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How Long Does It Take to See ROI from Inbound Marketing?

January 20, 2016
Rick Iorio

The ROI of Inbound Marketing: Facing Facts

Any inbound marketing program should be able to demonstrate one thing above all else: Return on Investment (ROI).

Then, with time, planning, and follow-through, Predictable ROI.

A marketing program that delivers predictable revenue is one of the most important ways to validate your marketing efforts, plan for the future, and grow your business.

Generally speaking, most inbound campaigns are going to track performance in three main areas: traffic, leads and/or sales.

And while a lot of inbound marketers will track business growth using countless other metrics (like downloads, referrals, content shares, or inbound links), all that data should eventually boil down to measurable dollars and cents.

So, let’s assume you’ve already mapped out your marketing plan … you’ve set your short- and long-term goals and determined how you’re going to calculate ROI against them.

How Long Until I See ROI on My Inbound Marketing Plan?

Quantifying marketing ROI is a challenge for most new marketing programs, namely because no two inbound strategies will be exactly the same and it takes time to work out the kinks. Likewise, conditions and contexts of marketing environments varies widely, since no two businesses, markets, or strategies are identical. So, inherently, your results will vary.

For estimating a reasonable ROI timeline, we turn to this awesome Hubspot article, which states:

  • If your ROI goals are related to website traffic:

    • 85% of companies using inbound marketing increase traffic within 7 months.
  • If your ROI goals are tied to lead generation:

    • 92.7% of companies using inbound marketing increase their lead generation — and 83.9% of those companies do so within 7 months.
  • If your ROI goals are sales-related:

    • 49.7% of companies using inbound marketing increase sales within 7 months.

Hubspot, 2013

So, there you have it — the average timeline is seven months — it takes seven months for most inbound customers to see their first significant jumps in ROI from inbound marketing.

Other contributing factors like your monthly marketing budget, the time and money it takes to optimize or build your website, and (most importantly) the amount of trust you place in your marketing agency to do their job will all affect your inbound marketing ROI timeline.

Disclaimer: Results May Vary, Wait for Year Two

As we’ve said, not every business will fall in line with ‘average’. It’s for that reason we can’t, in good conscious, advocate any business judge the results of their inbound marketing solely by ROI after only 7 months.

Instead, we suggest you wait for year two.

The first year of an inbound marketing plan is important for building a solid foundation. Your website, inbound strategy and tactical elements all need to be designed, built out, and optimized. And those ROI spikes businesses usually see at the 7-month mark are often just tremors, or indications of greater ROI lurking just around the corner.

Clients who see modest (ROI) in the first few months, see significant lift in performance between the sixth and ninth months. But the real ROI comes in year two, when for the same level of investment, lead and sales opportunities can be as high as 10 times what they were in the third and fourth months.
Mike Lieberman, Square2Marketing

Pro Tip: The organizations that commit to the inbound process, who throw their efforts and budgets full-force into inbound can expect faster, more dramatic results.

Regardless of company size, budget or industry, Inbound Marketing programs continually achieve higher ROI than traditional, outbound strategies. So, if you’re ready to reap the benefits of lower acquisition costs and increased sales, we recommend you dive in and commit to the process, because the more you put in, the greater your returns.

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