Many companies that are new to inbound marketing are going to struggle at first. This is completely normal and this is where most companies quit mind you. Putting in place an inbound marketing program is tough, almost as tough as cold calling (hint, hint).

To understand the evolution of an inbound marketing program, I break it down into 3 stages:

Stage 1

In the launch stage you are psyched about Inbound, you’ve read about the benefits, and you think you have a good understanding of it. At this point you may or may not have hired a marketing agency or a consultant to facilitate your inbound marketing program.

The biggest challenge at this point is finding your “voice”. This is how you speak about your product or service. Not to be confused with selling your product or service. A lot of companies immediately jump into a product brochure, by writing articles about features and benefits.

Content distribution is largely misunderstood. The masses aren’t going to flock to your social media posts as they would for companies like Apple or Nike.

The re-tweets, follows and shares aren’t going to come organically, sorry to break it to you. You haven’t earned this yet. Each distribution channel is unique and the only way you can learn what works on Twitter vs. Facebook is to experiment, a lot.

Stage 2

This is usually the point when companies say; “ I tried it and it just does not work for us”. Some will give up, but not you, you are smart. You decide to try again with the new insight you’ve gained from Stage 1.

As you’ve gotten smart about inbound marketing, you realized a few key points:

You need a content team: A content team is made up of many. The goal is to extract information from those who have it and put it into a marketable format. Small teams can produce content with just a few people and an intern. As you grow in your inbound marketing program it becomes more important to in-source and hire a full-time marketer dedicated to all things marketing.

You need your own narrative: A narrative is essentially your brand. Are you quirky, funny, slightly sinister, blunt or serious? Your brand is what makes you appealing online and offline. Play-up your brand strengths.

You need new, more and owned distribution channels: You can’t rely on whatever Facebook decides to do with its algorithm or simply post to high traffic-low conversion social channels like Twitter. The end game is to build an audience, dare I say an online community. The only way to do this is through hard work and a daily, consistent effort, to reach new customers online.

Stage 3:

At Stage 3 you are exhausted and yet exhilarated to implement your newfound knowledge of what an effective inbound marketing program looks like.

You start by:

Diversifying your content: Grow your own distribution channels through newsletters and a community of followers. You start creating new forms of content off of what’s previously been produced. You turn a blog post into an infographic or a white paper into a checklist.

Building organic search traffic: Because you have gotten so deeply entrenched in how your customers think, their concerns and what matters most to them, all of which is a byproduct of inbound marketing, you develop a keyword strategy that will drive your content and not the other way around. You are using tools like SEMRush, HubSpot or Google AdWords to research search volumes and discover where your competitors are in their own keyword rankings.

Working in small-yet-meaningful steps: It’s ok to begin with a company blog and then scale up to advanced content offers, landing pages and syndication networks. Small, incremental steps over time add up to big milestones. Just don’t forget why you are doing this and whom you are doing it for – your customers.

Inbound marketing is resource intensive and most of all requires commitment. If you are not committing to the process, the process will chew you up and spit you out.

There’s good news though. Inbound marketing does get easier the more you commit to it. Over time you will establish brand authority and more importantly you will be able to measure and track how your marketing is performing and how to improve it.