7 'old school' inbound marketing strategies that will no longer work in 2020
By Brian Casey
It's safe to say that inbound marketing is here to stay, but, as with any sales and marketing method, it must continue to evolve.
Like HubSpot moved from the funnel to the flywheel, we must evaluate our strategies and see what, if anything, needs to change as well.
There are several tried-and-true inbound marketing strategies that aren't as effective as they used to be.
Are your inbound efforts producing the results that you expected? If not, I'm going to walk you through seven strategies that you might want to update or reconsider altogether in 2020.
Inbound marketing strategies that will no longer work in 2020
- Gating your content behind landing pages
- Creating content around buyer personas
- Stressing content quantity over quality
- “Check the box” lead nurturing
- Relying on organic social media
- Creating only keyword-focused content
- Starting at the top of the funnel with your content
1. Gating your content behind landing pages
Your business likely uses landing pages to gather prospect data. Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you that landing pages shouldn't be a part of your strategy going forward. Landing pages play an integral part in building your pipeline, but how they are used could turn prospects away.
Why gating your content behind landing pages no longer works
Readers are leery of filling out forms because they expect to be spammed and bombarded with emails. There are few downloads that a site visitor will warrant valuable enough to exchange their real contact information for.
Have you focused on the journey that preempts your landing page? If you haven't gained the trust of your site visitor, it's likely they will leave and never come back if they find themselves being asked for a lot of private information. Companies that fail with gating content often try to capture lead information without earning it first.
Another reason gating content behind landing pages fails is not understanding what content should be gated. Organizations can fall into the trap of putting every piece of content behind a landing page, whether it's valuable or not. Content that increases brand awareness or that could lead directly to a sale should be set up for maximum exposure.
Time isn't spent on designing landing pages to have a seamless transition from website pages. The easiest way to get landing pages up quickly is to make modifications to free templates. While this helps you create landing pages easily, they have different design elements than your website pages. When a new user clicks from your website and goes to a poorly designed landing page, they’re going to be confused and/or apprehensive and leave.
What's the solution?
Understand that your site visitors need help finding a solution to their problems. The goal of users on your website is usually to learn something, not to enter your database (at least not right away)
With this in mind, in 2020, consider creating fewer landing pages that are more well-designed and reserved for only your best, most valuable content and offers.
For each campaign, ask yourself is this content worth filling out a form?
If the content isn’t valuable enough to put behind a gate, publish it ungated as a blog or pillar piece. Giving away knowledge and helping your audience while asking for nothing in return is one of the easiest ways to build trust with your audience.
2. Creating content around buyer personas
Understanding your audience is as important as ever to selling and content creation. Spending time on building out robust specific buyer personas, however, can impede your progress in a major way.
On top of that, very few closed sales fit neatly into one of your buyer persona boxes.
Why building content around buyer personas no longer works
Buyer personas take usually a month or more to create between interviews, research, and the compiling of data.
The makeup of your ideal buyer is in a state of constant flux, so buyer personas have a short shelf-life.
Your time is better spent gathering actual insights from campaigns and content. Seeing what resonates with the market allows you to gather information quickly about your audience.
Additionally, most sales that aren't the business equivalent picking up some gum in the checkout line (a.k.a. small deals) aren't made by individuals.
Several stakeholders weigh in on business purchasing decisions.
Buyer personas inherently can’t be accurate representations of the concerns and motivations of every individual in a group buying decision. Sure, you can create personas of each role involved in the decision, but this only lengthens the amount of initial research you would have to do.
What's the solution?
Speak with your sales team to create a list of the questions your customers and prospects are asking. Focus on answering the questions of the site visitors who are the most interested in what you have to offer. Creating content from this angle, instead of from a buyer persona, helps increase qualified leads and shorten sales cycles.
3. Stressing content quantity over quality
We're taught early on in our inbound marketing lives that content is king.
In fact, HubSpot states that companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month get 3.5x more traffic than those that post four or fewer posts per month.
It created more pages to be linked to and found in search engines, but, in recent years, this emphasis on quantity has seemed to diminish.
Why mass-producing content no longer works
A March 2019 Google algorithm update made it clear that content quality is an important ranking factor. They want their users to be able to find the most complete answer to the search query as quickly as possible.
In the latest version of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google has added more structure around quality.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness all play a factor in Google deeming a page or content as a quality answer to a search query.
To produce content, companies often outsource their writing to freelancers.
This may help produce the amount of quantity needed, but the quality is not guaranteed. Freelancers aren't subject matter experts and search engines are taking notice.
What's the solution?
As a content consultant at IMPACT, I've been able to see the impact of focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to content creation.
Our best case studies are producing just 2-3 blog posts per week, but they are over 1,200 words each.
They have a dedicated in-house content manager who becomes an industry expert making it easier to produce high-quality content at a regular cadence.
Focusing on quality content helps you provide the most thorough answers to search queries.
By providing the most complete and expertly written content, you’ll present yourself as a thought leader in your space. In addition to Google more highly favoring your content, you’ll be a value-driven site that users will frequent.
4. “Check the box” lead nurturing
Marketing automation makes our work days so much easier by offloading simple repeatable tasks.
To move awareness level leads down the funnel, for example, companies often create nurturing workflows.
Using workflows to send automated emails to leads fills the basic requirements of nurturing leads; it simply “checks the box.”
Why “check the box” lead nurturing doesn't work
Qualified leads are the most valuable currency your inbound website can generate.
You've spent a lot of time and money in creating your website and creating valuable content to generate leads.
Nurturing them with a set and forget workflow begins an impersonal experience.
The outcome is usually a tangled web of if/then branches based on engagement triggering any number of follow-up emails or actions.
Contacts can get very quickly annoyed with this approach and fall out of the funnel altogether.
What's the solution?
Personalize the experience that occurs after a site visitor becomes a new lead on your site.
Dive into the content they downloaded, pages viewed, and lead information available. Based on that holistic view, what do you think would be the most valuable thing you can offer?
You can then use automated emails to deliver content offers and assign lifecycle stages.
It's ok if the most valuable thing you can offer isn't your solution or a piece of your content at any given time. Your goal is to help them on their buying journey naturally, not force their hand.
If this level of personalization is overwhelming, consider scoring your leads.
5. Relying on organic social media
You need to amplify the content that you've created and take advantage of the social media market.
Active social media accounts help create and join conversations to promote your brand, but posting regularly and engaging with your audience organically only goes so far today.
Why relying on on organic social media doesn’t work
The lifetime of organic social posts is very short, so you have a short window of opportunity to make an impression. An organic Twitter post, for example, is estimated to have a shelf-life of only 15 to 20 minutes.
With social posting, you want to have your message seen by as many people in your audience as possible.
Unpredictability in how social platforms will promote your posts coupled with the small window of visible posts means focusing on organic social only no longer viable.
Since 2018 Facebook’s algorithm has de-prioritized organic business page content in favor of content posted by friends and family.
What's the solution?
One easy option is to supplement and amplify your organic posting is with paid social advertising.
Paid promotion can increase the visibility of your posts with your targeted audience. since social media users don’t seem turned off by ads on their news feeds.
Another option to consider is creating an online community.
After all, the goal of interacting with your audience on social media is creating and joining conversations that add value to their buying journey.
An online community is a collection of people with a common interest coming together in a dedicated online space for a specific purpose.
A non-promotional online community allows you to be a resource for your audience and build a trusting relationship.
6. Creating only keyword-focused content
To please the almighty Google machine, we have to write content around keywords, right? Here at IMPACT, we still do a lot of keyword research to see what people are searching for, but that's just one element of creating successful content online.
Why you can’t create keyword-focused content alone
Keywords play an important part in helping drive focus to the topics you want to create content for.
Equally important is understanding how users on Google will search for these keywords.
However, there is not a specific formula to have your content rank in organic search results. Your content is the most valuable to a searcher when it relates to the root keyword of their query and helps answer questions they have on the topic.
What's the solution?
Use root keywords that are important and relevant to your business, but don't be married to writing to the exact keyword.
Brainstorm the questions that are likely to be searched that relate to these root keywords.
You can also talk to your sales team and see what questions they are typically asked around these root keywords. If your customers are asking certain questions, prospects are likely searching for answers online. Create content that answers these questions around these root keywords.
7. Starting at the top of the funnel with your content
To increase sales, we are conditioned as marketers that we need to get as many leads as possible. There is a natural drop off at every stage of the buyer's journey, so we need to open that content marketing funnel wide at the top.
However, there is a massive potential audience that exists for most companies if they just look beyond the top of the funnel.
Why a top-of-the-funnel only approach doesn't work:
The content that is going to produce the most sales in the quickest time frame is not top-of-the-funnel. There are some clients that will trickle through the sales and marketing funnel from the top, however, this is typically where you find the highest amount of unqualified leads.
At the top of the funnel, you find people who are just becoming aware of the benefits of your offering. These awareness level leads are just beginning their journey to understanding their options, and the solution very well might not be your offering.
What's the solution?
This may seem like the easiest solution to figure out so far, and that's because it is.
Your organization should be creating content that speaks directly to potential buyers; content that answers questions related specifically to making a purchase.
Your solution isn't going to be a fit for everyone in the market, so don't spend time like it is. Focus on the bottom of the funnel with content to help your ideal buyers self-identify as such.
This will help shorten your sales cycle and reduce the number of unqualified leads you're spending time with.
Updating your inbound marketing strategy
Inbound marketing is ever-evolving. You can have all of the core elements of inbound marketing in place and still underperform.
If you're still waiting to see your desired results, consider updating your marketing goals and the approach you're taking to hitting them in the coming year.
Some of the approaches I pointed out might be working for you. If that's the case, then keep moving forward on that front. Look to optimize your strategy where you think you could produce greater results.
The one thing I can say for certain is that to win at inbound, you have to always optimize and evolve.
There is no standing still; you're either moving forward or you're moving backward. Start your journey and get inspired by these examples of inbound marketing that gets results.
Wondering where to begin?