The concept of inbound marketing is still relatively new. Take a look at this graph courtesy of Google Trends.
As you can see, no one was really interested in inbound marketing until around late 2008.
No concept or strategy can be refined if it hasn’t even hit the decennial mark. No one knew how to use the 3D in 3D movies as an actual service to the story until just a few years ago, decades after the technology was first introduced.
That said, there are some things that those of us with experience in inbound marketing have figured out. Nothing has been perfected, and nothing will ever be perfected. Too much technology changes within our industry for the best practices of today to remain the best practices of tomorrow all the time. But there are things that we do know about today.
Today, though I don’t want to focus on the best practices. Instead, I want to focus on the worst practices. Indeed, it’s much easier to identify the worst practices of any nascent marketing strategy than it is to identify the best ones. The best practices aren’t going to apply from industry to industry, necessarily. The worst ones almost always do.
So what are the mistakes that you should avoid in an inbound marketing campaign? Allow me to highlight a few.
DON’T Think That Inbound Marketing Is Only Social Media
This is one of the most common errors I see when I speak to novices about inbound marketing. They think inbound marketing only goes through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
Of course, social media is a crucial component of an inbound marketing campaign, and if you’re not investing time into any of the aforementioned platforms, then you’re not really engaged in inbound marketing.
However, inbound marketing is much more than social media. Here are other elements of inbound marketing:
- Content marketing
- Search engine optimization
If anything, social media might be the LEAST effective of these strategies, since a share on social media can easily go unnoticed in an undying stream of other activity.
Don’t Do Inbound Marketing Without a Blog
The whole idea of inbound marketing is to let people find you naturally, and to have them be impressed enough to convert once they do.
Essentially, if you don’t have a clear brand message to pull people in, then your inbound campaign is destined for doom.
Can you have a clear brand message without a blog? Sure. Can you play hockey without a goalie? NHL teams do it all the time in the final minutes of a game. Does having a goalie increase your chance of winning the game? Of course. And a blog makes it so much easier to convey your brand message.
But apart from having a convenient format to push your brand’s story, a blog is beneficial for another key reason: it’s an opportunity to build more roads that allow people to find you.
Every time you publish a new blog, that’s a new page on your domain. A new page that search engines are going to index. A new page for people to link to.
No matter which way you look at it, having a regularly updated blog will allow for more opportunities for people to find you.
Don’t Turn Inbound Marketing Into a Substitute for Sales
It’s astonishing, but I’ve met people who conflate inbound marketing with the sales process. In a way, it makes sense. This is because the content tied into an inbound campaign tends to be much more specific about the brand’s identity and purpose.
Even though those are two defining characteristics of a sales pitch, that does not mean that inbound marketing is your sales pitch. It’s just the foundation.
Inbound marketing can tantalize, but it rarely converts by itself. It leads qualified leads to the right place. But a proper sales mechanism gives that qualified lead a seat at the table.
Don’t Proceed Without Creating Buyer Personas
Technically, this really is a mistake in any type of marketing, inbound or not. But in an inbound campaign, this mistake can be much more costly.
If you don’t know what a buyer persona is, the definition is fairly simple. A buyer persona is simply an abstract version of the kind of customer you particularly want to reach. That’s basically it. The buyer persona is to a marketer what a blueprint is to the architect – without one, the final product is sure to be a colossal hodgepodge.
In old school marketing, having a buyer persona was more ideal than necessary. With inbound marketing, it’s downright imperative. Since the idea is that you’re not casting such a wide net for just anybody to be caught up in, you need to come up with an idea of who you are trying to appeal to. Having a buyer persona in mind will impact:
- Your strategies
- Your content
- Your message
Even outside of inbound marketing, personalized marketing is the trend. Marketers have access to an unprecedented amount of data, data that helps us to pinpoint consumer needs and desires. It’s a debilitating mistake not to take advantage of it.
Don’t Prepare Yourself for Instant Success
Here’s the thing about inbound marketing – it can be a slow burn.
This is because you’re creating an environment in which your leads are coming to you, as opposed to the opposite. Lead generation is indeed much faster when you are proactively seeking out leads. It’s also much more inefficient/costly.
When you implement inbound marketing strategies, the content you produce most likely won’t produce a qualified lead. Not right on the spot anyway. Inbound marketing is just as much an investment of time as it is an investment of capital. But when you do it right, you see a healthy return on both investments.
More and more brands are turning to inbound marketing, and it makes sense. In an increasingly cynical world where credibility matters to consumers more than ever before, landing yourself at the top of the results for an important search query can make or break the bank. People want to do more research and know as much about you as they can before they convert.
By avoiding these critical mistakes, you can increase the chances of success drastically.
Disclaimer: All images are provided by author.