I am an only child in every sense – both the good and the bad. On one hand, I am very independent and have no issue entertaining myself. On the other hand, it’s not that I’m always right in arguments, it’s just that everyone else is so very wrong. (And that’s not my fault, right?)

However, as much as I would like to think I’m the best at everything – seriously, my haiku skills are pretty great – I’m not. For example, growing up in an apartment near the Pentagon, I never learned how to ride a bike. And as much as I’d like to boast to the contrary, I wasn’t born knowing the difference between “farther” and “further.”

The same holds true for my relationship with inbound marketing.

As confident as I am now in my skills as a marketer, I’m only at this point because I’ve spent the past 14 months at Quintain learning and growing in my abilities. I’m also nowhere near the ceiling of what I can learn, and I never will be. The knowledge pool in this field is vast, and the industry is, and always will be, dynamic and evolving. (In fact, it’s why one of our core values here at Quintain is continuous learning!)

That said, I know what it’s like to be starting out with the inbound methodology; it’s equal parts exciting and daunting. So if you’re new to the game, or you’ve already started dipping your toes in the inbound pool, I’m going to pull back the curtain on three common rookie inbound marketing mistakes I’ve experienced that you can and should avoid.

Not Having a Strategy

When you examine the marketing of a company leveraging inbound, you’ll see a lot of moving parts on the surface, including blogging, email marketing, social media, case studies and whitepapers. And you might think to yourself, “Hey, we should start blog!” Or maybe, “We really need to start posting on Twitter more.”

But if you want be successful with inbound, you can’t approach these activities in a piecemeal fashion with no direction. Instead, you need a strategy that, at the very least, outlines who you who you’re trying to reach (audience personas), how you’re going to attract them (keyword research and content) and how to best amplify your message in the long-term (social media and email marketing).

It’s like the old saying goes, “A failure to plan is a plan for failure.”

Putting a strategy together, however, does take time. So I would highly recommend putting together a short-term strategy to get yourself through that critical development stage. It should get your blogging editorial calendar off the ground – to the tune of at least once a week – as well as a couple of initial content offers to jumpstart lead conversion opportunities on your website. It’s a balancing act, to be sure, but having a short-term game plan that runs in parallel with your strategic development efforts will help you hit the ground running.

Not Developing MEASURABLE KPIs

When I first started out in marketing a long, long time ago, in a pair of hideous flared jeans far, far away, I loathed KPIs. Many of you may be familiar with the term, but those of you who aren’t, “KPI” stands for “Key Performance Indicator” – or, more simply, a concrete metric of success. At the time, I was very young and hadn’t yet figured out that marketing is as much a science as it is a people-focused creative art.

Since then, I have learned how important it is to have clear performance benchmarks in place before you launch a campaign or new marketing strategy. If you skip over this step, how are you going to know if your efforts are successful if you haven’t even taken the time to define what “success” really means?

I was reminded again of this point a couple of days ago by our art director, Jessie-Lee, during a meeting. I had pitched an idea that I thought would be “super helpful” in addressing a conversion and lead scoring challenge we had been facing in a particular service vertical. But I wasn’t clearly articulating what I anticipated the outcome of this action would be beyond, “Well, this is what I want to do, and it sounds good, right?” By breaking it down, we were able to develop a clear performance metric for this experiment: “If we implement X, we should see Y% increase in conversions.”

And now, thanks to Jessie-Lee reminding me to take that step, even with a seemingly small initiative, I’ll now be able to measure whether or not my idea actually worked. (Fingers crossed that it does!)

Staggered Content Production

(Warning: Proceed with caution. I have a lot of feelings about content production.)

As a content manager who has worked previously as an inbound marketing account manager, I am going to be blunt: If you don’t commit yourself to creating content on a regular basis – especially for your blog – you will not see results. Period.

If you don’t commit yourself to creating content on a regular basis, you will not see results. Period. 

It’s well-documented how the frequency with which you blog contributes to web traffic growth, and yet I’ve worked with some clients who, for one reason or another, simply can’t (or won’t) get out of their own way with content creation. To be fair, this can be for a number of very legitimate reasons, including the number of people who need to review a piece of content that goes up to compliance processes that must be followed or organizational buy-in.

But if you’re blogging only once or twice a month – regardless of your reasoning – you’re shooting yourself in the foot by exponentially decreasing your odds of getting found online. The same goes for premium content creation. If you kickoff an inbound marketing program with only one top of the funnel whitepaper offer, and then it takes you another six months to put something out, you’re going to run into a number of problems.

First, you can only promote the same piece of content so many times before it becomes exhausted. Second, only having one offer at your disposal means you eliminate your ability to set up lead scoring and nurturing sequences, both of which are reliant upon multiple conversion opportunities. Third, and most importantly, having differing content types and topics will enable you to connect with potential customers at every point in the buyer’s journey – something that cannot be accomplished with a single whitepaper.

While I know I’m doling out a lot of “tough love” in this section, let me be clear – I totally get it. Even as someone whose job it is to manage content creation, I sometimes find it hard to make blogging a priority in my day when there are always so many “urgent” day-to-day tasks begging for my attention. But if you’re going to commit to an inbound marketing strategy, you need to make the time. And if buy-in is your issue, a lack of commitment in creating content will only confirm a detractor’s concerns.

Content takes time. But I guarantee your efforts will be rewarded with increased site traffic and lead conversions.

Final Thought

The Internet is bursting at the seams with wisdom around how to best launch an inbound marketing strategy that delivers. However, I firmly believe developing a strategy, setting clear performance benchmarks and making a commitment to create great content are the three most important components of any successful inbound program’s foundation.

Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something? Let me know in the comment!