Inbound Marketing can’t be put into a process

It should be though.

It has been a big reason for frustration at Znbound.

We have been able to win the small battles around setting up proper processes for SEO and CRO, but the bigger war has always humbled us. As an Industrial Engineer, I would like to put in place a process for everything. (I have a process for doing up my wardrobe. Get that !!!). But somehow inbound marketing that I do day-in and day-out has always gotten the better of me. In the last so many years of doing inbound marketing, I have failed in developing and executing a predictable dependable inbound marketing process.

Why fuss about the process?

Well, I want to think like that. Things are fine. Clients are getting the results we have committed to. Whatever we do eventually works out, so why worry about the process. The delivery team also manages to deliver without too much fuss. Do we then really need a process?

Yes, We need a process nevertheless.

A process aids the following.

The Client Perspective

  • Improves predictability of outcomes.
  • Sets right expectations for the clients in terms of deliverable and timelines.

The Agency Perspective

  • Brings a method to the madness of inbound marketing.
  • Helps quantify effort and correspondingly price the services when looking at a cost-based pricing.
  • Helps establish reasons for mistakes and catastrophes.
  • Gives focus to recruitment, staffing and talent management.
  • Prepares the ground for automation and cost-savings.
  • Scale existing operations and grow in a systematic fashion.

So yes, even if things are working out (somehow), there is enough merit to develop and establish a process, to build on the current success and make it sustainable. But there is a problem?

Too unpredictable for a process?

Let’s talk about SEO – an integral part of inbound marketing – as an example to understand the issue of unpredictability. Broadly, there are 3 parts to SEO – on page, off page and technical. And each has around 5 to 10 sub-parts. To cater to all requires careful planning, execution and monitoring. Planning will involve strategy and analytics. Execution will require proper documentation. Monitoring will require capturing disparate data points and then analyzing it over different time periods. This results in the creation of a number of documents and files, a number of messages over slack and a few other ‘unplanned’ activities. And soon enough, you have a number of things that could possibly overwhelm you and the ‘dear’ process. If you think, it ends here. Well, no !!! All this is OK, if the SEO works out. But, if it doesn’t, you have to go back to the drawing board and redo the framework. After that the process goes for a toss again.

inbound marketing process is tough

Not all components of inbound marketing throw the same challenge as SEO. Lead nurturing campaigns using a content magnet are more predictable. One can design a process with timelines and adhere to them. Ditto for paid campaigns using Google Adwords and Social Media. Yes, we can be happy about that. At times, even these components throw up challenges in terms of data discrepancy. In a recent case, lead numbers shown by the Google Adwords console don’t add up with those shown in the marketing automation software. It is time for the ‘debug slog’. That essentially means ‘edits to the process’.

I doubt if all these moving parts can be tightly knit into a process. I doubt if my doubt really has enough substance to it.

But, it has to be done. My colleagues running the top inbound marketing agencies seem to have cracked it.


When I look at SmartBug and IMpact, I get a sense that these agencies have cracked the inbound marketing process. I had a chance to meet Bob – IMpact’s CEO about couple of years ago, and he was all cheesed about how agile has helped deliver. I haven’t met Ryan – SmartBug’s CEO, but looking at the 100% remote model that SmartBug thrives on, I would want to believe that they have cracked the inbound marketing process code.

Atleast that keeps me on my toes in my resolve to crack the code at Znbound (HubSpot Partner).

If you have any ideas on the inbound marketing process, please send it my way.

Rajagopalan Chandrashekar
Table of Contents