It should be apparent that inbound marketing is advantageous for your business. Take it as a fact that it’s as beneficial for your business as breathing is to your very existence.
Assuming then that your company has been implementing inbound marketing, you probably have two questions. How do you use inbound effectively and what are the worst ways to use it? To answer your first question, I’d gladly direct you to our whitepaper on The Secrets of Successful Inbound Marketing. As for the second question? Allow me to share with you 5 of the worst inbound marketing practices:
1. Static Marketing
We’re all guilty of being complacent with our work lives, our relationships, and our health. It’s natural for us because it makes things easier. But don’t let this creep into your marketing. One of the worst inbound marketing practices is complacency with your current strategy. The world is changing, and your marketing needs to react in accordance to this change. Not doing so can be extremely detrimental to your entire business.
External factors like new social media and new technological advancements should be important to stay up to date with, but the main idea behind it is for your company to be constantly improving to be of value to your customers (the customer is the focus). People change, and it’s likely that the semi-fictional target you’ve focused on (Little Buck-Tooth Timmy) is likely to have changed as well (Big Hairy Timmy). The onus is on businesses to stay relevant to their customers in order to survive and this is far from easy, with changing preferences of consumers’ tastes.
Unfortunately, Kodak was one of the many businesses who fell short in this area. Even after inventing digital cameras, the camera company decided to stick with film as its primary source of revenue, failing to take advantage of the growing digital market. In short, their consumer’s preference changed from film to digital photography. However, Kodak chose to go against the changing preferences in fear of cannibalizing its film sales. Fast forward to 2014, and they’ve disappeared from the face of the camera market altogether.
As Avi Dan, a contributor to Forbes.com, had put it: “In short, marketing is tasked with keeping the company relevant to their customers’ needs. In an age in which the consumer is in charge, approaching marketing from the perspective of products or services alone is not enough to make consumers want to engage.” This bad practice is applicable to inbound marketing and almost all of your business because it roots down to remaining relevant to your consumers, your primary source of revenue, so don’t take light of this.
Along the lines of complacency, technology stretches a long way in areas where your company needs to stay up to date. If you have a website, that’s good. You then probably have some form of social media to engage your customers, which is also good. But, can all this be found via mobile? One of the worst inbound practices is to ignore your website’s mobile optimization.
Having an online presence is one thing, but to be online without an mobile optimized website is like baking a pie with only half the ingredients. Your website is half-baked.
In 2013, over half of all American adults owned a smartphone (Digby) and this number is more than likely to have grown. In 2014, Google conducted a study which found that 95% of smartphone users have looked for local business information and 44% of these users made purchases from those very businesses (Google Think Insights). Quite blatantly, those numbers mean your website needs to be easily accessible via smartphones because aside from desktop computers, this is increasingly how interested consumers find your business online. There’s nothing worse than trying to view contact information that’s hidden under a website banner, that’s below a floating “business-people-smiling” JPEG.
On top of all of this, Google uses mobile optimization as a ranking factor for your website’s SEO on mobile search. By ignoring the mobile front of your website, you’re directly rejecting customers and prospects from your business.
Your website’s responsive design has never been more important. If you aren’t mobile optimized, your pie isn’t technically a pie anymore, it’s just some pan with raw eggs and apples.
3. Placing All Your Eggs In the Inbound Basket
Inbound marketing is a great asset to just about any business’s marketing initiative because of its non-intrusiveness and cost-effectiveness. But a word to the wise, this should not be your only marketing tactic.
Any experienced inbound marketer knows that inbound is not instantaneous. It’s a waiting game, attracting and converting individuals who are interested in you, and having them find you. It’s only when momentum is built, in which it becomes a marketing force to be reckoned with. But until then, you’re sitting on a boat with a bunch of your marketing buddies, casting fishing lines waiting for a catch.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, although intrusive and sometimes obnoxious is proactive. You’re prospecting customers who you think could be a sale, and the idea is you’re getting to the leads before they’re attracted to some other company’s marketing ploy. It’s a go-getter tactic that may be annoying at times, but used correctly can get you a jump start on leads. Forget the boat and rods, you’ve got your shotgun and hunting boots.
However, I don’t mean to say that inbound by itself is weak. The underlying message is that if outbound marketing was already proving results for your business why throw it away? The bandwagon for inbound being “the new way to market” shouldn’t stop you from using an outbound marketing plan that’s working for you, so long as its performance gives justified ROI. The former and the latter have been compared to magnets and hammers, attracting and pressuring. And that is exactly what they are, two radically different methods with two different strengths. Use them with discretion.
4. Creating Sales-Pitched Content
Have you ever come across a company’s blog or social media post that screamed “Buy me because I am the greatest”? We’ve all seen this cringe-worthy content – it couldn’t be any less futile than trying to lick your elbow (believe me I’ve tried). Content created for your audience, should be content created for your audience. Your content should not be product-centric nor search engine-centric.
People just don’t like being sold to, it’s an unpleasant feeling that ranges from annoyance to pity. We need a sense of personal connection to a product to buy something. Although this may seem contradictory to my previous point about outbound marketing proving to be of some value, keep in mind that outbound marketing is dependent on the type of context (In almost all cases, content created should not be produced with a traditional marketing mindset).
Informational and educational content are what sell to people. 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information via articles versus advertisements. The purpose of content producing is to provide something of value to customers – an actionable take away that they can then use to make informed decisions in the future.
Proctor & Gamble are one of the best when it comes to content marketing. Take for example their floor cleaning product content. Instead of slapping a giant photo of the latest cleaning detergent on the front of their website, they offer educational information on how to properly prevent, maintain and clean floors. It may seem irrelevant but the goal is to service your customer.
Content created that educates and is of value to people, make people perceive a company to be an industry leader that is more trustworthy than its competitors. This mindset makes it more probable that customers will go to this company first when they’re ready to purchase related product. Additionally, content created in this fashion is more likely to be shared and found, and in this way will provide far greater promotional outreach for your brand.
5. Pretending to Listen
Actively engaging with customers doesn’t mean registering your company for Facebook and Twitter and leaving it at that. Nor is it using those accounts for posting just once or twice a month. At that point, you might as well replace your sales associates with cardboard pin-ups.
Your company’s social media should not be a front for pretending to listen and engage with customers. Your accounts are platforms for actual engagement to improve your business. There are likely customers who have questions, feedback, and compliments for your company. By ignoring your audience, it is for certain to create a negative image. Equally, ignoring your audience is a missed opportunity of a measure to evaluate how well your business is doing in the eyes of your buyers and peers.
Not surprisingly, a survey conducted by Conversocial, showed that 50% of social media users use social media to communicate with corporations. Approximately 78% of them believed that social media would soon replace customer service entirely. However, what’s shocking is that nearly a third of users who communicated with companies on social media sites were ignored. More so, approximately 90% of social media users said that they would be less likely to buy anything from a company with a Facebook page that had unanswered questions and complaints from customers. So what does this mean for companies?
If you are putting yourself out there on “social” media, a platform that exists for the purpose of engagement, you should be engaging. No questions asked. The reason you’re on social media is because you’re trying to meet customers where they are and you’re trying to solve their problems. In the worst case, it would probably serve a company better to be completely off social media than to have an online presence with negative PR.
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