The marginal gains philosophy is all about making very small (i.e. marginal) improvements – the figure typically touted is just 1%.

Now, 1% improvements might not seem worth the hassle – but the theory is that if you can improve every single metric you can think of by just 1%, the aggregate improvement is much more impressive.

In terms of inbound marketing, there are countless opportunities to optimise efficiencies – even if only marginally. The time spent writing emails, blogs, and social media posts. The conversion rates of your landing pages. The click-through rates of your emails. The shareability and discoverability of your most valuable content assets. The user experience (UX) of desktop visitors. The UX of mobile visitors.

Improving any of these measures by just a mere 1%, you are quite right, probably isn’t going to get you very far. However, improving all of them by 1% is going to have an impact – especially if you take the long-term approach to marginal gains.

1% improvements are often quite simple to make, and so an approach that favours longevity is to make 1% improvements on a week-by-week (or at least month-by-month) basis over a long period of time – perhaps indefinitely, in fact. The aggregate improvement possible in a 12-month period using such a marginal gains strategy is indeed worth working towards.

And a sustained effort is important. There is a certain discipline that’s requisite to the marginal gains approach to inbound marketing. Since the improvements made, by definition, are only going to be marginal, marketers need to aim to be improving as many of them as possible over as long a time as possible in order to see meaningful results.

But, where to start?

Well, that’s what we’ve put this blog post together to help you figure out. Below is a list of some important inbound marketing practices, complete with ideas for how to optimise the efficiency of each of them. Use it as a guide, or just for inspiration – it’s all yours.

Improving Content with Marginal Gains

Blogs

From writing to publishing to sharing – your website’s blog is rife for improvements made through the marginal gains approach.

Writing valuable and shareable content is one of the most time-consuming aspects of inbound marketing, so it’s imperative that you do everything you can in order to make sure your efforts pay off.

A properly optimised blog provides plenty of opportunities for marginal gains

(Image source: blog.hubspot.com)

One of the trickiest parts of the process is not so much writing the blogs, but identifying subjects to write about. Many bloggers fire up Word (other word processors are available) with what is essentially a blank slate, without so much as a title to get them going. And so here’s your first marginal gain to aim for – coming up with a list of titles that will see you through the next three months at least. This way, the 20 minutes you spend waste at the start of each blog post just thinking of an appropriate title and topic for the day is eradicated. True, you will have to set aside, say, an hour today to complete the task – but, once you get going with titles, you’ll find that they start to flow, and, in the long run, you’ll save yourself many productivity hours.

And with this extra time you can start giving extra focus to keyword optimisation, aiming for just a 1% improvement over the month. Gradually, your rankings for your keywords will creep up, and, over time, you will be edging ever-closer to landing on the coveted first page of Google.

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Long-Form Content (White Papers, eBooks, etc.)

eBooks, research reports, white papers, case studies – these form some of your most valuable content assets. These are your key lead-nurturing pieces, designed to coax your prospects further along the buyer’s journey and convince them that you are worth doing business with.

So, what are the marginal gains that can be made here? First, with regards to the content itself, keeping such long pieces of writing engaging over the duration is the first area for improvement. So make sure it is broken up with plenty of images and sub-headings. And don’t be afraid of white space – even when it comes to eBooks and white papers, and even if it means your downloads contain more pages than you think is perhaps wise, as this can be combatted by another marginal gain: interactive navigability.

Not everyone who downloads your content will want to read every word, but will instead only have certain sections that they are interested in. So, make it easy for them to navigate to the sections that they want to consume, and this is very easily done by making your Contents Page titles clickable, and by including other buttons and tabs that allow readers to jump from one section to another.

Next comes discoverability. Where do your downloads reside on your website? When a prospect is looking for a solution like yours, and they’ve managed to find your website, to complete their research, they want to read your eBook or white paper – but if they can’t find it, you may as well have not written it. So, ensure that this content is easily discoverable for all users.

Improving Landing Pages with Marginal Gains

Landing pages are your gateway to conversions. Indeed, that’s pretty much the whole point of them, be they designed for capturing emails, adding subscribers or making sales.

Practically every element of a landing page can be optimised – from the colour to the copy, and from the CTA to the design.

A/B testing can help you achieve marginal gains on your landing pages

(Image source: landerapp.com)

The way to optimise landing pages is through A/B and multivariate testing. What happens when your audience is served a green CTA button as opposed to a red one? Do conversions increase? Great! Roll out the red…. But make sure you’ve tried all the other colours of the rainbow to make sure you’re not missing more significant marginal improvements.

And what about the copy on that CTA button? Does “Download Your Free eBook Now” achieve more clicks than “I Want to Learn More About X, Y and Z”? A/B testing will uncover the truth of this matter, as it will for every other element of your landing page campaigns – and every marginal gain you can achieve adds up. So, optimise, optimise, optimise.

Improving Email Marketing with Marginal Gains

Business2community provide the following figures for the improvements in email marketing made possible with the marginal gains approach:

  • List Growth: A marketer with a list of 10,000 names will increase his or her reach by 1,266 subscribers over a 12-month period by reaching a monthly list growth target of just 1%.
  • Open and Click-Through Rates: Assuming that same marketer with a list of 10,000 names currently enjoys a 20% open rate and a 5% click-through rate, he or she will enjoy a 5% increase in the number of people reaching his or her website or landing page simply by improving the open rate by just 1% per month.

There are several aspects of email marketing which can increase in effiency and create marginal gains

As with landing pages, the key to improving your email marketing is through A/B testing. Subject lines, CTAs, content, offers – these can all be run through a split test to find out what delivers the best results.

And the tests can all be automated very simply using marketing automation software such as HubSpot.

Automation

Indeed, HubSpot can be used to achieve marginal gains for everything on this list – and a lot more besides. And so it makes sense to finish this post by saying that when it comes to marginal gains, marketing automation software is your friend, for it produces the very thing that you need in order to measure your gains – analytics.

Without the figures to prove it, you’ll never know if you are indeed achieving 1% improvements or 10% deteriorations. So, make a marginal gain on your operations and ensure that you’ve got the right software backing up all your inbound marketing efforts, and we recommend (and indeed partner with) HubSpot for this very purpose.

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