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The definition of failure

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 6/5/15 10:56 AM

While on a call with a client who wasn't seeing the results he had hoped for, the question came up, "What is the definition of failure?"

How would you answer that?

For some, it is that they won't recoup the hundreds of thousands of dollars that they have invested in their startup. For others, it is that they were not able to get the six new clients they wanted before the middle of the year. 


If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that for me, the definition of failure was not helping a client increase revenue and grow their business. Inbound consultants are in a unique position to help companies obtain real growth. But it's not just marketing, or as one marketing agency owner said, "The client who expects the marketing miracle.” (because like most, the client doesn't know how to nurture and close inbound leads)

Because of this, marketing agencies are set up to fail. They are hired to deliver leads that to turn into sales. Yet they have no influence or control of the part that happens after it gets handed to sales. They've set themselves up to fail, with all the best of intentions.

And sometimes, no matter how much they educate, plead, beg, demand, or calmly suggest, their client who was willing to try inbound is now not happy. Why? Could be a number of reasons. 

  • The client believed inbound to be another set of tactics and never really adopted the mindset of inbound.
  • The agency isn't a sales person, and doesn't have the expertise or resources to train and coach their client's sales people to nurture and sell to inbound leads.
  • The agency didn't set the inbound expectation properly.
  • The client believed that they could close inbound leads and wouldn't let the agency help.

It probably sounds something like what this client said to their inbound agency last week:

“What do those activity reports means in terms of closed sales? We may be getting traffic and increased traffic and increased forms being filled out etc... etc... but if they aren't leading to Demos (with high value targets) and closed Sales, then it doesn't really matter.  If they aren't high value, properly qualified targets, it would lead to a low closing ratio, would it not? I need to make sales and I need to make them now.  Over the life of our professional relationship, I've spent quite a bit of money for marketing and sales advice and Inbound Leads, which I was hoping would turn into sales / revenue. Activity does not mean productivity and I want to know why.  That's all  I'm not looking to place blame but I do want to get to the bottom of why it is, no matter what.
How many Demos can be classified as high value targets, do you think?  Since we are getting demos, even though I'm not certain what percentage can be classified as high value targets, we should start with the qualification process and the close piece in our coaching...and maybe make adjustments to our naming categories in HS or something like that...
Remember, I have a fairly high closing ratio on referrals and cold calls there is a reason for a low closing ratio on Inbound forms (you and me) but I'm not exactly sure what that is at this point...  They're can't be that many referrals b/c we don't have that many customers but we do have a 90% renewal rate and you've suggested to me all along that cold calls aren't the way to play things in the new Inbound whorl of sales b/c people have to ask to be contacted etc... so, I've been, for the most part, working exclusively off of Inbound Leads, which everyone seems to think I need real help with... I'm a little confused by the new sales paradigm, I think if referrals and cold calls are pretty solid but Inbound forms aren't....
I have taken your lead on all of this stuff to the point of turning sales completely over to you for the last several months.  The fact is, we have no sales from Inbound.  How can you explain it?
I do hold you responsible for our sales and marketing success.  I'm not perfect and there is a problem with our sales, obviously.  What I do know is all sales are mine through referral of cold call...not Inbound.  How do you explain this?  It can't be luck...
The risk is ALL mine...and therefore the responsibility is all mine.  I own all results, even though I'm holding you accountable for marketing (strategy and tactics) and ultimately, sales that should flow from marketing. I might be the problem, don't know.  I cannot afford to lose.
You can find another client but I cannot get back the several hundred thousand dollars I've invested."

You may not realize it, but the same challenge your inbound agency has is happening everywhere. One agency owner we talked to last week told us that 60% of their clients left last year. So in fact, it has been happening everywhere and for a long time. Those new clients you just brought on? Set the watch, your time is to churn is ticking if you are not addressing sales up front.

That's why more agencies are starting to understand that it is not enough to produce high quality leads, they have to help clients close them.

A tool-set is not enough. Of course it can help, but tools are only as good as the people who use them. Inbound has transformed the way we do business, and so must it transform the people involved. People still buy from people.

Topics: inbound, sales enablement