I’m a big believer in inbound marketing. I’ve seen it work, and I’ve leveraged many of its tactics for myself, my business, and for others. I believe it will (and has already started to) fundamentally change how companies market to consumers.
Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan are smart guys. They’re the founders of Hubspot, and masters of inbound marketing. And they’re the authors of Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media). I read the book in an afternoon (it’s an easy read with great cartoons) and wanted to share 10 key insights gained from it.
- The book is a worthwhile read for anyone in marketing and social media. Even if you consider yourself experienced with social media, you’ll get something from the book. The first section is largely about how to use inbound marketing tactics to generate traffic and leads (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, SEO, etc.) For many of you this won’t be new, but there are nuggets in there just the same. The second half of the book is largely about how to measure your success, build a marketing funnel and drive your organization to shifting its mentality. This is where the book stands out against other “how to generate traffic” books, e-books and blogs.
- Search engines are important because of the people who use them, not the algorithms behind them. One of the quotes I saved from the book is this, “Other than the sheer volume of potential visitors you can draw through Google, there’s another important consideration for ensuring your site ranks well: People searching on Google are actually looking for something.” Just remember that, ok?
- A blog is a long-term asset. And even more importantly it can appreciate in value over time. You’d think most marketers would get this by now, but if they honestly did, a lot more companies would be blogging (and blogging well!) A blog (along with other social media / inbound marketing strategies) is designed to return value over a long period of time, unlike an advertising spot that is unlikely to give you any long-term value whatsoever. And to all the lawyers, administrators, managers and others that want to bury corporate blogging and social networking in a pile of guidelines, policies and other nonsense, I say “Nay!” I love what Mike McDerment from FreshBooks says about his corporate Twitter policy, “We have some style guidelines like each post must be fun, playful, professional, and should not include swearing.” Truth is, if you have a meaningful corporate brand that people are committed to, you shouldn’t need overwhelming policy; the brand already defines what and how things should be said.
- Use PPC (Google AdWords), Facebook Ads and StumbleUpon advertising as test cases for determining the efficacy of each channel. Most companies get the idea of having as many marketing channels as possible, but this is a smart, simple and relatively inexpensive tactic – leverage paid advertising for quick tests – and then work to maximize the non-paid advertising (Google organic search for example) with the knowledge gained.
- Landing pages should have a 15%+ conversion rate.
- Everyone in your organization has the potential to be a marketer.
- Being remarkable matters, now more than ever. You won’t be able to hide crappy products and crappy companies behind huge marketing budgets.
- Companies need to change how they hire marketers. This stood out as one of the best (if not the best) parts of the book. I can’t quote the whole section, but suffice it to say you better start thinking about what types of people you hire in your marketing department. And it’s going to be changing faster than ever over the next few years. And the companies that get it right are going to win big time.
- If everyone in your company can be a marketer, now is the perfect time to expose that within the organization. This is another section I really liked in the book. Dharmesh and Brian talk about exposing people’s inbound marketing efforts publicly within the organization (I believe it was called a “Reach Grader”). Make it something that everyone can see and understand. This is going to create competition internally, and also enhance the company’s culture and brand around inbound marketing (which I think is going to be increasingly more important in the years to come.)
- You can measure the ROI of inbound marketing. A lot of people struggle with the concept of ROI and social media (and inbound marketing). But there are clearly ways that you can measure ROI, and the book helps a great deal with walking through some of those basics. One of the simple tactics they suggest is to rank all of your marketing (both inbound and outbound) tactics and simply remove the bottom two worst performers and add two new ones to the top of the list. Simple in mechanical terms, but maybe not simple in cultural terms; your marketers have to buy in!
The book has plenty more than what I’ve described above. For example, there are some good primers on search engine optimization, landing pages and hiring help (such as PR agencies).
The only section that I didn’t like was the one about Digg. A few years ago Digg was a great source of huge traffic spikes, but that’s really not the case anymore (at least not for 99.9% of blogs out there.) Given that the primary target for this book is more on the newbie-side, I think the section on Digg creates a bit of false hope. They do say (a few times) that it’s very hard to hit the front page of Digg and get tons of traffic, but I wouldn’t even bother thinking about it. I would much rather see Dharmesh and Brian give people more help on how to write a great blog and find traffic from other niche sources.
Plus, I would have loved more examples.
I’m certain there’s a second book in the making after this one. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media) is a great introduction to inbound marketing, but so much more needs to be beaten into the heads of old school marketers. For starters, a lot of companies need more guidance on how to shift their marketing departments and their entire organizations to a new way of thinking. More needs to be explained about landing page optimization and A/B testing (although there are other resources for that.) Companies need to use this book for inspiration, and then get into the trenches, get their hands dirty and make things happen.
Thank you Dharmesh and Brian for an enjoyable read. Thank you for reminding me of things I hadn’t paid enough attention to recently. And thank you for teaching me new stuff as well.