The Only Thing You Need to Know About Inbound Marketing

January 21, 2011
The only thing you need to know about inbound marketing

I’ve spent the past several weeks attending Inbound Marketing University (IMU), a program hosted by HubSpot. I came to Digett with little experience in inbound marketing, so it’s been nice to get an overview that covers all aspects of content creation and promotion.

Although each of the courses provided great information, there are really only six things you need to know to succeed in inbound marketing.

1. The basics are very basic

We spend a lot of time fretting over the minutiae of inbound marketing, but in the end it boils down to creating helpful content, publishing and promoting it, and contributing to others’ conversations.

Everything else--social media, paid search, lead generation and conversions--is wasted effort if you don’t have solid, engaging content to which to send your visitors.

Are you committed to publishing good content? Gather your staff together and develop a publishing strategy, as well as some solid techniques for combating the “blogging blues.” Make a plan and stick to it, and you will be rewarded with more leads, customers, and profit.

2. Passion is good

All the above said, it’s important to know that all the content creation and promotion in the world will not substitute for a lack of passion. If you’re not interested in what you’re doing, that will come through in your content, and people will notice.

Although they are involved in slightly different realms, IMU professors like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Avinash Kaushik embody the idea that passion is the primary component of marketing. Each of these gentleman has a passion that borders on obsession, and it’s no coincidence that they’re all successful businessmen and experts.

What aspects of your business are you most passionate about? Take some time to think about how you can showcase that passion through content and developing relationships with your customers.

3. It’s never about you

But isn’t advertising about telling people what are you and what you do? Not really anymore. Marketing has changed, giving more power to the consumer than ever before; now it’s about creating content, not billboards. Rather than just telling consumers to buy a product, businesses need to encourage conversations and sharing -- by doing so, they will be seen as trustworthy, and will fare better in tough economic times than companies that stick to an outdated advertising system.

This paradigm shift seems rather subtle on the surface, but it is a shift that is revolutionizing advertising.

Pay close attention to how your advertising, social media discussions, and content is worded. Ask questions and encourage conversation, rather than making statements and talking only about yourself. Make it less about your product and your business, and more about the reader: What are their concerns and problems? Provide content that helps solve those problems.

4. Social media is about more than content promotion

Social media platforms are great places to promote content, but don’t be content to merely tweet or share a link to your recent blog post. Perform some searches for your company and/or company keywords, and see what pops up. Are people talking about you or your products? Are they asking questions that you can answer, or do you have an opportunity to repair the damage done by a negative customer experience?

Connecting with customers on a more personal and helpful level is one of the main goals of inbound marketing. By being present and active on social media, your brand becomes more visible, and your customers know that they can interact with you.

In order to be as efficient as possible when it comes to monitoring your brand online, programs like TweetDeck can save your keyword and company searches, and pull all valuable tweets into a desktop or mobile application. The program updates in real time, giving you the opportunity to respond to questions, concerns, and praise as quickly as possible.

5. Don’t be satisfied with top-level SEO

The best lesson I’ve learned from Avinash Kaushik is that it’s not enough to make sure I stay within an SEO budget. Of course that’s important, but it’s also critical to ensure that the budget is being used to the benefit of my client. Are the keywords which receive the most clicks also leading to the most conversions (which means a great return on investment), or am I allowing my client’s budget to be spent on unprofitable clicks?

Google AdWords is a beast of a program, and delving into the guts of numbers and percentages can be intimidating. But by getting even the most basic handle on how AdWords works, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition. Kaushik is a big fan of Google Analytics reports, and I’m frequently amazed at how helpful reports can be if they are done correctly.

Are you getting the best possible ROI from your paid advertising, or are you making little mistakes that are costing you? The only way to know for certain is to dig into AdWords and Analytics and find out.

6. Know what you’re getting into

It’s easy to jump on the social media bandwagon, but it’s not so easy to stay on -- Twitter and Facebook are littered with the remnants of abandoned accounts started by businesses that couldn’t follow through.

What platforms are your customers on? If you create a Facebook page, but your target market is on Twitter, you’ll misspend both time and money. Do a little research: What are your customers saying about you? Is it mostly negative, mostly positive, or are you not mentioned at all?

Develop a strategy for how your company will monitor and participate in social media. Will your current employees take on the extra responsibilities, or will you need to hire one or more people whose entire job is to develop your brand on social media platforms?

If you haven’t already, consider hiring a third-party marketing company that specializes in social media and/or inbound marketing. Putting an expert company in charge of your business’ online brand gives you the time you need to run your business, as well as the opportunity to take notes on the third-party’s processes, and take the lead when you feel comfortable.

Parting thoughts

There are thousands of blog posts that discuss the complexities of inbound marketing, and I encourage you to read them all and get involved in the discussion. If Inbound Marketing University sounds like something you’d find valuable, the 16-webinar course is free to all, and goes into detail about all aspects of marketing, including email marketing, calls to action and landing page best practices, and video and other creative content.

Inbound marketing is here to stay, and I for one am excited. How about you?

 

What lessons have you learned from inbound marketing?