and seen the extraordinary effectiveness of both, we wanted to share with you some important insights and market results which we have recently observed. Case in point: Are there certain conditions that we believe don’t necessarily work for Inbound? We think the answer is yes! Let me give you an example and you decide for yourself.

When Inbound Marketing Isn’t The Best Choice, You Follow Other Best Practices

Simon Associates had a client that was essentially a one-product company. And that product was not a large ticket item. Our task was to build the client’s online business, and while we used traditional online promotions and Facebook to stimulate interest and excitement, we believed that since the product was essentially an impulse item, developing a long term relationship with consumers (extended lead nurturing — a big part of inbound marketing) didn’t seem particularly important or cost effective. But that didn’t mean that we didn’t follow other best practices associated with online marketing.

Building Product Awareness By Using Many Channels

Even though we didn’t use the typical Inbound Marketing strategies to nurture consumer relationships, we still did a lot to establish product awareness and build customer loyalty, with great success:

  1. SEO and content creation. Since this was an impulse item in a “red ocean” category, ranking on Google’s Page One was of critical importance. Therefore, we were determined to understand both keywords and keyword searches. In other words, how many searches were being done for certain keywords and could keywords related to our client’s product rank on search engines’ first pages for those short and long tail words. The second thing we did was to understand that content is king and also that continuously changing content is vitally important in order to obtain high Google rankings.

Another barrier to success was the client’s old fashioned website that could not be changed without significant effort and cost. However, we launched a blogging strategy to reduce the impact of this out-of-date website and developed a strategy that required us to blog almost every other day. These blogs were generally specific to the category that our client’s product competed in.

  1. We determined that contextual linking was critical. Since our client had an impulse item in a high interest category, we strived to link to sites that had established authority and trust. Over a two year period, we achieved over 500 relevant contextual links.
  1. A Facebook page was very important for consumer engagement. We knew that it was important to leverage Facebook to gain interest and build “Likes.” This also allowed us to collect email addresses. Email was then used to alert consumers and potential consumers to promote the client’s product as well as promotional offerings. We also repurposed blogs that had been developed for the website.

The Proof Is In the Pudding: Explosive Online Sales

So how did we do with this impulse item over a two year period?

  1. Built a multi-million dollar online presence. Because of our efforts, our client now has a multi-million dollar online product (which was essentially close to zero when we took over that part of the business).
  2. Changed the profitability dynamics. Since the product is sold at full retail via the Web, the gross product margin is quite high. In retail channels, because there is always an intermediary, gross product margins are below 20%. Not so on the Web where gross product margins are in the 65% range. So on an apples to apples basis, you have to sell 3 times the amount of product through the retail distribution channel to achieve the same product dollar margin as over the Web. Or to put it another way, while online sales account for 10% of revenues, they account for 30% of gross profit margin. Suddenly this channel becomes a very important part of the distribution mix.

Lessons Learned

  1. Every situation requires its own independent analysis. So what did we learn from this case study?
  • Putting the right peg in the right hole is vitally important.
  • Not everything we do should be by rote.
  • Analyzing each individual situation is critical.
  • Understanding what you can and cannot leverage requires an analytical tool box.
  • You need to understand the economics of the situation before you act.
  1. In a perfect world, we probably should have done things a little differently. Given the situation, I believe we did the right things and used the right tools. But, should our client have done things a little differently? Probably! And what was that?
  • Responding faster to developing or acquiring new products.
  • Understanding that if you have a terrific product with a high degree of customer satisfaction, you have a great platform to take advantage of. This allows you to deepen the relationship with your existing customers.
  • Building new business from old! That means quickly moving forward with an active product development or distribution program.
  1. Know when it is time to take the next steps. The dynamics change considerably when you have a number of products to accompany a lead flagship product. Then you can leverage your customer base. At that point, using an inbound marketing program allows you to build and nurture your loyal customer base.

How Inbound Marketing Could Work For You and Your Business

Now that I have provided my view, it’s up to you to decide when to implement an Inbound Marketing Program. Don’t go blindly into something. Go back, think about it. Then think about it again and devise a strategy that makes sense, based what you are offering and the competitive situation.

At Simon Associates, we have years of experience helping companies, large and small, build their businesses. Maybe we could help you with yours? Please contact us and let’s get started!