As an Inbound Marketing consultant, I've coached hundreds of individuals (mostly from some sort of marketing agency) on how to adopt specific Inbound Marketing strategies to reach business goals.
We'll work together to identify these specific goals, then I'll make recommendations on how we can leverage their digital marketing assets (website, social, email, etc.) to attain them.
This approach typically works very well until consulting time has expired and we're close to parting ways, an event that's basically the childhood equivalent of mom or dad taking off the training wheels.
Unfortunately, like a kid careening aimlessly down the driveway on a recently modified bicycle, simply working with a client during consulting isn't necessarily conducive to independent success beyond our sessions. I do try to tee them up for future progress through our time together, but I think the biggest challenge that I've yet to tackle effectively is better equipping the folks I consult to independently think with an Inbound mindset. Sort of like the saying "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime." Fishing analogy in blog post, check.
So, how to do this?
Beyond the technical and strategic "best practice" aspects of Inbound Marketing (both of which have informational resources available online), I believe there are several key principles about Inbound Marketing that once understood, aid one in thinking with an Inbound mindset. Out of all the clients I've worked with, those who understand and embrace the following ideologies are the most successful.
Behold, the unofficial Inbound Marketing Consultant's Dogma:
1.) Be Helpful
What really separates Inbound from just about every other form of Marketing is the core concept of being helpful. Incorporate helpfulness into every marketing activity you spearhead. Understand that you're optimizing your site so the right types of people can find you--the types of people who are looking for a solution to a problem that your product/service solves. Give these people something that helps them understand what the problem is, how they can go about solving it and most importantly, how you can help them do it.
Always Be Helpful (ABH) and you can't go wrong with your Inbound Marketing Activities. You can steal the acronym if you wish-- I just made it on the fly, because I thought it would be helpful (see what I did there?)
2.) Respect the Numbers, But Don't Obsess
Marketing analytics are awesome. They give you visibility into what's working, what isn't, and what you need to do to improve. They also help you show you ROI (return on investment) for the marketing activities you're doing. Accountability for marketing actions is instrumental to progress.
In my experience, I've learned that numbers give you a good benchmark, but they're never 100% accurate. I'm an analytical guy, so this principle is a mildly frustrating inevitability of digital marketing that I've learned to acknowledge. There are always anomalies in every piece of digital data (from keyword ranking to website traffic), and while it's upsetting for the perfectionists out there, realizing and accepting these minor inconsistencies will make success with Inbound much easier to attain.
Why? I've seen people take analytics way too literally-- obsessing over keyword rankings and traffic fluctuations, ultimately pulling the individual away from focusing on the bigger picture: obtaining marketing goals. That's not to say marketing analytics shouldn't be considered and understood. Just make sure you're not obsessing an taking your focus away from the main marketing efforts.
Bottom line? Don't do this:
Because you'll probably end up like this:
3.) Avoid Perfectionism
If Inbound Marketing had an official list of deadly sins, I'd say perfectionism would be near the top. I've worked with people who have failed to pull the trigger on a campaign just because it wasn't ready. Not sure what "ready" means in these cases (a gut feeling? An egg timer dinging?), but failing to execute in a timely manner can have a serious damper on the effectiveness on your efforts (short term and long).
As with the point above about number obsession, if perfectionism is preventing you from enacting on a marketing plan designed to reach your goals, it's likely time to reassess where your priorities are.
There's a definitive line between unattainable perfection and good enough.
Focus on the latter and avoid the deadly Inbound sin of perfectionism, or else you'll be obsessing about that blog post that nobody will ever read.
4.) Commit Yourself
Inbound Success doesn't happen overnight. Especially if you're starting from scratch. Like an athlete training for a marathon, Inbound Marketing requires dedication, perseverance and a willingness to accept that it's not always going to work. There will be ups and there will be downs.
There's no doubt that Inbound works, but I think that success stories are oftentimes perceived in the wrong way. When something revolutionary like Inbound Marketing comes along, folks will share their success stories. Somewhere along the way, the actual effort required to reach that success fails to sink in. The new Inbound Marketers dive in, expecting a get-rich-quick scheme. Or a set-and-forget type of effort. But when is anything in life worth having that's free (besides beer)?
I see newbies get discouraged and hear quotes like:
"It's been a month... Why have I not generated three times as many leads?"
"How come I haven't gotten a single customer from that blog post I wrote?"
"Why am I not on the first page of Google?"
To make it work, you need to dedicate yourself to the Inbound model. You need to train at it, ride it out and be there for the good times and the bad. (A word of caution: you need to know what you're doing, why you're doing it and have a definitive action plan). It's not for the lazy, but the committed.
5.) Foster Creativity
Anyone can write an eBook on SEO. Or develop a run-of-the-mill social media infographic. Okay, not everyone. I don't think a monkey could do either of those. Maybe the infographic if you gave it enough time and resources, but why be as good as a chimp when you could be... awesome?One thing that separates a good Inbound Marketer from a great one is the ability to cultivate and leverage creativity. I see the Inbound Methodology as a proven formula to do some really awesome stuff with your digital efforts. You can measure, adjust, assess and improve. But it doesn't foster creativity by itself. That's where the great Inbound Marketers can step in and add a whole new layer onto this vehicle. Sure, it's slick, moving fast and getting really great gas mileage, but let's put a fresh coat of paint on it, turn it into a convertible and go for a ride. Better yet, let's put in some jet thrusters a make this vehicle fly. You get the idea.
So those are five principles of my own personal Inbound Marketer's Dogma. What else makes for a kick ass Inbound Marketer?