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Learning Inbound Marketing: (1 Year Later) 10 Lessons Learned

By March 30, 2016May 5th, 2023Uncategorized

birthday-cake-843921_640.jpgI looked at the calender this week and was shocked to  realize that it has been one year since I joined Alaniz Marketing .  When I was approached about joining the Alaniz team, I thought I would be using my nine years as a reporter to blog.  And while I have blogged (51 blogs in the last 52 weeks to be exact) that is only the teeniest part of what I have learned over this past year.

For those of you just beginning your inbound journey or those who are still relatively new, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over this past year. Hopefully these lessons can help you  avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into and give you some tips to help make your inbound marketing even better.

1. You are going to look back at your first blog in horror

OK, maybe horror isn’t the right word, but I can assure you, even if you have years of writing experience under your belt, your first blog probably won’t be comfortable to write, let alone look at a year later. My first blog was about setting S.M.A.R.T goals.  And while it was properly optimized (thanks to HubSpot’s optimization tool), it sounded stiff.  As I’ve found my blogging voice it’s become easier to make my blogs sound and feel more conversational. When it comes to blogging, practice really does make perfect. That doesn’t mean every topic will flow smoothly from your computer keyboard. But the more blogs your write the more comfortable you will become and the more natural your blogs will sound to your readers.

2. You will make mistakes

I wish I could tell you this wasn’t something I knew first hand, but unfortunately, I can’t. The fact is, you are going to make mistakes. Whether those mistakes are grammatical, strategical or in my case uploading over 100 Twitter posts through Hubspot with the wrong blog link (yea that was a fun day.) The fact is, you’re going to mess up. But here’s the good news. Almost every mistake can be corrected or become a lesson for you to learn.  If you create a quarterly campaign and it just doesn’t hit the mark, it just gives you more data to use to create a better campaign the next quarter. As for my Twitter debacle, I was able to go into our HubSpot portal and fix the mixed up links. It was time-consuming but it also helped me to learn to double check my links before I bulk upload.

3. Training is a must

On the surface, inbound marketing looks easy.  Let me disabuse you of that notion – it’s not. The concept of inbound marketing is simple but the actually DOING is extremely intricate with millions of moving parts. If you haven’t yet done so, I recommend heading over to HubSpot and checking out their free certification programs.  The internet is full of good (and bad) advice on the best way to do inbound. Getting a good base on inbound fundamentals from an expert like HubSpot will help you separate the wheat from the chaff when you are looking for resources and information online.

4. You can land on page one of Google organically

First,  let me say that I am not against PPC campaigns. But, when you are first starting out in inbound, financing and running a solid PPC campaign may not be possible. That doesn’t mean that your content will never get to the top of page one of Google.  If you have HubSpot, I recommend using their optimization tools  as often as possible, especially for your blogs. This tool helps you focus on one or two keywords optimizes your entire post for the best search results.  Not every post will end up on page one, but if you optimize your posts routinely, don’t be surprised when you find one of your posts leading the Google pack.

5. Social media matters

Social media should be used to promote content but here’s the kicker and the part that confuses those new to inbound. Not all the content you post should be YOUR content.  Here’s the how and why. Whenever you post to social media you should follow the 10:4:1 rule.  Basically, it goes like this: If you are posting 15 times to social media this week, 10 of those posts should be from third-party, or other, sources, 4 posts should be your blogs, and 1 should be a new landing page or another type of premium content offer. It may seem counter-productive to send people to someone else’s website but the end result is you become an information hub. Your audience no longer has to track down 15 different sources, they know you’re the go-to spot. You’re not only seen as an expert, but you build a relationship of trust that you’re a company that isn’t just out to sell, sell, sell. You want to help, and that builds lifelong customers and clients.

6. You need an editorial calendar

This is another thing I learned the hard way. I’m not an organized soul. If Type A is the most organized, I’m probably down there closer to Type Z. And when it comes to managing blog topics, it’s way too easy to forget what you wrote and when, let alone managing what others in your organization may be writing about. If you don’t have an editorial calendar you may end up double posting or writing about the same topic as a co-worker or even yourself. An editorial calendar helps you organize not just your blog topics, but your emails, premium content etc. Check out the link to our marketing and editorial calendar at the bottom of this blog.

7. Strategy matters

When you get started in inbound you may think, “OK, I’ve got all the components I need, let’s do this thing!” But I urge you to wait until you have a well thought out strategy. Picture this, you are coach of a football team, would you play your first game without coming up with a solid gameplan? Of course not. Your team needs a strategy in order to win. It’s the same with inbound marketing.

8. Test, Test, Test

Even a year later, this is something I’m reminded of a lot. While the content we create for our buyer personas is based on their pain points and emotional responses, the results are not.  In order to really know if what you are doing is working you need to test. These test include:

  • Email subject lines
  • Email format
  • Placement of links in an email
  • CTA colors
  • Placement of CTA
  • Landing page layouts
  • Forms
  • and the list goes on and one

It’s important to remember not to test more than one thing at a time.And it’s even more important to check out the results of your tests and use it in your next campaign.

7. Keep doing a task until you’re comfortable with it

If you’ve done traditional marketing up until now, the idea of inbound may appeal as much as a pair of new unbroken-in shoes.  This was true for me. Especially on the technical end of things. Although content creation came fairly easily the buttons and widgets that tie it all together did not. But here at Sensible, no one lets me rest in my comfy place. My account managers made sure I had just enough tasks I was uncomfortable with to make sure I was learning and eventually those tasks became second nature and I was able to do them with ease.  So even if something doesn’t come naturally to you, keep doing it over and over again. I promise you’ll get it.

8. Buyer Personas matter, a lot

I can’t count how many times I have said this over the past year. But it doesn’t make it any less true.Buyer Personas aren’t just a made up term to make inbound sound cool.  If created correctly, they will influence every piece of content, down to the tiniest post on Twitter. I often speak about personas like they are real people – and they are- just all rolled up into one convenient package.

9. You’re going to nerd out over analytics

OK, I admit it. I’ve gotten excited over a blog post that took off for no apparent reason and I threw a mental celebration when our social media hit a significant milestone. I was excited to analyze my first campaign and to see what actually brought us results and even more importantly what didn’t.  Embrace the analytics in inbound as well as any nerd attacks that come with it.

10. It gets easier

If you are just starting out in inbound it may all seem a bit overwhelming. But I promise with the right buyer personas, content, strategy, and getting into the habit of making inbound a daily part of your routine it will become like second nature.

Thanks for letting me share some of my insights from my first year.  Learning inbound marketing can be as tough as it is rewarding. If you are an inbound newbie, feel free to reach out to me or anyone on our team if you need help getting started.

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Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.