Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a BIG fan of demand generation and inbound marketing. The only thing I may like more is baseball.
Readers of this blog know that one reason for my fondness is that Imagine provides services in these areas. What many may not know is that we didn't actually start as an inbound marketing or demand generation agency. When Imagine was founded, we actually focused on solving the bottom-of-funnel sales problem. We practiced demand generation and inbound marketing for ourselves but it wasn't included in the services we provided to our clients.
We were such fans of the impact it was having on our business that we decided to focus our entire business on creating the same success for others. While I firmly believe that the strategies and tactics associated with inbound marketing and demand generation can benefit every company, my experience has taught me that not every company should go down that path.
Almost two years ago, I shared 5 Legitimate Reasons Not to Pursue Inbound Marketing. It's equally important to note that just because inbound marketing would work for your company, doesn't mean you should do it. Successful demand generation requires the right mindset, as well as good strategy and process.
So, here are three reasons you should not embark on a demand generation-inbound marketing journey.
1. You need (or greatly desire) results now
I admit that I struggle with this. I'm impatient, entrepreneurial and aggressive. Frankly, I've never done well with delayed gratification. For years I was able to get away with it. My sales background combined with raw determination enabled me to grow my business for several years with a quarter-to-quarter, or even month-to-month mentality. Sure, I developed my long-term plans and strategies; but from a revenue generation focus, it became all about "what are we going to get done this quarter?"
Three problems occurred with this approach:
- While we grew, the growth was inconsistent; and every year growing the business got tougher and tougher. I used to call it the "business growth treadmill" (you can read all about it in our eBook The 7 Steps to Effortless GrowthThe 7 Steps to Effortless Growth).
- Our revenue got bigger (and so did our expenses) but our "engine" for growth didn't grow in proportion to our needs. As our revenue grew, our ability to sustain growth weakened.
- As a result we hit a wall...hard; and on more than one occasion.
And don't think these issues are the result of merely being a small business. I've worked with $50 and $100 million (and larger) companies that suffer the same mindset.
I get the desire for quick results, but if you don't have a strong foundation then growth just makes you weaker. The late management genius Peter Drucker hit the nail on the head when he said, "Most businesses don't fail because of starvation; they fail because of indigestion." Be sure you are growing your ability to generate new revenue faster than you are generating revenue.
2. You're not comfortable with mistakes
More than 10 years ago, I shared that the television show House, M.D., was the perfect metaphor for growing a business. The goal should not be to get it right, but to get it progressively less wrong, faster and faster. Since that time, modern project management strategies like Agile proved the point.
You're going to make mistakes. Don't avoid it. Instead make them quickly and make sure they're not too big. The mantra of the world's best demand generation practitioners is Always be testing, Always be experimenting.
Today I was on a call with a client who's near completion of a new website. They were asking our team questions about a choice they needed to make regarding the homepage layout, and they were asking for our opinion on it. Our response surprised them initially. We simply said "Choose whichever one you like." We went on to explain that whatever we started with, we would shortly be experimenting with other options, using a variety of analytical tools to determine which worked best.
I realize that adopting this mentality is rough. We've been taught our whole lives that mistakes are bad. The problem with that mindset is that when you're going to market, there are simply too many variables and too much change for it to be viable. Avoiding mistakes slows the process down and limits learning; which combine to kill momentum and impact. The result is you end up working twice as hard for little, if any, results.
3. You’re not comfortable with chaos
Recently our marketing manager, Stacy, wrote a post about the inbound marketing tornado. Demand generation is chaotic. It's a wave that you can't control, and at best, can merely hope to ride. You're never working with perfect information, adequate resources or enough time.
Success constantly requires making trade-offs, balancing priorities and trying new things. Even when it's working, it rarely feels like things are in order. If you're in the midst of a demand generation process and want to find reasons that things aren't working, it's very easy to do...even when things are working terrifically.
I'm convinced that the primary benefit companies like Imagine provide their clients is merely the ability to get them to execute and "ship it." We've learned to be comfortable in chaos and we've built the systems to support it. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, once said, "If you're not embarrassed by your beta release, then you waited too long to release it."
Growth is hard. It's actually good that it is, because those willing to really do what it takes – and have the patience to make it work – enjoy a tremendous competitive advantage over those that look for quick fixes.
Those looking to exploit opportunities will benefit greatly from demand generation and inbound marketing; just be sure that you're approaching it with the right mindset.