Back in September 2015, my husband and I decided to remodel our 1992 kitchen. There was nothing wrong with it per se. It was just a tad dated: oak cabinets, laminate countertops, and white appliances.
At the time, I thought we’d be done by Thanksgiving. It really wasn’t that much work: We were going to re-stain the cabinets and that would be the worst part. New countertops would be installed by professionals; same with the appliances and the backsplash. We weren’t painting, and the flooring was fine.
You can probably guess where this story is headed. We didn’t finish until March. And it was a lot more work than I anticipated.
I learned some valuable lessons throughout the project, mainly that remodeling your kitchen is a lot of work.
Our kitchen pre-remodel (and my dog, Athena).
As we worked on our kitchen—and I realized home renovations are not my thing—I started to think about how remodeling your kitchen is a lot like inbound marketing. In this blog, I share a couple of thoughts I had about the similarities between inbound marketing and remodeling your kitchen, as well as lessons learned throughout my ordeal.
Imagine the End Product and Map Out the Steps to Get There
When we first started discussing our kitchen remodel, I knew I wanted modern: espresso cabinets, white countertops, and stainless steel appliances (my husband didn’t really care). We discussed the different components of our remodel, budgets, time frame, and logistics. We didn’t really have a map, but we had a solid plan of where we wanted to be and how we were going to get there.
Inbound marketing is similar in that starting your journey with an end in mind and laying out the steps to get there will help make sure you are on the right track. Similarly, having a SMART goal will give you the ability to decide on a day-by-day basis if a decision is helping you get to your goal or not.
This can be one of the most fun parts of the process. Whether it’s a Pinterest board with your dream kitchen ideas, or a marketing planning document, imagining your end result and the components to get there is essential for kicking off any project.
Try Small Tests Before Going “All In”
The biggest component of our remodel was the decision to restain our oak cabinets a dark espresso color. My husband is a pretty handy guy, so I was confident in our decision, and I thought it would only take a weekend or two.
We removed the cabinet doors, and Ben got to sanding them in the garage. We tried three different sanding levels with the stain before deciding the doors had to be all the way sanded down to get the color I wanted.
We stained the back of the cabinet doors, just to make sure the color looked good (I’m kind of picky). We flipped the doors over and stained the front, and they were beautiful. I was really happy with them.
We then moved on to the polyurethane stage. Given the color was correct and we were just applying poly, we did the front first because the doors were already laying that way.
Prior to the poly.
Well, in Montana in October, it tends to get cold. Not freezing like February, but moderately chilly in our garage. This caused the poly to get small bubbles all over the front of the cabinets. All of them. On the front.
I was frustrated and honestly, really bummed. The only way to get rid of the bubbles was to sand them all down again and restain them.
Not only did this increase the amount of time the project took, it also made the front of the cabinet doors look slightly off. I don’t think anyone can tell unless I point it out, but the sand-stain-poly-sand-stain-poly process made the finish look thicker and not as true of a stain as the back.
So although we tested the stain three times, we didn’t test the full process. Which brings me to my first lesson learned: Test EVERYTHING.
As I thought about the parallels to inbound marketing, I realized that, as marketers, we will often think about testing one component and forget about the rest. A/B testing subject lines has become fairly ubiquitous for most email campaigns, but testing needs to go beyond that. For example in email marketing, don’t just test subject lines—test whole offers, test different segments of your database, test new templates and colors, test from addresses, test it all!
And for goodness sake, send a couple of test emails to your own inbox before “going all in.”
Expect Things to Go Wrong—Just Go with the Flow
I like to think things will always go as planned. Well, maybe not as planned but at least decently well.
And although things do usually turn out okay, I quickly discovered that when it comes to your kitchen or your inbound marketing, you just have to expect a certain amount of things to go wrong. It’s inevitable.
Other than the great staining debacle of 2015, the biggest hiccup was our countertops. When the company came out to measure the existing countertops so they could cut the new ones, we were originally planning on keeping our current sink, which was mounted on top of the countertop. We decided within a couple of days that we wanted a new sink that was mounted underneath, and I called the installation company to confirm the change because the hole would need to be cut differently. Our project manager said the change would be no problem and off we went.
When the installers showed up four weeks later, our gorgeous granite countertops had a big ugly hole cut for a top-mounted sink. I cried.
Thankfully, the company made it right by ordering a new piece of granite and redoing it. It took a couple of extra weeks, but other than that, it worked out.
When it comes to inbound marketing, not everything will go according to plan. I’m reminded of a time my colleague uploaded a spreadsheet into our email system with two columns for first name by mistake. The email program selected the wrong column, and you guessed it, everyone got an email with the wrong first name. Of course, my colleague was crushed.
But in that instance, the email was targeted enough that people responded to her email (trying to be helpful and let her know that it went to the wrong person). It actually opened up several conversations we otherwise wouldn’t have had. Not to say that I ever recommend using the wrong first name in an email, but you have to remember that, sometimes, shit happens and you have to make the most of it.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
I don’t run marathons or sprints, but this saying has always rung true for me. In inbound marketing, we have had clients who—perhaps somewhere in the back of their mind—think they’ll sign up with us and have the leads rolling in next month. It doesn’t work like that.
Every client is different and every industry is different, but one thing I can say for sure is that inbound marketing takes time and that efforts will compound over time if you stick with it. Starting a blog from zero means that the first six months, you may only get 10 organic visitors. That’s okay. Keep blogging. Be consistent. Release offers. Do your keyword research. You will see the results. Don’t give up.
Like my kitchen remodel which took three times longer than I thought it would, hang in there for the long haul.
In the End, It’s All Worth It
I love my kitchen. In the end, it was all worth the effort, time, money, and inconvenience. Many people call the kitchen the heart of the home, and I’ve had many social gatherings where everyone is in the kitchen and the rest of the house is empty. Investing in our kitchen was a great decision.
Inbound marketing, similarly, is worth the investment. Unlike quick fixes or one-off promotional campaigns, it takes a bit more work. But it will be worth it, I promise. Just remember to envision the end product, conduct small tests, go with the flow, and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint.