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7 inbound marketing strategy mistakes that will cost you in 2021

7 inbound marketing strategy mistakes that will cost you in 2021 Blog Feature

Kevin Phillips

Content Trainer, 10+ Years of Content Marketing Expertise, Content Marketing Trainer

December 3rd, 2020 min read

Look, I’m no stranger to making mistakes. Heck, my three biggest mistakes are running around my house right now laughing maniacally while spilling crackers all over my floor.

To be fair, the first was more of a delightful accident and the second was loosely planned, but the third...oh man, full-on mistake. I was not anticipating making that mistake at all.

Okay, enough poking fun at my children — they really are awesome, I just enjoy trash talking them behind their backs. It’s therapeutic but my point is: The key to making any mistakes is that you learn from them and work towards preventing them in the future.

The same goes for professional mistakes.

Let’s talk about some of the most common inbound marketing strategy mistakes I’ve seen over the last few years so I can help you prevent making them yourself. (And don't worry, no outpatient surgery required like my little “mistakes”.)

Editor’s Note: Heads up — This article includes affiliate links for SEMrush and IMPACT may receive compensation from them. This in no way affects the other examples/tools featured.

1. Focusing solely on keyword research

The most disastrous inbound marketing mistakes I’ve seen happen during the planning phase.

If you’re trying to bring organic traffic to your website, you have to optimize your content for search engines. To get found online, you need articles that answer questions people type into search bars.

The biggest blunder I see marketers make during planning, however, is that they focus primarily or solely on keyword research.

I too love using keyword research tools like SEMrush to find keywords I want to rank for. They’re a great launching point for developing a strategy. 

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many marketers exhaust their efforts focusing on high volume keywords that often give no clue or context as to what people are actually searching for.

Let’s use “inbound marketing” as an example. Most marketers would love to rank for this keyword. Heck, the volume on this keyword is insanely high at 8,100 searches per month.

inbound marketing keyword

But what is someone really looking for when they type “inbound marketing”? Do they want a definition? Are they looking for agencies to hire? Do they need strategy help?

It’s unclear. And since it’s unclear, it’s not something I’d spend my time chasing.

If you’re going to use keyword research, look for keywords that give clear intent behind the search.

In this example, “Inbound marketing strategy” is getting a bit warmer. The intent behind the search is a little clearer. We still don’t know exactly what the searcher is looking for, but we can guess they’re probably looking for different types of strategies to compare or maybe a tried and true roadmap to follow.

inbound marketing strategy keyword

This article gets even more specific by targeting “inbound marketing strategy mistakes.” Clearly, anyone searching that phrase is looking for a list of mistakes to avoid.

And while the volume is way lower than “inbound marketing” (so low that SEMrush doesn’t yet have a volume for it), it’s so specific that anyone who finds this article should get the answers they're looking for.

inbound marketing strategy mistakes

Focusing on answering very specific questions has a handful of benefits.

For starters, it’s often easier to rank on the first page of Google, as most competitors are going after those lofty, high volume keywords.

And secondly, since the questions you’re addressing are so specific and intent-focused, you have a much better chance of connecting with the reader and eliciting an action. You’re helping them solve a distinct problem. This can form the basis of trust. People like to give their business to those they trust.

🔎 Related: 2020 massive review of SEMrush: Tools, tips, and more

2. Not involving sales and SMEs in content creation

If you’re not supposed to rely heavily on keyword research to find topics to write about, where should you turn to?

As mentioned above, the best blog topics are those that provide answers to your prospects’ pain points and you may not realize it, but your best sources for those topics come from those in your organization who deal with customers every single day — your sales team.

What problems are they experiencing that your products and services are a great fit for? Who fields more questions from prospects and customers than your sales team, your customer service department, and your product owners?

When developing inbound marketing strategies with our clients, we teach them to have regular meetings with their sales teams as well as speak with other in-house subject matter experts (SME) to ensure that no questions go ignored in content.

In fact, we help clients form revenue teams, which is a team composed of key players from both the sales and marketing teams. We help them align on the goals of inbound marketing and how it can help sales close deals faster (when you put it that way, it’s hard for them to ignore inbound marketing, especially when it affects their bottom line).

During these revenue team meetings, sales updates the marketing team on the most recent batch of questions they’ve received from prospects.

If the questions they’re getting have not yet been answered on the blog or website, these topics get added to the hopper. The more frequently a question gets asked, the more it gets prioritized to get the answer published.

🔎 Related: How to create content from a subject matter expert interview (in 7 steps)

3. Not using content to sell

One of the main benefits of involving sales in the content creation process is that you’ll get tons of questions prospects ask as they’re nearing a purchase decision.

These bottom-of-the-funnel questions are a gold mine for your marketing strategy. When you enlist your sales team to help generate blog topics, you’ll undoubtedly hear several topics come up over and over again.

Prospective buyers at the end of their journey often ask questions about how much your products/services cost, how they compare to others in the marketplace, which are the best in class, what problems might they experience with your solutions, and they’ll want to read reviews of your products and your business.

We call these topics The Big 5, and when we review clients’ top-performing content (from traffic, leads, and revenue perspectives), we see these topics stacked at the top of the list.

The problem with only creating content to bring new traffic to your site is that most of your prospects will only read your content if they find it themselves. They either search a question, see you have an answer, and click on it, or they navigate your website until they find it.

A better strategy is to make sure your prospects are reading the most important pieces of content you have available before they have a sales call with your team.

While most inbound marketers focus their efforts on bringing traffic to their websites using their blogs, the best inbound marketers are putting these articles into the hands of their sales teams to use in their sales processes.

Your sales team should use assignment selling techniques to proactively send prospects educational content ahead of sales calls. Doing so will educate your prospects, which in turn builds trust with them; and even more importantly, the more informed they are, the faster they’ll move through the sales pipeline.

4. Choosing quantity over quality

A key to any inbound marketing strategy is to publish content at a consistent cadence.

If you want to rank for more keywords and have more answers for your audience, you need to have a steady stream of new content.

Heck, even here at IMPACT, we publish several pieces of content every single day. We are on a constant mission to answer every question our prospects, customers, and readers have that is relevant to the business we’re in.

And while a constant outpouring of content is extremely valuable to meet your marketing goals, the quality of your content is of greater importance.

Too often, I’ve seen businesses rush to publish articles that were half baked, wrought with errors, or never really contained the answer to the question at hand. Publishing low-quality just for the sake of churning out more content rarely gains any traction in search results. And further, what will people think of your business if they read content that is riddled with errors? It’ll make you look unprofessional.

Take a little extra time to ensure your work is solid. Make sure you have a great in-house editor to review all pieces of content before they go live. The quality of your work should be far more important than the quantity you can produce.

5. Not historically optimizing existing content

Many marketing strategies look too much into the future. It’s all about, “what next? What other topics can we address? What new angles should we explore?”

But what about all the great work we’ve already done? Too often, we get complacent with how existing articles are performing.

We may have several articles at the top of Google that we come to rely on for the bulk of our traffic and leads, but they become outdated as your competitors put out better, more compelling answers, and eventually, your rankings begin to slip.

Next thing you know, your traffic takes a huge dip and you’re left stunned wondering how this ever happened.

Treat your breadwinning articles like the stars they are. Keep them constantly pampered with the latest information and best practices; add links to new, relevant articles you’ve written recently; and keep your ear to the ground listening for new competitors that want your place on the pedestal.

As important as it is to keep moving forward, schedule regular check-ups with your top pieces of content to ensure they’re getting the love and attention they need to stay at the top of Google.

6. Ignoring video

I think it’s absolutely crazy that, as we head into 2021, many businesses still haven’t adopted video into their content marketing strategy.

Why, because it’s estimated that 82% of internet traffic in 2021 will be for video. Read that again: 82% of internet traffic in the next year will be for video content.

If you’re optimizing for a true inbound marketing strategy how can you possibly ignore the second most used search engine there is: YouTube.

I’m willing to bet there are a lot of questions people have about your products and services that are just begging to have a video for the answer.

Further, when you have a video addressing a topic as well as a written piece of content, you’re able to double down by embedding the video into the article. Then, you’re cornering both traditional search engine results as well as video search results.

We’ve found that the most successful companies are those that have videographers on their marketing team, but an in-house videographer doesn’t have to stop at marketing videos.

Some of the most important videos you can make are those found on pages throughout your website. Your homepage should have a video on it, your landing pages (which have shown to increase conversions up to 80% with videos), your product pages, your services pages, your top-performing blog articles, all should have videos on them.

7. Not having a truly dedicated content manager

I saved this for last because it’s easily one of the most dangerous mistakes I see.

Too often, I’ve witnessed great marketing strategies get derailed because the owner of the initiative wore too many hats.

Inbound marketing is not a side project that can be handled in your spare time; There is a lot of work that goes into it. Companies that believe they can do a little here, a little there will never see results from their efforts, and ultimately, they’ll give up on it completely.

The companies that are successful are those that were willing to invest in putting the right people in the right seats. That means hiring a dedicated content manager.

The job of the content manager should be to focus on creating, publishing, promoting, and analyzing content. And while it sounds simple enough, there is so much that goes into accomplishing those four tasks.

Many organizations expect their content manager to perform various other tasks that pull them away from their primary duties. They seem to think their content manager is also the marketing director, the social media manager, the website development guru, their paid ads specialist, and much more.

To keep a well oiled inbound marketing strategy running at full efficiency, enable your content manager to succeed by allowing them to focus on content and content only.

When your content manager is doing their job right, you will have an ironed-out content calendar full of topics your audience cares about, sales and SMEs will be part of brainstorming and distributing content, you’ll publish at least two to three articles per week, and you’ll have analytics to continually improve your strategy.

How can you avoid mistakes in 2021?

I truly hope that by outlining the most common mistakes I’ve seen businesses make over and over again with their inbound marketing strategies, that I help you avoid making them yourself.

If I’ve done my job right, the only mistakes you’ll make in 2021 may be the charmingly nightmarish ones that draw on your walls in permanent marker, tip over paint cans that you left unattended for three minutes, or throw your only set of truck keys into the trash.

Those are the kinds of mistakes I like (even though they’re probably going to be the death of me).

In the meantime, to keep learning about the most important inbound and digital marketing and sales strategies, I highly recommend you take our free course at IMPACT, “The Digital Sales & Marketing Framework for Today’s Modern Buyer.” This course will teach you about The Big 5 blog topics you’ll want to write right away, how your sales team can implement assignment selling seamlessly into their sales processes, and what elements go into a perfect inbound website.

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