Help Crowd-Source an Inbound Marketing Definition (There’s a Prize)

Posted on October 10, 2011. Filed under: Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Online Marketing, Small Business, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Inbound Marketing - Crowd Source Definition

Question: What's the Definition of Inbound Marketing? Thanks for sharing your answer!

Can you succinctly describe Inbound Marketing? Do you have an idea but are not quite certain? Would you like to know more about what it is? Do you have absolutely no idea, but would be willing to take a stab at explaining it anyway?

Then this is the post for you! You just have to be prepared to share your take on Inbound Marketing in the comments. There’s a prize involved. Read on.

Why am I looking for a definition? I talk to companies about Inbound Marketing every day and each time I try to find the tidiest way to help people get it. I’m a pretty darned good communicator – been doing it professionally and successfully for decades. I’ve explained lots of complex concepts and technologies.

But Inbound Marketing seems tougher for some reason. Maybe it’s because people think they know what it is, and are resistant to accepting that there’s more to it. Eventually people understand, but given today’s short attention spans, we need a short explanation. Time is of the essence!

I’ve checked out Inbound Marketing groups on LinkedIn, the websites of fellow Inbound Marketing agencies, HubSpot’s website and Wikipedia, which was able to shed light on an earlier sense of Inbound/Outbound Marketing that I encountered once trying to explain it to a software company product development executive.

So far I’ve found nothing that encompasses all the parts and benefits of today’s Inbound Marketing in a way that’s quickly understandable. I’ve blogged about how people don’t get it. I’ve wracked my own brain for a tight definition and come up with something that I’m trying out in my networking groups and to audiences I’m speaking to in the near future. But I have a feeling I can do better.

So I decided to reach out to the online community of all stripes to see if we can crowd source something that works. There’s a prize for the best definition: A copy of Inbound Marketing  by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, co-founders of HubSpot. Brian coined the phrase Inbound Marketing.

Let’s have at it. I’m passionate about Inbound Marketing, know it works and want more companies to get it and buy in, so that they can start reaping the benefits. Plus we can have some fun!

Let’s get all the help we can. Please share everywhere!!

The image is from the photostream of tj scenes on Flickr.com under Creative Commons license.

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Inbound Marketing Education is in Middle School

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Content, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

HubSpot Inbound Marketing System

HubSpot Developed an Efficient System for Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing has been around for several years now. It’s the subject of bestselling books by David Meerman Scott and HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. In fact, HubSpot has surpassed the 5000-customer mark for the Internet-based content management system they invented to put all of the pieces of inbound marketing together.

Yet, when I sit in a roomful of business owners and ask how many people know what inbound marketing is, frequently all hands stay down. Or a hand will shoot up and the eager contributor will say, “Social Media.”

It’s clear to me that we inbound marketers have a lot more work to do educating the marketplace about the approach. Yes, social media is a component of inbound marketing, but it’s only one.

There seems to be pretty widespread awareness of other inbound marketing components, too, like SEO, blogging and email marketing. Yet there’s little awareness of how all of these efforts can coalesce in an effective and measurable process. This post is one of a number I’ve written to help flesh out the process in a way that’s meaningful to business people.

At heart, inbound marketing is just marketing updated to reach our potential customers where they are – online – then to get their interest and win their trust so that when they buy, they buy from us. These days, it’s harder, if not impossible, to find our prospects by advertising in newspapers (why they’re shrinking), by telemarketing (think voicemail), on TV (thanks to TiVo and DVR) and other traditional channels. But future buyers are almost all online – at least enough of them to keep our businesses growing.

Business owners and managers I speak with will often say, “Well, we’re driving lots of traffic to our website, but we’re not sure what it’s getting us.” Then I ask, “What’s your bounce rate? And what are you doing to convert traffic to leads?”

They begin to understand inbound marketing when I explain how it serves as a lead generation and lead nurturing system. When they realize that inbound marketing can be planned and implemented with the objective of helping them reach revenue goals, it becomes a much more interesting idea to explore. It becomes a compelling idea when they recognize that analytics can be integrated and success measured.

There are a lot of steps to inbound marketing. It can seem daunting at first. It does take some re-thinking about how you do marketing. And it does take an investment of time, staff resources and budget. But, properly done, it works and pays big dividends.

I use HubSpot’s content management system for my own company’s inbound marketing. There are other ways to approach and handle inbound marketing using multiple sources. But for me, HubSpot offers the best system, education and support – especially for small to mid-sized companies I work with.

As the product matures, there’s now a developer’s marketplace growing up around HubSpot that’s yielding and will continue to produce plug-ins, variations and customization for the original software, similar to WordPress. They’ve also made some recent acquisitions that will beef up various aspects of the product – including middle-of-the-funnel and larger enterprise functionality.

At minimum, HubSpot walks the walk regarding sharing useful information. The company is a virtual content factory and you can immerse in free educational downloads, blogs and other information, free webinars and a free trial to get a good feel for how inbound marketing works.

In the interest of disclosure, I’m a HubSpot Value Added Reseller in addition to being a user. But I don’t mean this post to be a commercial. I became a VAR because HubSpot is the most intelligent and efficient inbound marketing system I’ve found. It can help my clients to grow their businesses and I can help clients to better utilize the system from the VAR position.

Have you learned enough about inbound marketing to begin implementing it in some form?

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College of Online Marketing: A Never-ending Curriculum

Posted on June 29, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Blogs, Content, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Media, News, Public Relations Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

No Graduation at College of Online

No Graduation at College of Online

I just spent 30 minutes getting up to speed on the Google+ Project announced yesterday – Google’s new social media network, currently in a limited field trial. It’s quite interesting and I’ll explore it further with you as it rolls out to everyone.

The point of this post, though, is that when it comes to keeping up with online/inbound marketing, we need to commit to constant and continuous education. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn about a new tool, app, initiative, issue or trend related to marketing and interacting on the Internet.

It’s exhilarating and sometimes exhausting to be part of such a rapidly evolving profession. But the benefits that Web-based technology can bring my clients – especially small businesses – make it worth burning the midnight oil or rising at summer dawn to read the latest information.

If you’re a business trying to figure out how to market your company online, it’s a good idea to get some background information – even if you are or will be working with an agency or consultant. Here’s a 101 class, a few best-selling books to read and blogs to follow – in addition to this one — that will help you understand how to best use the Web for your marketing.

  • “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” by David Meerman Scott. Clients of mine are currently reading this and it’s fun to see the lights going on for them as they learn why we’re better off putting resources into blogging than newspaper advertising.
  •  “Real-Time Marketing & PR,” the latest from David Meerman Scott.
  • “Inbound Marketing,” by HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the guys who defined and automated the inbound marketing process.
  • “Trust Agents,” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, the bible for understanding how and why the Web can help you build influence, improve your reputation and earn trust.

All of the above are published by John Wiley and Sons. Even if you’ve read them before, they bear perusing again from time to time.

In the blog/online media department, I regularly read:

Another important source of information for me is my online marketing community on Twitter. Follow me, see some of the people I follow, and check out my lists. You can take advantage of the news links they tweet every day.

So welcome to the College of Online Marketing, Class of Forever. Graduation day is not in the picture – unless the Big Power Outage comes. As long as it doesn’t, let’s consider ourselves online marketing lifelong learners.

What are your favorite sources for keeping up with the evolution of the Internet? Thanks for sharing!

Photo by J.o.h.n.Walker under Creative Commons License

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Centerpiece of a Successful Inbound Marketing Plan: A Proven Process

Posted on June 22, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Blogs, Content, Inbound Marketing, Internet Traffic, Jazz, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Two posts ago I promised to talk about having an online marketing plan. I got distracted but am now tracking back to this important topic. Part of the post will be about Hubspot, the Boston company that has embraced inbound marketing and made its mission to help businesses – including mine – coordinate and analyze their rather complex inbound marketing activities.

In honor of Hubspot – the centerpiece of my inbound marketing plan — I’m offering a musical post – my old friend, jazz scat singer and ‘hipster’ Giacomo Gates singing the Harry “Sweets” Edison tune Centerpiece, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Onward!

Centerpiece of inbound marketing: A proven process

Many small to mid-size businesses (SMSB) are confused about online/inbound marketing. They think that if they’re on Facebook and/or other social media they’re good to go. Or they’ll go out and hire an SEO agency to get them higher in search results. Let’s say that all builds traffic. Then what??

Traffic doesn’t help unless you convert it to leads and nurture leads to convert them to customers – or better, advocates for your company. Generating traffic is only the first top-of-the-sales-funnel step to building business using the web. And let’s agree that the web is our best chance for growth.

It helps to have a good strategic grasp of the big picture, a process and a plan. Or you may expend a lot of effort in online activities, but with no clear idea of how or whether it will help you get to your business goals. Even I whose business is helping others build their web presence have struggled with my own efforts. We haven’t been doing this stuff all that long, after all. Read this recent blog post and you’ll see what I mean. A process and plan definitely help.

I remember complaining to Hubspot founder and CEO Brian Halligan – who practically invented inbound marketing with his partner Dharmesh Shah – that I know Hubspot works and believe in the process, but time was so tight and I was hoping to do it soon – on and on.

Brian listened to my excuses and with a big grin on his face said, “Get with the program, girl. You just have to commit to it and do it.” Well, he was so cute and he’s so brilliant that I couldn’t argue with his advice. I didn’t even mind that he called me ‘girl’. He got away with it, I got with the program. And so can you!!!

However you decide to pursue building your business online, you have to put a plan in place that addresses the following:

  • Get found
  • Convert
  • Analyze

Each of these pieces has a number of moving parts and choices to make.

Getting Found

To get found, you have to build great searchable content. Blogging works best. You have to optimize your site and the content you create. That’s where SEO comes in as a supporting player. Not a be-all-end-all.

Convert

To convert the traffic you’ll build, you’ll want to offer useful content in exchange for contact info. At first, when a potential buyer is in the information gathering stage or they don’t know your company yet, maybe all they’ll be willing to give for your content is an email address. That’s fine. Keep cranking out helpful content and eventually they’ll be willing to give more in return.

At this point you can nurture the relationship with emails or even phone calls – more direct interactions. The better relationship you build, the better chance you’ll make the sale when your prospect is ready.

Case in point is my relationship with Hubspot. I partook – and still do — of the incredible volume of content they produce – often feeling like an absolute glutton – until I pulled the trigger and became a customer. In the interest of full disclosure, as an inbound marketing consultant, I’m also a Hubspot Partner and Reseller.

Analyze

The most critical aspect of your online marketing plan is analytics. Hopefully you use a web analytics program. Google Analytics is very robust — and free. So no excuses. Google keeps adding features so that you can track most of your online existence these days. If you don’t measure what’s working and what’s not, you can’t refine your online plan to the make the best use of your time and budget. None of us small/medium company entrepreneurs have anything to waste – so measure.

I promise you can make progress toward your revenue goals if you first understand the process of inbound marketing, choose the right tools/tactics and analyze your activities. You’ll be accountable to your prospects, customers AND your bottom line with a process as the centerpiece of your plan.

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