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What I’ve learned teaching other people about inbound marketing

Holding a four-hour module has been an eye-opening experience.

So recently this local PR agency called Represent Communications organized a crash course on inbound marketing and content writing, and they invited me to hold a module on the best practices of blogging.

I was hyped!

First of all, never in my life have I taught anyone, anything (officially, teaching friends to play guitar totally doesn’t count). Being able to stand in front of an interested audience and transfer my knowledge and experience was a truly exciting idea. Second of all – I was terrified!

These people paid serious money to have someone teach them how to work – what if my knowledge and experience simply wasn’t good enough? What if I’m not capable of properly transferring that knowledge?

After I wrapped up the presentation (they were super satisfied with it, so kudos to me!), I realized that not only have I taught them a thing or two, but they have also taught me some things, willingly or not.

Like what?

Well, for one, they have shown me just how under the radar inbound still is around here.

Ignorance can cost you

The people that listened to my lecture came from all kinds of different backgrounds. Some were journalists, like myself. Others were from marketing departments, PR, business development, a few were C-suite. One thing they all had in common is the challenge of explaining to their superiors what inbound is, how it works and what they can achieve with it. They were telling me how some of their clients and bosses were still stuck in the dark ages, only interested in paying for ads on TV and radio stations.

So for inbound writers and marketing experts, the *real* challenge was to justify the investment, and that can be quite tricky:

  • Inbound can’t be measured the same way paid advertising is
  • Inbound campaigns don’t have the same lifespan a paid campaign has
  • Many of those that employed inbound only did a portion of the work, while expecting the same results of a full-blown campaign

Measuring success

When I asked them what the goal of inbound marketing was for them, I got an interesting response: “to create viral content, read by as many people as possible”.

Wrong!

Dead wrong. Even in traditional marketing, that approach is dying out. You don’t need to have thousands of clicks on the blog in order for your content marketing strategy to be successful. If you’re a company that builds antivirus solutions for large corporations, your target audience is probably CEOs, heads of procurement, CTOs and a handful of other execs. There aren’t millions of these people, it’s a tight niche. Instead, focus on delivering your content to the right audience and don’t play the numbers game!

Inbound lives forever

When you create a marketing campaign and buy ad space online, you can’t run that campaign forever. I mean, sure you can, but after some time (two weeks, tops, from what I know) the performance of your campaign will be non-existential, and all you’ll have achieved is wasted a bunch of your clients’ money on nothing.

With inbound, it’ totally different. An article, a video or a podcast can sit on your website forever, and depending on the topic, it can be evergreen. It can bring in new visitors and new customers years after initially published. And the best part is – it costs you nothing! The success of an inbound campaign can, and should be measured, across a much longer timespan, compared to traditional marketing campaigns!

Doing half of the work

Here’s another thing that my students told me: Some of their clients approached them saying they’ve heard that blogging works and they want them to blog. End of story. They don’t know why it works and they’re clueless about the scope of work needed to be done before and after the actual blogging. They just write stuff, post it on their site and expect miraculous results.

It doesn’t work like that.

Inbound marketing first requires a monstrous amount of research:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do they read, which publications do they frequent?
  • What problems are they looking to solve?
  • Where do they work, what are their budgets?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking before doing any writing. It will help you determine things like the style and the tone of your articles, the length, the topics you should cover and how you should approach the solutions.

Then, you need to understand the keyword world and the realm that is search engines. Your blog, and the content you write, need to be search engine-optimized, meaning you need to know your keywords, your lengths, your metadata. You need to know your titles and subtitles, your Google crawlers and spiders. Search engine optimization can be an overwhelming thing, so make sure you do some reading first (and optimally hire an SEO guru).

Then, you need to have a goal. Writing for the sake of writing must never be your goal. With inbound marketing (with any marketing, basically) the goal is to sell your products and services to someone.

Here’s how you can employ inbound marketing to increase your company’s sales (this is not the only way, mind you).

  • First you create blogs which your target audience finds as it searches for solutions to the problems they’re having (they need to be search engine optimized for this to work, mind you!)
  • You use those blogs to invite people to download an exclusive offer, such as an ebook, a video tutorial or something similar. These offers will be behind a paywall, and visitors can get it in exchange for their email address.
  • Now you’ll create a database of interested people, potential new clients. In parallel with blogging, you now need to draft newsletters that the subscribers will find relevant.
  • Use your newsletter database to offer your products and solutions, to a database of interested, well-informed people.  

In conclusion

Blogging, for the sake of blogging, will most likely get you nowhere. The content you create needs to be a part of a wider strategy whose goal will most likely always be the same – to sell your product or service. Don’t forget that inbound is a two-way street – it only works if you share relevant information, so make sure your content isn’t a brutal sales pitch but a treasure trove your target audience will really enjoy finding!

Also, if you’re struggling to justify the investment to your superiors, make sure they’re not falling into the same trap and trying to measure inbound the same way they would measure a traditional marketing strategy. These two are worlds apart and should be treated as such!

I hope this information helps! What are your experiences? Do you have a hard time explaining to your superiors how inbound could be a worthy investment? Hit me up in the comments below!

Cheers,

Sead

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