A lot has been written about the benefits of inbound marketing and how inbound marketing is critical to the growth objectives of most any business.
I speak with many people who boldly proclaim that inbound marketing is the future and they are fully invested in making inbound marketing work for their business. And then, moments later, they quietly admit that they still don’t clearly understand what inbound marketing really is and they have no clue if they’re actually doing it right.
If I just described you, don’t feel alone. A lot of people feel the same way. I talk to them every day.
Posting a blog update once a month is not inbound marketing.
Blasting your latest promotion or product release on LinkedIn is not inbound marketing.
Tweeting about the award your company just won is not inbound marketing.
Sharing pictures of your latest team service project on Facebook is not inbound marketing.
Creating a new white paper/case study twice a year and making it accessible on your website is not inbound marketing.
SiriusDecisions, a leading global B2B sales and marketing research firm defines inbound marketing as “the practice of targeting unknown individuals with value-added content that drives them to self-identify.”
I put the two keywords in that statement in bold font in order to pound you over the head with them. Those two words will help accelerate your understanding of what inbound marketing really is.
Practice implies that the activity is done consistently and systematically over an extended period of time.
Blogging when you have a few spare minutes waiting for your flight and then not thinking about it again until the next time you have a few minutes with nothing else to do—that’s the opposite of consistent practice, right?
The same goes for tweeting from your La-z-Boy as you watch Monday Night Football. While you can argue that these activities may not be a bad thing, they don’t scream systematic consistency. It’s been my experience that any time you try to fit activity into your free time in your schedule, it reveals your lack of commitment and it rarely lasts very long—think exercising or eating healthy.
In order for your inbound marketing to be something you truly practice, you’ll have to stop flying by the seat of your pants. You have to be deliberate. You need a goal, a strategy, tactics, and most of all, a plan. It’s the disciplined execution of the plan over weeks, months, and years that will yield results. As with exercising or eating healthy, there aren’t any shortcuts.
While it may be important to you and your team, your prospects probably don’t really care much that you were named the number one widget manufacturer by the American Widget Manufacturing Association for the 12th year in a row.
How does that help them define their business problem or understand how you can help? If that’s all they see when they visit your website, your blog, or your social media pages, why would they ever want to come back?
Instead, offer valuable insight to your prospects. Educate them. Become a trusted resource. Tell them something they don’t already know. Demonstrate your subject matter expertise.
Be a thought leader.
Grab their attention and keep it.
Give them a reason to come back.
Most importantly, give them a reason to “self-identify” (reveal their name and email address, for starters)—and later, raise their hand and say “I’m interested in what you say about <some issue that’s on their mind>. Tell me more about <a service you offer>.”
Look back up at the SiriusDecisions definition. When the prospect engages like that, you nailed it. You’re practicing inbound marketing.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published February 20, 2015 and has been updated.