Once upon a time (probably not that long ago), your company committed to doing inbound marketing. The new initiative kicked off with a flurry of activity and your team was pumped.
But like the proverbial pea under the mattress, it has become clear over time that something is off.
Everyone is working but nothing is being produced.
Your highly anticipated blogs, offers, videos, and white papers never actually see the light of day.
What is standing in the way? In many disturbing fairy tales like this one, the source of all evil turns out to be the biggest surprise of all—it’s the main character! In this case, that’s you.
Ah, don’t freak out, though—you’re not really the source of all evil. The “you” I’m referring to here is actually your company as a whole, and the only “evil” it’s responsible for is creating a hamster wheel that favors motion over productivity. If you feel like you’re spinning the wheels of inbound without generating any publishable content, it’s time to look inward. The culprit—which could be a person, process, tool, or mindset—is most likely outlined in one of the 11 issues below.
11 Reasons Your Inbound Marketing Efforts Are Being Stifled
1. You can't decide on a persona.
Buyer personas are key to creating engaging content, but having too many puts them all at risk of being ill-defined, and therefore ineffective. If your company has a handful of personas (we’ve seen companies that have 12!), this could also cause confusion among your team as to who, exactly, you’re supposed to be targeting, which may slow down the content creation process.
Solution: If this sounds like you, dial it down to just one buyer persona for starters. Choose the one you feel is your core persona, define that ideal customer to a T, and focus on producing content for that persona only. Several months later, if that’s working, try to develop a second persona and produce content for that individual.
2. Your keywords don't get approved.
Creating content that aligns with the right keyword phrases ensures that your ideal customers will find you. But even so, keyword research isn’t an exact science. Sometimes people are hesitant to move forward with publishing content if they aren’t confident that the keywords are going to target your persona.
Solution: In the words of Nike, “Just do it.” If you’re not sure whether your keywords are totally on-target, err on the side of trying rather than not. Depending on your website’s authority, you could be testing keywords for a while—especially if you’re in the first few years of inbound—but if you don’t publish anything at all because of uncertainty, you’ll never know otherwise.
3. You rely too heavily on data.
Data should inform inbound marketing, but not that many companies have enough data to realistically support their decisions. For example, if you’re producing video content, you’d need hundreds of videos published to really prove whether or not your videos are impacting your persona—not just three.
Solution: You can’t measure what you don’t have, so you’re going to need to focus your efforts on creating content before you’re able to make genuine data-based decisions. In the early stages of inbound, if your gut (and your keyword research) tells you that a piece of content is a good fit for your persona, trust your instincts and publish it. Then add the performance data to your ongoing data file for analysis later.
4. You don’t have access to subject matter experts (SME).
You have your personas and your keywords, but do you have experts in your company who can authoritatively speak to the subject at hand? If you want your content to stand out in today’s overcrowded inbound scene, it needs to be both original and insightful—which can only be produced in conjunction with people who are experts in their field.
Solution: If you do have great SMEs in your company, make sure they understand the importance of being available for quick interviews with your content producers. If you don’t have experts readily available, focus on building up a professional network outside your company. You may be able to pay someone for their time if they’re willing to do the occasional phone interview. If you know you’ll never get regular access to subject matter experts, our honest advice is to invest in something other than inbound marketing.
5. Your CEO is not invested in the inbound marketing process.
If inbound isn’t working at your company, you should evaluate whether your CEO has fully invested in inbound as a strategy. If it isn’t on his or her list of priorities, it won’t be a priority to anyone else. Period.
Solution: You need to find a way to sell inbound marketing to your boss so employees can get on board—and get publishing. Without that buy-in, you won’t get very far. There’s a great methodology for developing your pitch here.
6. Your blog posts have too many reviewers and die on the vine.
Collaboration is good, but only up to a point. Once too many people—the marketing coordinator, the marketing director, the SME, the CEO, etc.—get involved in giving input on a piece of content, it’s likely that people will disagree on certain elements of the content and/or the format. That disagreement requires even more input to be resolved, and, well, it’s easy to see the vicious cycle that creates. What could potentially be great content never leaves the gate.
Solution: Appoint one person to review content and give approval. Everyone will have to trust that person to make the right call and to keep things moving toward publication in a timely manner.
7. You’re afraid of taking a stance.
It’s not uncommon for companies to kill a blog post (or any piece of content) because it emphasizes something controversial or proposes an “out-there” idea. The fear of producing content that might negatively impact their brand is paralysis-inducing. That’s a shame, because not only does it squash new ideas, it also often squashes content from being published at all.
Solution: Hit that publish button, even if you’re a little afraid of how people will react to your content. Your discomfort probably means you’re putting forth new thoughts and opinions on a subject, which is exactly what’s needed to attract interest to your brand and demonstrate thought leadership.
8. You shoot down an idea because other companies aren’t doing it.
Unfortunately, much of marketing today is about following—following the trends and following the tricks. Most marketing teams don’t try new things without data or other proof to show that they will work. As a result, ideas—and the content associated with them—get waylaid.
Solution: You may be first person to have an idea, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. The most impactful companies are ones that willing to try new things. Do some research around your new idea, and use it to rally support among your team to take action.
9. Your content management system (CMS) is hard to use.
Sound familiar? If so, this may be a big reason why your inbound efforts aren’t going smoothly. It could be a monumentally time-consuming task to update your website if your CMS is hard to use, especially if the person responsible for publishing content isn’t technologically-inclined. If that’s the case in your company, you can be sure it’s slowing down (or halting) your progress with inbound.
Solution: Help out your non-technical people and switch to a CMS that’s easy to update. Hint: If it involves too much coding that means you’re using an outdated solution! There are plenty of good systems out there, HubSpot and WordPress among them, that make it easy to post content and images, and input forms.
10. You don’t have the capacity to take on the additional work inbound creates.
Megan worked the numbers, and she found it takes us at Nectafy an average of 4 hours and 24 minutes to complete a blog post; if you did the same for your company, you would spend just over 35 hours a month on blogging! The person you’ve assigned this work to may think they have time to do it, but in reality, that time often gets swallowed up by other priorities. Or perhaps various people on your team have agreed to create content occasionally, but they never seem to have the time required to produce it.
Solution: Assign content creation duties to a person already on your team and plan on having him or her spend a good chunk of their time on it so it gets done right. As part of their job, this person should track the success of their efforts using content marketing KPIs. If it isn’t reasonable for you to appoint someone already on your team to content creation, you may want to consider either hiring an in-house writer and editor to take on the job, or hiring an inbound marketing agency with a track record of getting excellent results.
11. You’re trying to do too much—and your efforts aren’t getting you anywhere.
It’s the classic hamster wheel scenario—you’re trying to take on a million projects at one time, so you end up moving around a lot but never get any of your inbound marketing efforts off the ground.
Solution: Focus and prioritize. Instead of working on numerous projects with varying degrees of impact (and never finishing any of them), focus on one or two high-value projects and follow them through to completion. Try to focus only on projects that will have the biggest impact on your business and deprioritize the rest. Once those are done, update and reevaluate your to-do list, moving on to the next-most impactful items.
Ready to get out of the way of progress and see your inbound marketing efforts pay off?
There should be no reason why your best content isn’t reaching your best persona! If you need help getting things done (and getting out of your own way!), try using this inbound marketing workbook to organize and coordinate your efforts. We use it to manage our clients’ inbound marketing as well as our own. It helps corral the details in all areas—from personas to keywords to content calendars and more—into simple Google Sheets so you can see the big picture and keep your inbound efforts moving. (And the rest of us can finally see that awesome content you’re about to let loose!)