One of the lessons that I have learned over the years is that everything is more complex than it seems. Take inbound content writing for example. About 12 years ago in a different business, I read about inbound content and came to understand that companies who blogged more than twice per week generated significantly more inbound leads. I then set out with my normal vigor to blog multiple times per week. However, the quantity of inbound leads didn’t change in any noticeable way. After blogging for about a year with no noticeable change, I decided that inbound didn’t work and pointed to all my articles as proof.
Fast forward about 5 years to a pivotal discussion with a friend and marketing expert who posed these questions: “Josh, who are you writing the content for? When you write, does it speak directly to them?” Like all experts with years of industry experience, I stated who we were writing for, who our customers were and thought that I had it figured out. But over the next 48 hrs, my rebuttals and answers to my friend’s questions nagged at me. It felt like I responded more out of ego instead of doing what I should have done and internalized the questions. I started thinking more about the questions and decided that I needed to go back to the beginning with my inbound content education.
Don’t Make The Same Mistakes That I Did
In this article, I want to provide you all the things I got wrong early in my inbound content journey in hopes that you can take away some helpful information.
1. Know Why You are Writing
To know what to write, you have to know why you are writing and the outcome you want to have. For example, If you want to write inbound content that generates leads and form fills, that will be 100% different than thought leadership content. My mistake was not understanding the difference between the two and how that would change the topics that I wrote about.
2. “What” and “Why”, Not “How To”
I thought that by sharing How-To articles and information, it showed that we were experts and knew our topic. That may be true but How-To articles are for self implementers that don’t need our services, How-To articles are not for buyers and decision-makers. Think about it, does someone who takes their car in for repairs also search “How to repair X” on their car, not in most cases. They either fix it themselves or pay the mechanic. Decision-makers and buyers are doing research on the What and Why, and those were not the articles I was writing when I first started creating what I thought was inbound content.
3. The Buyer’s Journey
Many of my friends that are avid golfers say that you can go out and practice and get better, but eventually, you will decide to get lessons and when you do, you will kick yourself for not doing it earlier. But without a friend telling you that, you may never get those lessons, or you get them way too late. When I first started, I didn’t have a friend that said, go download and spend hours understanding the buyer’s journey before you write one word of content. If you do, it will save you a lot of time, money and headaches. If you don’t fully understand the buyer’s journey then do the research or ask an expert to create it. Then see if you can poke holes in the assumptions and research to come up with the best understanding of your buyer.
4. Industry Expert Mentality
“I know what they want because I have been in the industry for X years.” I hear statements like this nearly every day working with clients and have come to believe that it is actually a huge disadvantage for many founders in certain areas of the business. In my case, I believed that because of my experience, I knew what people wanted to read about. But again, that was incorrect. I was an experienced implementer and consultant, I wasn’t an experienced buyer. I had actually rarely sat in their position and done the research to make a purchase like they were doing.
5. Understanding Search
One thing many people don’t know when they start writing for inbound lead generation is that Google provides tools that tell you exactly what people are searching for. There are tools that tell you that one phrase gets 0 searches per month and another gets 2900 searches per month. All you have to do is do the research and write about what people are looking for. This is another area that my writing went wrong in the early days. I wrote from my experiences as a consultant and about the challenges that I had just helped a client with, instead of writing about what people were searching for. Now, nearly every article I write has a stated keyphrase that is selected before I write the first line.
What I hope that you get from this is the ability to skip any of the mistakes that I made with my first inbound writing initiatives. You have the opportunity to skip to the end where you are writing content based on the buyer’s journey and content that buyers are searching for. Inbound is ultimately about lead generation, not branding or thought leadership. There is still value for those types of articles but they aren’t what generate leads. It is up to you to create the inbound content strategy using empirical evidence and then to execute.
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