Why do some companies fail with Inbound?  What are the most common pitfalls and what are the tell-tale signs to look out for when you are embarking on an Inbound path?

It should be clear to most people by now that Inbound works, it really works, regardless of which industry you’re in and which customers you are targeting. It works because it focuses first on helping people and secondly on selling to them. Put differently, it works because it aligns with how people think and behave and it forces you to only look from the outside.

So why is it then that some companies fail with Inbound? There are at least 6 main reasons why companies fail with Inbound:

1. Lack of management buy-in

It may be that the initiative to go inbound has been initiated by someone lower down in the organisation and the CEO and the Executive Team might not fully be onboard with the idea. In this situation it’s usually difficult to steer clear from shifting and conflicting priorities and you are likely to fall prey of an inability to free-up critical business resources and to commit fully to an Inbound methodology.

2. Lack of employee buy-in

You’re all excited by the best thing since sliced bread but you can’t seem to get the rest of team onboard with the idea. Most larger and mature companies suffer from organisational inertia, or the tendency to resist change and may even have grown complacent. Most people tend to be uncomfortable with change and prefers to keep doing what they know and are familiar with. Sometimes this means you have to re-educate existing staff and/or recruit new staff. For more on this subject you can read my blog post about How to build and inbound marketing team and about transforming an existing team into inbound marketers.

3. Lack of content

Content is at the heart of inbound. As most people that start down the path of Inbound soon find out, getting a traditional organisation to produce good Inbound content can prove more difficult than herding cats. The paradox is that most organisation have lots of good content ready to be discovered and repackaged into perfect Inbound content. After all, chances are that if your organisation didn’t possess deep knowledge and thought leadership within your specific area of expertise, you wouldn’t remain in business very long.  Like everything else in business, this comes down to buy-in. When people say ’I don’t have time to produce content’ they usually mean ‘I don’t value that enough to prioritise it’. That means you need to prove the value of content, e.g. show what the end ROI of a blog post is to convince people to write it in the first place. People need to understand the why before they are ready to get into how and what.

4. Too many silos

Many organisations are still structured in a very traditional way with little or no cross-functional interaction between e.g. sales, marketing and IT. If you want Inbound to work, it won’t be enough that you do a cracking job at it in the marketing department. You will need to get the sales guys onboard as well. Eventually you will need a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales that stipulates what the marketing department shall deliver to the sales department and vice versa. As if that wasn’t enough, you also need a SLA from IT what the IT department shall deliver to sales and marketing.   

5. Strategy

You need to formulate a clear strategy with purpose, mission, target personas, and objectives (including measurable KPIs). Too many organisations lack this foundation and without this basic steering document in place it becomes almost impossible to stay on track to implement Inbound in the long term. It’s too easy to be side-tracked with conflicting priorities, and whatever is the flavour of the day. As a result, instead of incrementally building towards a long-term goal you end up walking in circles. Additionally, without clear objectives and KPIs to measure them against, you can’t really assess how well you are executing an Inbound methodology.

6. Lack of tools

The sixth thing that might hamper your efforts in implementing a successful Inbound process in your organisation is the lack of proper tools. While you in theory can build a functional Inbound platform by a mishmash of different tools and platforms, chances are that you will end up spending most of your time on costly and time consuming integrations rather than on producing Inbound content and processes. You will save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache if you instead opt for a purpose built Inbound platform such as HubSpot or one of its competitors.

If you want advice on how to overcome these hurdles, please read my post about How to get your organisation onboard with Inbound. 

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Martin Olausson

Chief Analyst & Strategist
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