How to fail gloriously at inbound marketing

7 min read


Remember that music festival you were so excited for? You were finally going to get a couple of days off work, all your favourite bands were playing at the event ... But then you get there and your tent collapses in the middle of a rainy night, drenching all your things; you somehow end up in the mosh pit fearing for your life; not to mention that two of your favourite bands pulled out at the last moment. Such a great prospect, but so many pitfalls as well.

Inbound marketing is often bandied about as a great, cost-effective way to build a customer base and grow a business through content. And so it is. Developing channels such as a blog, social media presence and an email newsletter are little steps that go a long way.

However, just like a hip music festival, there are oh so many illusions and traps when it comes to implementing an effective inbound marketing strategy, and these can be the difference between converting strangers into advocates or strangers into, well … even more estranged people.

So before jumping in feet first, be sure to read on and discover the fast five of what NOT to do in inbound marketing. Follow all of these points and you’ll be sure to fail gloriously.

1. Leave it to the intern ...

Nigel is your new intern in the office. He’s a second-year business student looking for a challenge. Amongst doing the morning coffee-and-bagel run, filing away documents and sitting in on sales meeting, why can’t Nigel give inbound marketing a crack?

After all, you’ve heard so much about it, but really don’t have the time for any new projects at the moment. So off Nigel goes and in between his other crucial duties, he writes one blog post per week and posts a couple of things on social media.

Unfortunately, this won’t do. And that’s not because Nigel’s not an A-grade student. A successful inbound marketing strategy requires leadership commitment from the top down: senior staff members and technical experts need to help develop the best channels and content in order for inbound marketing becomes effective.

On top of that, inbound marketing needs to be integrated into the rest of the business and supported by its resources. That way you can guarantee that the whole team will get behind the new strategy (rather than leaving Nigel out on a limb).

So don’t think that Nigel and his one blog post per week is a solid attempt at inbound marketing. Give Nigel a hand.

2. Blow your own trumpet

Now that your team is behind your new inbound marketing strategy, how on earth do you communicate a message to grab the attention of unsuspecting prospects?

If a prospect stumbles upon your site, you have but a fleeting moment (actually, about 15 seconds) to demonstrate why you are a good fit for them, so it can seem like your best strategy is to give them the hard sell.

However, you’ll be guaranteed to drive the prospect far, far away from your business if you insist on big noting your product in every way, shape and form. This could be by burdening the text with jargon-heavy language, or by listing every single feature of your start-up in painstaking detail (not to mention all of your industry-first developments).

Companies that do nothing but blow their own trumpet on their inbound marketing channels are sure to fail. Potential leads simply feel overwhelmed, and look elsewhere.

Inbound marketing relies upon constructing a buyer persona and doing as much as possible to adapt your business model to meet their needs. From your blog, to your social media, to your email newsletter, every inbound marketing channel needs to focus on what you can offer the customer and how you can improve their lives. Interviewing and researching current leads or customers to build up your buyer persona is the important first step.

(Cheeky tip: asking customers to give you endorsements is a great way to blow your own trumpet in a more subtle, less off-putting way!)

3. Blog Blitz

Ready, set, BLOG, POST, EMAIL! Quick sticks!

AND stop. In order to save time, and so that your team can return to more important projects (and Nigel can get filing again), a blitz-style inbound marketing strategy seems like the best option. But for some reason, there were little to no returns?

Inbound marketing is not a fling. To mix metaphors (excuse us), inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Results will not appear overnight. One surefire way to fail is to embark on a quick blitz of blogging, posting or emailing, not see any returns in revenue over the quarter, give up and arrive back where you started.

Getting to know your buyers, developing and distributing content that appeals to them and building your audience gradually in this way takes time and patience. With the necessary commitment, inbound marketing can generate a 4:1 ROI within the first year.

4. Take no prisoners

What? Open email but no click-through?! Not on your watch; no one shall escape the slippery slope of your inbound marketing funnel! You will find them, and you will … convert them into a customer.

OK now, back up. Adopting a “take no prisoners” approach, whereby every single prospect is hounded until breaking point, will lead to your business embarking on wild goose chases left, right and centre. This wastes both money and time, lowers team morale and in the end just further estranges people from your business.

You’re pushed for time as it is – even your lunch breaks consist of reviewing numbers or liaising with suppliers or staff. Done correctly, inbound marketing is not only cost effective, but time saving. By following up only on those leads which show deeper engagement, inbound marketing is self-regulating and efficient. It is important to sit back, take a deep breath and recognise that not every single prospect will become a customer.

At every stage of your interaction with a prospect (whether via social media, email, or in person), you should evaluate how good a fit your businesses are. Engaging in lead scoring to eliminate the tyre kickers and to latch onto the perfect matches will streamline the inbound marketing process and keep up morale, as your team won’t be wasting time flogging a dead horse.

5. All for one (and one for all)

Hmm, how to save, how to save? Well, I guess now that your inbound marketing strategy is nice and watertight, there is no need for silly advertising or the outdated sales team…

Slow down a second, speed racer.

Inbound marketing is sure to fail if you dive in head first and flood all your resources behind it, at the expense of outbound efforts and the sales team. Especially while your business is still in its early stages, a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy needs to be complemented by effective outbound measures (e.g. direct mail, advertising). Additionally, in the face of ever increasing competition, salespeople and their personable, competent nature is one of the key ways in which your business can stand out in the crowd.

(Cheeky tip #2: inbound marketing will streamline the sales process though; by only engaging with prospects showing genuine interest (see 4. Take no prisoners), your sales team will spend more time on worthwhile leads.)

So there – now you know exactly what to avoid when launching an inbound marketing campaign. If only there was an equivalent magic list to ensure you enjoy your next music festival …

At least Nigel has brought you a delicious bagel.

So how do you think your inbound marketing efforts are faring? If you’re not sure, we’ve got just the thing – our inbound marketing self-assessment tool. In just 5 minutes, we’ll reveal how strong your current approach really is. Why not try it now?

How effective is your marketing strategy? Take the inbound marketing strategy quiz today!

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