The 7 Aspects of Inbound Marketing Most People Screw Up

by Kipp Bodnar

Date

March 28, 2012 at 12:30 PM

bad marketing intermediate

Too often, marketing is just plain bad. The problem is that bad marketing often works better than no marketing at all. Inbound marketing is helping to change this by creating marketing that people love, which luckily also results in 61% lower lead costs.

In the transition to marketing that people actually like and use, too often there are still remnants from annoying, spammy, and interruptive marketing. But change is hard and doesn't happen overnight. So let's look at some aspects of your inbound marketing that might need to be refreshed to make the rest of your marketing more useful and likable. While these aren't new and shiny like social media or mobile marketing , they are crucial to the foundation of your inbound marketing strategy.

7 Aspects of Inbound Marketing That People Usually Botch (And What to Do About Them)

1) Customer Testimonials

Does it sound like a robot wrote your customer testimonials? Do your customers sound so flattering that they must have been bribed endlessly to have ever said such kind words about your product or service? Contrived testimonials aren't believable. Your customers aren't stupid; they can spot fake or overblown reviews from a mile away. Don't rely on short customer testimonials that read like someone on the public relations team whipped them up.

Instead, get inbound with your customer testimonials. Follow the lead of web hosting company A Small Orange , which rotates customer tweets on their homepage as testimonials instead of boring and generic quotes. 

customer testimonial example

Check out this blog post for a step-by-step guide on embedding tweets so you can put this technique into action on your own website. And if you're looking for more guidance about how to generate quality online reviews, we have an online review guide , too!

2) Website Product Pages

Ask three strangers to read your website product pages. Then ask them to state what the products or services are, and what solutions they provide. Can they do it?

The following is an actual paragraph from a manufacturing company's product page:

"Besides adding new and/or improved equipment, we have dedicated ourselves to continuous process improvement through our APEX (All People, All Process, All Product EXcellence) program. To improve our process and product quality on a continuing basis, the APEX system provides for continuous measurement of performance and continuous feedback from customers and vendors. At each plant, APEX has formal action plans that are continuously updated, to keep day-to-day processes in control, to reduce product variability, and to identify areas for quality improvement."

Do you understand what this means? I don't.

Be direct; tell people what they need to know. Take a look at an excerpt of the product page text from Global Plastic Sheeting, a B2B plastics company .

Do you need plastic sheeting that will hold up in the sun or survive harsh conditions ? Look no further! We serve a multitude of industries , and are ready to serve you! The goal is to provide the most informative and comprehensive website thus providing great products and a great informational resource. We are leaders in this industry.

"Our products and shipping  will save you time and money, and your reputation since you can count on our quality. Global Plastic Sheeting provides our customers with our exact shipping costs ; including our significant discounts with NO HANDLING fees or other fees of any kind. No Surprises!"

This copy makes it very clear what they actually sell and why you should buy it from them as opposed to a competitor. It is practical and actionable copy. This type of copy should be on every product page.

You can accomplish this by getting your customers (and even better, complete strangers that aren't oriented with your company) involved in the copy review process. When you undertake major updates to your website copy, conduct some user testing to get feedback on the content, and make sure that it is communicating the ideas you had intended.

3) Press Releases

Getting media coverage is hugely important, but most press releases are painfully boring. I mean really boring. They make those customer testimonials we talked about at the beginning of this post read like a Stephen King novel. Yes, sometimes you need to write and distribute a press release, but when that is the case, it is important to shape them in the form of the rest of your inbound marketing -- as helpful, educational, shareable content.

So how do you stand out and maintain originality with your press releases? When HubSpot acquired oneforty a few months back, we wrote a press release that consisted of a series of tweets . Since oneforty as a company was based on Twitter, it made sense to do a twist on the traditional press release in this way. Great press releases are interesting and contextual in this way; tie the content and style of your release to the news you are announcing.

If a tweeted press release isn't up your alley, here are a few tips for executing more press releases in a more inbound-friendly fashion:

  • Include visual data such as graphs and infographics to tell your story in a quick and powerful way.
  • Only include quotes that actually say something novel. When quoting executives, for example, make sure that the quote actually says something interesting and new as opposed to simply rubber-stamping the existing ideas within the release.
  • Make press release content reflective of the news sites you are targeting. If you are targeting a specific group of journalists and publications, then don't follow a standard press release template. Instead, write in a style similar to those you are targeting to make it easier for them to include you in a story.
  • Search engine optimize your press release for the keywords you want to get found for, and direct readers back to a targeted page on your website; not your homepage.

4) Bad Stock Photography

Great inbound marketing is puts a huge emphasis on compelling content -- and content doesn't only mean text. It also encompasses things like videos, podcasts, content visualizations, and, unfortunately, those terrible stock photos of people who don't work at your company analyzing a graph or collaborating around a white board. And it's time for those stock photos to go far, far away.

Great photography makes a difference. When someone sees a person on your website, they want to know that those people actually work for your company. To solve this problem, make the investment in hiring a photographer to take a few custom shots to help bring your website to life and make it more personal.

For example, when conducting A/B testing for landing pages here at HubSpot, we've taken snapshots of employees and tested conversion rates based on the pictures of different HubSpotters (talk about pressure!). Taking your own photos gives you the ability to customize images for specific situations and landing page tests. If you have a good photographer on your team, you're just some lighting equipment away from a website full of customized and engaging images.

5) Mounds of Meaningless Text

Kill the jargon. You don't win a medal (or more customers) for using words no one outside of your office understands. Even worse is taking all that jargon and cramming it into a blog post or web page that would cause instant anxiety for anyone unfortunate enough to stumble across it.

The first step in fixing this problem is to clearly identify the key jargon terms in your industry that are largely unknown by your customers. Make a list of these words, and audit your website copy referencing this list, replacing the jargon with words and phrases used by your customers. To come up with these replacement words, you should actually talk to your customers . It is easy for Marketing to become disconnected from customers, but it's crucial for maintaining meaningful personas and creating content that resonates with your audience. Keep hold of this list of industry jargon, add to it as new terms crop up, and refer to it when creating content to make sure nothing on the list creeps into blog posts or website content.

6) 'About Us' Page

Most 'About Us' pages are self indulgent, superficial, and read primarily by your executive's parents. Let's change that by making an 'About Us' page that is actually awesome. Take a look at Twitter's 'About Us' page, for example:

about us page example

First and foremost, Twitter describes itself in one clear and bold sentence above all other page components, followed by brief but specific information about key aspects of its platform. Here's how you can reinvent your 'About Us' page to be equally remarkable:

  • Include a clear pitch for what the company is all about. This pitch should come in two different forms: the first is a clear, one-sentence statement, and the second is through a 30-90 second video that explains the company's product or service offering.
  • Next, identify the 3-5 key strategic business opportunities that your company is currently focused on. These could be recruiting, channel sales, increasing third-party development, etc. Once you have identified these strategic opportunities, make sure you have content on your 'About Us' page to drive visitors to the appropriate pages for each objective.
  • Create a clear subnavigation. Your 'About Us' page is merely a tool to give new visitors insight into your business and send them to the appropriate section of your website for information that is of interest to them. Having a clear navigation on the side of your 'About Us' page will provide a clear path for people to go deeper into your website and learn more.

7) Email Newsletter

People love email marketing when they get personalized and relevant offers, but often the worst offender of doing email the wrong way is the overused and under-planned email newsletter. The probem is that when it comes to email marketing, if you try to be everything to everyone, the result is apathy and plummeting numbers in your email analytics dashboard .

Don't send the same newsletter to your entire email list. Instead, customize different content and newsletter sections based on the recipient's interests. Segment your email list based on the content individuals have looked at or downloaded from your website, and align your content with their past consumption habits.

For example, if you are a a company that sells manufacturing ventilation equipment, you'd likely would want to send out different content in your email newsletter depending on the time of year; but that isn't enough. Instead, start collecting information beyond just an email address for people subscribing to your newsletter. Something as simple as asking people the age of their ventilation equipment would allow you to create and send different newsletter content based on the maintenance needs of ventilation equipment at certain ages.

What aspects of inbound marketing do you think are frequently executed poorly, but have tremendous room for improvement?

Image credit: Italian voice

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