If done right, inbound marketing can work for any business that has a considered purchase ... but it can also fail. It can fail for a variety of reasons, but let's start to break some of those reasons down.
As the first part of a series, I'm going to start with what should be considered the foundation of an inbound marketing strategy: buyer personas.
Missing the Mark on Buyer Personas WILL Cause Inbound Marketing Failure
Inbound marketing is a content-driven strategy. You should be creating blog posts, downloadable content, marketing automation, social media activity, etc. That is ALL content!
Your inbound content is planned out in your content mapping, which is completely built around what you know about your buyer persona and the buyer's journey.
Now, imagine that the buyer persona that you developed isn't turning out to be as accurate as you thought. Now, everything you've established on top of that isn't hitting the mark either. If this happens your content will not resonate with the individuals you are attempting to reach. If it doesn't resonate with the right people you won't get the right traffic or convert enough of that traffic into leads.
Compare this to the foundation of a house. You can create a crumbly foundation for a house and then continue to build the remainder of the house on top of that, but how much faith would you have in the overall integrity of the house?
What Can You Do About it?
1. Build a Buyer Persona
Spend time on buyer persona development. Tell the best and most complete story you can. It can always be paired back if needed.
Build your buyer persona(s) around your BEST BUYERS. These are the clients that you want more of.
2. Interview, Interview, Interview
Interview your actual best buyers, or even people that fit that profile but didn't result in a closed sale. Quality interviews are what can make a decent persona profile into a kick-ass profile!
3. Don't Set It and Forget It
Revisit your buyer personas as you learn more about them. Even if you aren't scheduling formal interviews with your buyers, as you glean bits of knowledge related to your marketing efforts, take the extra step and add that information to your buyer persona story.
4. Get Team Buy-In
Everyone that has a hand in marketing and sales should know the buyer persona like they know their good friends.
Make sure everyone involved in the marketing efforts has read through it multiple times, asked questions, and even prints it out and hangs it near the space in which they'll be doing the writing.
5. Create a negative persona.
These are stories about the people you DON'T want to do business with. If you're developing your overall inbound strategy and start to see that the focus is starting to sway the way of your negative persona, take a step back.
6. Keep 'em Separated
Don't try to cluster different buyers into one persona just because it's easier.
For example, if your goal is to generate leads from engineers but you target multiple industries, you may need multiple personas. Just because someone shares the same title, doesn't mean they care about the same things.
Applying Your Persona to the Rest of Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Your buyer persona is crucial to the overall success of your inbound marketing campaign. Here are a few stats to back that up!
So, if your inbound marketing campaign is not performing as you hoped, start here. While it's not the only element that can cause failure, it's common for a business to rush through (or even skip) this step in strategy development.
Don't let the rest of your inbound efforts flounder because you started off on the wrong foot!
(Editor's note: This article was originally published in March 2017 and was recently updated.)