One of the most common questions we get asked is, how long does successful inbound marketing take to produce results. On the surface, it seems like a straight forward question that should elicit a straight forward answer.
One thing is for certain, successful inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You reap tremendous, compounding rewards with inbound marketing, but it doesn't happen overnight.
The truth is, the timing of inbound results is dependent on a few factors.
What State Is Your Online Marketing Currently in?
Every business we speak to is starting from a different point. Some have a great website with terrible SEO. Some have tons of traffic with terrible lead volumes. Some are social media rock stars with terrible websites. The starting line is in a different position for almost everyone.
The most common scenario we see is a company has a decent website with poor SEO. They have some traffic, but not nearly what they could have. And they aren't generating any real leads. In this case, depending on some of the other variables below, we see positive results in 3 - 6 months. The compounding effect of successful inbound really takes off in months 9-12.
What Is Your Level of Urgency and Activity?
When we establish goals with new clients, we try to determine what their target numbers are and what their timeline is. When do they need to considerably improve lead volume and why? Your sense of urgency and need will dictate the amount of upfront investment of time/money is needed to hit your goals in a shorter amount of time.
If you need leads tomorrow or this week and you haven't been doing inbound or content marketing for a while, you're going to need to use something like pay-per-click advertising to drive immediate results.
If you're willing to invest in significantly more inbound marketing activity up front (e.g., more blog content, more premium offers, social activity, email marketing, etc...), you can expect results in the first 6 months.
What Is the Competitive Landscape Online in Your Industry?
Are you the 10th out of the 10 major players in your industry to start with inbound marketing. Have your competitors have been kicking butt with it for 5 years already? If so, your timeline is going to be a bit longer.
If you are the pioneer in your industry with inbound marketing, you will see results much faster. If you're somewhere in the middle, you'll see the average time listed above.
How Well Do You Know Your Buyer?
This variable is listed last, but might be the most important. Because successful inbound marketing is focused around being there when your prospect is looking for you, you have to know your buyer really well.
What early stage questions do they research before ever talking to you? What problems lead them to you? How do they go about trying to solve them before deciding on you? Who are they as people, not just buyers?
If you have a clear picture of your buyer and their entire buying process, your successful inbound marketing activities will produce better results, sooner. If you have to go back to drawing board several times to correct assumptions you've made about what's important to your buyer, you will dramatically increase your timelines.
How Long Will Successful Inbound Marketing Take for MY Company?
If you have some of the answers lined up to these variables, I'm sure we can give you an estimate. We'd be happy to evaluate your goals and needs to see if inbound marketing is the best option to reach your goals.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published in May 2017, but was recently updated.)