Chapter 1 Shopping Has Changed...Has Your Marketing?
This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah's Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs.
Chapter 1 Shopping Has Changed...Has Your Marketing?
Inbound Marketing begins by stating, “The fundamental task of marketers is to spread the word about their products and services in order to get people to buy them.” Listing the various means of accomplishing this task, the writers note that they have become obsolete, as potential customers have become adept at blocking them. Telemarketing it thwarted by caller id, direct mail is ignored and spam filters block unsolicited email. In the last decade, potential customers have all but vanished from marketers who rely on the tried and true methods of the past.
Asking the question, “Who moved my customers,” the authors describe the massive movement to the internet over the past decade by people looking for products, services, and information. The authors break down the internet into three main areas; search engines, such as Google, the blogosphere, where information is gathered and shared, and the social mediasphere, where information is exchanged and discussed amongst like minded groups and friends.
Citing the example of Barack Obama’s use of inbound marketing techniques in the 2008 presidential election, the advantages of using direct communication through social media, the authors explain how more people can be connected using less funding. More for less is an advantage to inbound marketing that will be cited throughout the book. Quoting Jon Frenchman, who had been the media consultant for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, they note that Obama, with less money but significantly more Facebook followers, (over three million to McCain’s 610,000) engaged in conversations with potential voters, while McCain used social media only to broadcast his message.
While the use of the 2008 presidential campaign presents interesting numbers and contrasts in the use of social media, it should be noted that the social media were flooded by avid supporters of the candidates and their message. It is unlikely that the presentation of a consumer product will generate the same emotional or visceral support as will a potential candidate for the White House. The authors suggest that the reader visit barackobama.com and “look around.” Readers who do so will find exhortations to visit several other sites and get involved.
Political campaigns thus are not an effective means of evaluating the benefits of what the authors have dubbed Inbound Marketing, as they have always been designed to draw people to them and get involved in drawing in others. Rather, the use of social media within the historical political environment can be evaluated for its effectiveness in other areas of marketing.
Chapter Two. Is Your Web Site A Marketing Hub?
Websites are too often built as a simple online brochure, little different from the paper and ink brochures handed out at trade shows. Chapter two asks the reader to think megaphone when considering such sites. An alternative is offered. “Instead of broadcasting to their users with a megaphone, the top-ranked sites today have created communities where like-minded people can connect with each other.”
Reminding the reader that, “It’s not what you say--it’s what others say about you,” the focus is shifted off the website, to sites where others can connect with you and users of your product. “Ultimately, this ‘outside’ focus will drive people back to your site.” The effective website is compared to New York City, which is serviced by multiple major highways, rail systems and depots, three major airports and an international port. The ineffective website is compared to a small Massachusetts town with limited access to the outside world by mass transit.
Likening the transit systems in New York to search engines, the authors describe the need to make the website similar to New York, a major hub of activity.
Having subscribers to your site connected via RSS is described in detail, as is up-to-date email subscriptions, with both means touted as effective methods in driving people back to your site in response to new postings.
The necessity of distributing site content to social media is discussed.
Directly addressing frustrated marketing managers who reluctantly face yet another costly redesign of their website the authors offer an alternative. “Save the thousands of dollars and countless hours you were going to spend on the redesign (sic) of your site and do three things.” These are; add a blog, create compelling content and shift focus to Google, industry blogs and social media.
37Signals, a Chicago based builder of project management tools is cited as an example of successfully developing and maintaining the type of interactive web presence described in Chapter 2. The authors state that the appearance of their website has changed very little over the preceding five years, while the content changes daily.
The techniques described as marketing by interruption, direct mail and spam, which are the same thing delivered by different media, telemarketing, which is door to door sales by phone, and print advertising, were largely developed by John Patterson at the turn of the twentieth century to sell cash registers. Knowing that one register sold would generate conversation amongst the customers who had their sales rung up upon it, Patterson backed up the sales with testimonials, brochures and newspaper commentaries.
The techniques presented in Chapter Two are not greatly different. They are not new. They are re-applying a tried and successful method of letting one’s customers become one’s best salesmen, using updated tools and communications. Ultimately, it is the need, not the product, that generates sales. Patterson developed ways to create need, which would drive customers to his proverbial door. The same technique is presented here.
Chapter Three. Are You Worthy?
Chapter Three points out the dual edged nature of the internet when it comes to marketing, although it allows you to reach a great many more potential customers it also allows exposure to global competition. In converting to inbound marketing, in which your product will be found by seekers rather than presented through interruption, it is essential to have a remarkable value proposition, one which will spread of its own accord across the web.
“There are two ways to create a winning strategy in an era where remarkable ideas spread virally and you face more competitors than ever,” according to Halligan and Shah. One is to think outside the box, as it were, rather than following the existing rules of the marketplace. The example of Apple’s introduction of the iPod is cited and explained as a result of such thinking.
The other is straightforward. Be the best at what you do within the rules of your market niche.
For the first method it is necessary to widen your boundaries to create new markets, for the second your boundaries must be narrowed to embrace a smaller niche. Defining your approach is an essential step in developing your inbound marketing strategy.
The Grateful Dead are used as an example of developing first a niche market and then an inbound marketing strategy to build their brand. For those unfamiliar, the Dead made records that sold poorly, yet attracted a singularly faithful audience. Brian Halligan is a self proclaimed Grateful Dead fan. He uses them as an example of using inbound marketing, allowing their fans to come to them and eventually becoming “one of the highest grossing bands of all time.”
The use of the Grateful Dead as an example of a successful inbound marketing strategy is somewhat fallacious, the sort of anecdote expected in a seminar to inject a lighthearted moment. It is akin to Yogi Berra’s comment about making the right mistake. The Grateful Dead simply made records that did not sell particularly well outside of their own genre, though their fans were devoted followers. As an example of what can happen when devoted fans spread the word amongst themselves, leading to increased followers their example can be instructive, but the implication that they developed and implemented an effective inbound marketing strategy is misleading.
They did not give records away. They charged competitive prices for their performances. They often performed at large music festivals. They followed the traditional methods of the day. They achieved success, though not as one of the highest grossing acts of all time, due to longevity and continuous work. There is a significant difference between a successful strategy and a fortuitous result. One does not necessarily follow the other.
Part Two Get Found By Prospects
Chapter Four. Get Found By Prospects
In addition to a remarkable value proposition one must create remarkable content about one’s products and services. Remarkable content attracts to your web site, which in turn attracts the notice of search engines, indicating your site is worthy of increased attention via keywords. Remarkable content also moves quickly across the social media sites. A remarkable blog will spread quickly across the social media relevant to your product or service and draw more attention, more site visits and potentially more customers.
It is therefore obvious that there is a need to create remarkable content on a continuing basis. The way to do so is to create a content factory. Halligan and Shah state, “The people who win really big on the Web are the media/content companies (e.g. Wikipedia, New York Times, TechCrunch, etc.) who have a factory for creating new content.” They go further and redefine the role of the successful marketer, “The savvy inbound marketer learns from the media companies and is half traditional marketer and half content creation factory.”
The authors suggest creating content that can be produced quickly and spread online efficiently, suggesting, in descending order, one page blog articles, five to seven page white papers, two to three minute videos, live Powerpoint presentations, ten to twenty minute podcasts, and live online videos, all related to your industry.
Creating remarkable content and optimizing for search engine visibility will enhance your web site for hits during Google searches. The authors suggest hiring a journalist/writer rather than a career marketer as your company’s next marketing hire.
Tracking progress is recommended through the use of following bookmarks and the number of times a new site links to yours. The authors cite Wikipedia as inbound marketing in action for this chapter, with its six million links to other sites, meaning there are six million links on the web which will direct the user to an article within Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is viewed as a dubious source by both scholars and consumers, often the articles it contains are considered inaccurate or of biased viewpoint. Some of its articles are poorly written and others are too detailed technically to be understood by readers lacking fundamental training in the subject matter. But there is no denying its ubiquitous nature. A Google or Bing search on virtually any subject results with Wikipedia near the top of the results.
To use the author’s own example, that of the Grateful Dead, a Google search of their name resulted in the corresponding Wikipedia article listed number two, after only the band’s official web site. Wikipedia, which relies entirely on external developers for its content, is thus one of the most frequently visited web sites extant. The authors believe that similar traffic can be developed for smaller wikis, developed for the niche a company occupies, driving traffic, and customers, to the developers web site.
Allowing external sources to develop content for a company web site seems risky, and developing a staff sufficient to produce a level of content approaching that of Wikipedia would be cost prohibitive. For example, allowing a former employee access to your web content may not be the best approach. Developing quality content, and monitoring content provided by external sources, are not cost free exercises, and costs would necessarily increase with scale.
Chapter Five. Get Found In The Blogosphere
The value of blogs as a means of engaging potential customers and linking to other sites, “makes sense for many types of businesses for many reasons.” Establishing your business as an industry “thought leader” is one, another is the ability to change the information on your web site without changing the site itself, generating repeat traffic. Another benefit is an increase in search engine rankings, each blog article adds a page to your web site, increasing its visibility to Google and other search engines.
Technical issues, such as assigning the blog address to your website rather than the domain of the blogging platform, are discussed and the authors recommend allowing for comments and providing email and rss subscriptions. They also recommend keeping the articles short, avoiding anything over one page, and to remain focused on your industry or events which have an impact upon it. Providing links to relevant articles or videos is highly recommended, as is the insertion of video within your own blogs.
Inviting professionals within your industry, noted speakers and trainers, or customers with strong online presence to act as guest bloggers is another technique which the authors recommend to provide diversity and a fresh voice to your blog. Interviewing via emailed questions provides a change of format and another viewpoint to supplement or reinforce your own. In this manner, the workload of producing new and fresh content can be spread around.
The importance of attracting the right audience, and assisting Google in finding that audience for you, is given paramount importance, with the inclusion of the subject incorporated it the blog’s title. Linking key phrases that relate to your web site is recommended and described. The use of numbered lists and famous names, “10 Leadership Lessons From Don Corleone,” for example, is referred to as a highly successful ploy.
“Pushing,” the blog by posting links to it on social media and asking readers to share it is presented as a means to increase traffic, as is linking the blog to social bookmarking sites. Asking personal contacts to review your blog and forward it with comments to their personal contacts, beginning a chain of reviewers is hardly innovative, but certainly will increase exposure.
With that in mind, the authors warn that most blogs fail because, “the author or company writing the blog oversells their product or service.”
Subscribing to a good RSS reader, (the authors recommend Google Reader) will allow you to subscribe to relevant blogs within your industry and engage in their conversations, with the obvious goal of having them reciprocate. The authors recommend replacing the morning newspaper with a review of the blogs to which you subscribe. Commenting on those blogs and leaving accurate contact information will drive traffic to your own.
Several methods and metrics for tracking the success of a blog are mentioned and their values compared. The success of a blog is determined by the amount of inbound traffic, the number of comments generated, and the number of links to other blogs. The authors contend that six months to a year of following their recommendations will result with the blog being one of the best sources of new customers for your company.
Using the blog Whole Story as an example, the authors demonstrate how Whole Foods has established their presence on the web using the blog not to advertise products but to attract customers through exploring the topics of health and nutrition.
The line between interruption and inbound marketing blurs a bit when the technique of directly emailing contacts with requests to read a blog is broached. The desire to engage potential customers through the creation of compelling articles is not much different than the hope that advertising copy will be read by accompanying it with attractive photography.
Inviting comments on blogs, and even traditional media articles, has become commonplace. Unfortunately the rule of civility and decorum don’t always apply. Comment sections nearly always require a moderator to maintain some sense of order, the additional cost of providing a referee to keep comments clean and on topic is not discussed. Just as blogs remain online for years, so do adverse comments.
Chapter 6. Getting Found On Google
Although the number of Google searches per day is cited, it is almost certainly obsolete, as would be any number cited here. Suffice to say that millions search the web for products, services, information, and fun every second of every day, and if your site is not highly ranked on Google it is missing those searches. It would be as if your store front in the shopping mall were to be behind a curtain.
A Google search results in a search engine results page, or SERP. The SERP displays both organic results and paid results, which are essentially advertising by sponsors. Google offers paid advertising, in which a company pays Google for every time their ad is clicked. According to Halligan and Shah, “You pay Google to send visitors to your web site, and how much you pay is based on how many people are competing for those same searchers.”
Unpaid, or organic search results are based on Google’s determination on which sites best answer the queries contained in the search. Increasing the chances that your web site is the best answer for those queries is what search engine optimization (SEO) is all about.
The authors stress the need to appear as one of the first ten listings on the SERP. “A recent study shows that Google’s first page captures over 89 percent of the traffic, and most users will not look beyond the first page.” The key is not to be listed by Google but to become highly ranked by Google.
Google ranks pages during a search based on the combination of relevance and authority. Relevance is based on matching keywords and content. Authority is determined by Google, based on the number and authority of sites linking to other sites. A high authority site, as determined by Google, raises the authority of any site to which it is linked.
When selecting keywords their relevance towards your company’s business is paramount. Selecting keywords which are relevant, but less likely to be used by competitors is recommended. As authority increases more commonly used keywords can be added, since your recently acquired authority will increase your ranking with Google.
Page titles are highly important and the authors provide tips to maximize their efficiency. Establish links to high authority pages, the value of pay per click campaigns and several other approaches are discussed. The authors also warn against using techniques to exploit holes in Google’s software. The practices of keyword search stuffing, using link farms, and content duplication are all schemes to generate the false impression of more hits, and will result in Google ignoring your site during a search.
The authors recommend the use of Website Grader, or similar free software, to aid in the evaluation of your progress. Tracking the efficiency of the keywords you selected, as well as the number of actual hits to your site and the ratio of visits to sales will allow you to monitor your success, as well as provide possible subjects for you content factory. For example, increasing hits on an article discussing a new or revised product may dictate the need for an article discussing its impact on the industry.
As this is being written, in May 2012, Google is implementing yet another change in its search engine. Called Knowledge Graph, Google has called this change a “critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.”
How this change will affect the recommendations in this chapter, if at all, remains unknown at this writing. Google has changed the way it displays results based on keywords, yet it appears that keywords and authority remain integral parts of a search.
The contention that high quality, compelling content is what will drive people to your site remains valid, but the best sites are of little value if they are not seen by Google. The recently applied change is a reminder that companies need to be aware of every change in the way Google conducts searches and displays results in order maximize their visibility. Monitoring progress is not enough, monitoring Google’s changes, and how to apply them to your site for maximum benefit, is something that needs to be accomplished religiously, or the best content will be invisible to the desired audience.
Chapter 7 Get Found In Social Media
Comparing social media, as the previously have Google, to a watering hole the authors write, “more of your potential customers hang out at the social media watering holes, so this is where you need to hang out too, if you want to engage with them.”
The authors recommend using the same persona across all social media sites, to establish continuity and consistency. Either a personal photo or an avatar reflecting some part of your business logo is suggested as a profile image. An interesting bio, establishes your credibility and confidence in your business expertise.
Using social media, in addition to your website, increases your reach across the internet. Once a business page is created on Facebook, its multitude of features allows you to drive traffic to your web site. The viral nature of Facebook can create hundreds of potential customers through the links to one users page following yours.
The creation of a business page on Facebook is described step-by-step, suffice to say that following the directions on Facebook itself is a simple procedure. Creating a sub-domain for your Facebook page on your website is recommended and again a relatively simple procedure.
Once a presence on Facebook is established it needs to be updated regularly to be an effective marketing tool. This will require having someone being active on your page as frequently as possible. While potentially an added cost to doing business the authors assert, “Having a presence on a social networking site is swiftly becoming as important as having a web site.”
In May 2012, in a poll conducted by the Associated Press and CNBC, half of those surveyed said that Facebook is a passing fad. Whether it remains a vital force online or passes the way of Compuserve chat rooms remains to be seen.
LinkedIn is discussed in a similar vein, with the establishment of new groups and the joining of existing ones relevant to your industry considered an essential tool for further expanding your reach. A group established on LinkedIn should be added to your web site as well as your email signature and discussed in your blog. Adding an rss feed to your LinkedIn community will allow you to maintain an active presence on the site without daily monitoring.
The use of Twitter to drive readers to your blog is covered, with recommendations of how to create persuasive microblogs. Twitter’s tools to find potential followers with shared interests, and how to use them to build a group of followers, are covered in detail.
The authors express disdain for the use of automated following tools. “Our advice: stay away from robotic approaches to building relationships online. Social networks are about being social and building genuine relationships for mutual gain.”
Digg’s front page, according to the authors, receives over 25,000 views in a single day. Because of the nature of the Digg community, they recommend submitting only the very best articles from your blog. The methods of scamming the Digg community are discussed and of course the authors recommend not using them.
The use of other social media sites, such as YouTube and StumbleUpon, are discussed and the means of using them to create interest in your products, services and expertise are explored. The need to create content that compels fans to seek more is the common thread throughout all the social media sites.
The authors themselves assert the need to be responsive and active on all the social media sites, a chore which will be time consuming and distracting to anyone tasked with other responsibilities, such as creating compelling content on a blog. The daily use of social media is a full time job, simply engaging in the question and answer activity on Linkedin could consume several hours a day.
In order to properly engage on multiple social media sites employees need to be dedicated to the task as their main responsibility. It doesn’t take many visits to a page that hasn’t been updated for several weeks to discard that page forever. What has been discussed to this point is not simply setting up a system to allow potential customers to find you. It is an active, dynamic program, requiring constant attention and maintenance, which will allow you to engage several communities on a continuing basis.
In order to receive incoming activity you will need to be outgoing, with information, activity, and discussion. Those who have approached the program expecting to create a system that will drive customers to them will have by now discovered that they need to constantly reach out or those customers will instead drive on by.
Part Three Converting Customers
Chapter 8 Convert Visitors into Leads
The actions taken in the preceding chapters should have created a stream of visitors, which now need to be converted into paying customers. Visitors to the web site that have approached it via the steps listed to now may not necessarily have arrived at the site’s home page. They may have connected to a blog or other page on the site. The authors here describe the need to compel the visitor with a call-to-action.
The call to action is a giveaway in order to receive the visitors contact information, either a webinar, a free e-book, a trial offer, and so on. They suggest the call to action be a clickable image, prominently placed on every page on your site.
Warning against using a “Contact Us” link as a low response call to action, the authors stress the need to obtain a visitor’s contact information for inclusion in a database.
All calls to action should use a principle the authors refer to as VEPA, an acronym for; Valuable, Easy to use, Prominent, Action oriented. To determine what would be most valuable to visitors to your site it is necessary to determine what drove them to the site in the first place, data derived from monitoring your inbound marketing traffic as described in the preceding chapters.
The goal is for visitors to your site to do more than just wander around, enjoying the compelling content you’ve created for their benefit and leaving. You want them to leave their contact information behind once they’ve dropped by.
“Generally businesses underestimate how valuable offers need to be in order to obtain people’s contact information,” say Halligan and Shah. They suggest experimenting with increasingly valuable offers
to see which generates the best response.
Offering a free gift to visitors in exchange for information is a sales technique as old as the profession itself. There is little new here, other than the need to take advantage of the increased exposure to which you’ve subjected your web site using the techniques provided in the previous chapters. Offering to send the customer additional information or a free sample/trial in return for obtaining their contact information allows the web site to feed the sales force a continuous stream of leads.
An acceptable conversion rate, according to Halligan and Shah, is five percent of visitors leaving behind their contact information. Every business would necessarily need to determine what their own level of success needs to be in order to justify the expense of developing the system and maintaining it, as well as the value of the free offer.
Chapter 9 Convert Prospects into Leads
Prospects, different from visitors, arrive at your web site as the result of a targeted approach, either through a pay per click, paid advertising, or email marketing campaign. The web site should be configured so that prospects arrive at your site on a landing page, specifically configured to receive them. “A good landing page can convert 50 percent of its visitors into qualified leads while a poor one will convert less than one percent.” according to the authors.
“Your landing page has one function only: to get people to fill out your form!” The authors suggest removing navigation to the rest of your site and reducing offers on the landing page will increase the likelihood that visitors, who have arrived here in response to a solicitation, will do just that. They suggest, rather strongly, that since you’ve invested money to draw them here that you reduce the options they have to drift elsewhere on your site.
With this in mind, graphics should be limited to “eye-popping” images, and any explanatory text should be kept simple, a short, bulleted list is suggested.
The form itself should be kept as simple as possible, with minimal information asked of the prospect. Name, email address and a brief questionnaire over what products and services the prospect is interested in should suffice. The form should be configured to an autoresponder, ensuring the prospect receives a confirmation that the form has been received.
According to the authors, “The biggest problem most companies face is not converting more visitors to leads, but rather getting more visitors in the first place.” They suggest spending eighty percent of your time getting more visitors and twenty percent converting them to prospects.
They suggest as well that landing pages be configured so that they can easily be changed, and their impact measured, by you, rather than by your IT department, should you have one. The same advice applies to the forms on your web site.
The goal with landing pages is to obtain information which may be used by the sales department to follow up with a prospective customer. Sales departments will ask for as much information as possible, lengthening any form, and the authors suggest resisting the pressure to do so.
In smaller companies, in which there is no sales department, the entrepreneur will need to decide how much information to ask for in the form. Judge for yourself, whether you would be inclined to provide a raft of information or just a few lines and construct the form accordingly.
The authors, in chapter nine, have somewhat dismissed the needs of the sales department and espoused the concept of increased volume of prospects increasing sales, rather than increasing the percentage of conversion of prospects. That concept may not sit well with all organizations, each will have to weigh it on its own merits within their industry.
Chapter 10 Convert Leads To Customers
Not all leads become customers and the authors turn here to the means of determining quality leads. “By ‘quality’ we mean those leads that are likely to become customers.” To determine quality, there are means of grading leads, some available via commercial software, and some which can be developed manually.
One means is to determine the referral channel, whether the lead arrived via Google search, blog visits, social media, etc. Tracking of the various means of arriving at your site is strongly suggested. (Hubspot sells software to help you do this)
Answers to questions on your contact forms is another method of grading leads, although in the previous chapter it was suggested that the forms be kept as short and simple as possible. Here the authors recommend finding just the right balance between too much and too little to get the right length on your lead forms.
Evaluating the data obtained from the steps above allows you to determine if the lead is ready to be turned over to sales or if more nurturing is necessary. “The idea behind lead nurturing is to maintain communication and dialog with these leads so that when they are ready to buy, your product is at the top of their mind.” The nurturing program should consist of contact through email, telephone and postal mail.
Nurturing leads can lead to tweaking of the landing pages discussed earlier, as well as having an effect on the content of your blogs and interaction via social media. Objections from prospects can be overcome obliquely by a new article on your blog, or via a forum discussion on Facebook, tools previously separated from the sales process.
Having applied the steps recommended up to this point you will have broadened your reach into markets that were seemingly closed. Announcing new services and products through social media will, for example, extend your reach through your own contacts to their own, and through them to theirs. In addition, identifying the needs addressed by your products and services through social media forums and blogs will have enhanced your credibility as a leader in your industry.
Sending out large email campaigns and marketing through pop-up ads has conditioned people to respond to them as conduits for propaganda, largely dismissing them unless they were in the market to acquire the goods or services so marketed, a fortuitous circumstance at best. Sending out the same information via social media reaches people conditioned to use that media for information, making them more open to new ideas, and enabling immediate verification of their value.
Part Four Making Better Decisions
Chapter 11 Make Better Marketing Decisions
Halligan and Shah redefine the traditional marketing pipeline as a funnel. Inputs at the top of the funnel are all existing marketing campaigns that drive targeted and untargeted traffic, the output at the bottom are customers. The authors describe the process as a funnel because the input is funneled through a process which results in a much smaller output.
The funnel is a measuring device which allows the marketing manager to decide which processes work best and produce the most customers at the bottom. Divided into four stages, prospects, leads, opportunity, and customer, the funnel provides a measurement of marketing effectiveness. “The key to an effective sales funnel is not the decision criteria--it’s that you have a funnel and that you consistently measure it.”
With a channel for each marketing effort, the efforts can be measured against each other as well as evaluated singly at each stage of the funnel, checking for efficiency at drawing prospects, converting them to leads, and so forth. The authors recommend that the two worst performing channels be replaced with the inbound marketing techniques described in the preceding chapters, with additional inbound marketing channels added as its effectiveness is realized. “Use this information to help you decide which programs to double down on and which to eliminate.”
Eliminating the least performing channels as revealed by the funnel includes the so-called “sacred cows”, such as conventions and trade shows, if they are in fact not performing as well as the other channels.
Measuring effectiveness of each marketing effort by the means of equal criteria through the funnel will drive marketing decisions by the results.
Using a single measuring device to evaluate each separate marketing channel provides clear data as to wear marketing dollars are spent for maximum efficiency. The stages of the funnel will be different for every company, based on its operating procedures, and thus must be determined by each company individually.
The recommendation to establish the funnel stages by a meeting of the marketing department allows a say from employees responsible for individually marketing channels. It would be wise to make such a meeting a short one, and to have some basic funnel ready for modification, rather than create it from scratch at a meeting of all employees. It is also evident that the funnel as a measuring device will not be effective unless the same criteria, without exception, as applied to each channel.
Chapter 12 Picking and Measuring Your People
“The next several decades will usher in an era of inbound marketing.” Asking the question of what this means for your marketing staff, the authors a list of recommendations they refer to as DARC; Hire Digital Citizens, Hire for Analytical Chops, Hire for Web Reach, and Hire Content Creators. Although the acroynym seems a bit strained, it provides the basis for a marketing department ready to apply the inbound marketing strategies discussed in the preceding chapters.
Interview questions regarding an applicant’s fluency using social media and Google are suggested. The authors suggest hiring only applicants which have previously demonstrated expertise using social media, including YouTube and Google.
The wealth of information being provided by the properly set up inbound marketing strategy will require constant and perceptive analysis to extract the maximum benefit. Testing for analytical ability during the hiring process is highly recommended.
Just as sales and marketing representatives with an extensive contact list were highly desired by companies in the past, the future will require extensive web contacts, which the authors call web reach. Applicants with extensive Twitter followers or a large number of Facebook friends are highly desirable, according to the authors. People with extensive web contacts, not just a large email contact list, help widen the top of the marketing funnel.
As previously stressed, compelling content is at the core of the successful inbound marketing program. Content creators must be able to consistently produce knowledgeable, remarkable copy. The authors have earlier recommended hiring a journalist or professional writer for this position, rather than a technical writer, and suggest testing their skills by having them write on your blog prior to hiring them. The blog can then be measured for its effectiveness in drawing hits.
“Many professional marketers today are so steeped in the traditions and skill-sets of outbound marketing that it can be difficult to get them to learn new skills.” The authors suggest that it can be tried, recommending reading their book as a start, or sending them to Inbound Marketing University. Methods for evaluating progress and developing skills are suggested as well.
Basically, the authors suggest rewriting the job descriptions and skill requirements of your marketing department, and acknowledge that some resistance will be met. As noted before, there are many people out there who think Facebook is a passing fad, that Twitter has little value professionally and that time spent on social media is time wasted, not productive work. Indeed it can be.
Another advantage of the inbound marketing strategies not stressed by the authors is much of it can be accomplished off site. It isn’t necessary to come into the office, as it were, to produce blogs, interact with Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow on Twitter. Telecommuting is another practice frowned upon by many old school managers and business professionals, but one which will inevitably grow in the future. Indeed the social interaction required by successful inbound marketing programs could well replace the social interaction within the workplace.
The recruiting and interviewing process will require revamping, particularly in larger organizations. Before a successful inbound marketing program can be implemented the best employees need to be identified and their skills quantified by those responsible for the hiring process. This will require training them in the rudiments of the new skills and abilities required. The authors do not address this need, but it will rapidly become evident in practice.
Chapter 13 Picking and Measuring a PR Agency
The authors define PR agencies as having two core competencies, lists of relationships with print media people and developed skills interrupting print media people with your organization’s new offerings. “However, both of these core competencies have problems,” they assert.
Problem one is that print media has largely been supplanted by the blogosphere and social media as a source of information, particularly rapidly evolving information. The second is that journalists and print media professionals also have access to the blogosphere and social media, negating the need for PR agencies to bring new information to their attention.
The authors recommend evaluating the PR agency and each individual member of the team on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al. “The second filter is to see whether the PR agency eats its own dog food.” Halligan and Shah recommend running the prospective PR firm’s website through Website Grader. “If they really understood inbound marketing, they would find the time to better market themselves.”
They also suggest asking the PR agency to provide the names of some existing clients and then running those clients web sites through Website Grader. The use of these three steps should ensure hiring the right PR agency for your organization.
Measuring progress with the PR agency is suggested and several tracking methods to monitor their success expanding your brand are discussed. Google search is the primary method of tracking. “If your brand is increasingly mentioned in Google, your PR agency should be rewarded.
There is not a lot of information in this chapter, indeed the authors seem to feel a PR agency is unnecessary if your marketing department is staffed with enough people complying with their DARC model. Whether to hire one is an individual decision based on many factors, budget being among them. But it is clear from the authors’ comments that the work accomplished by a PR agency is readily duplicated by a strong inbound marketing staff.
On the other hand, the authors’ note that there are a growing number of PR agencies adept in the process of inbound marketing, providing an alternative to developing an inbound marketing program in-house, particularly during the transition from traditional outbound marketing. Again, every company would have to decide for itself if the use of a PR agency is the right call for their goals.
Chapter 14 Watching Your Competition
Describing the Web as “a flattener of all marketplaces” the authors’ point out its unique efficiency at spreading ideas and information about new products and services. Citing the need to be a little paranoid about your own company’s information, they assert that there are many ways for you to track your competition.
They suggest going again to Website Grader and doing direct comparisons between your web site and those of your competition. They warn to pay special attention to new startup competitors as they will be more likely to be placing a special focus on their web presence.
In a similar vein, they suggest direct comparisons of Facebook pages and fan bases, and using Twitter.Grader to provide comparisons there. On Google, a search of your brand will provide a numnber for links, while a search for a competitor will do the same for them.
Measuring your performance against your competitors, as well as evaluating their web presence, will provide data from which you can determine areas where you are being beaten by the competition and thus need further evaluation. If they have twice as many Facebook fans, maybe you need to enhance your presence there. More followers on Twitter might direct you to increase the frequency and relevance of your tweets.
Tracking the results from the various web tools on a spreadsheet, and checking them monthly, will provide guidance not only on the performance of your competitors and marketing effectiveness, but on the overall market as well.
There are those who consider themselves too busy to care about what the competition is doing, with the somewhat smug attitude that if they do everything right themselves the competition will be left behind. The tools available for free on the web allowing you to monitor your position in the marketplace are invaluable sources of information on changing conditions and trends.
The authors don’t mention in this chapter monitoring your competitors blogs, but it would seem to be a good idea to do so, especially since the likelihood is they are monitoring yours. Hardly spying, the review of public exchanged information on social media is nonetheless a gray area, with the courts in several states trying to decide if following someone on Twitter constitutes stalking, for example.
Chapter 15 On Commitment, Patience and Learning
The authors compare learning inbound marketing to learning to play a guitar. It is an inapt analogy, as learning to play the guitar requires physical co-ordination, learning to shape the hand in strange configurations and moving the fingers with previously untried dexterity. There are mental lessons to learn as well.
But the point being made by the authors, that many try and give up before they ever learn to play a simple song is true. “In other words, there is a big hurdle at the beginning of learning to play guitar and this hurdle weeds out those people not fully committed.” Their point is that full commitment is necessary when implementing an inbound marketing program.
“If you have not started doing inbound marketing yet, get started today before your competitors do,” they write. The authors are confident that the process they have described in the preceding chapter will work for any organization, regardless of size. Although they acknowledge that there are points at which progress may seem slow, they urge their readers to persevere.
They cite the example of Tom Brady, as a measure of perseverance in a closing pep talk.
The inbound marketing techniques and processes described would seem to be easy to implement, with the biggest obstacle being the conversion of those marketing professionals schooled in the old school outbound strategies and hardened to its habits. Like any change, there are those who will face it by resisting it to their utmost. There will be those who will say, “That’s not marketing. It’s something else.” And in a sense, they will be right. It isn’t marketing in the sense of presenting information to the masses in the hope that a percentage of them will pick up on it.
Just as cellular technology has largely replaced long distance phone rates, just as the telegram, once a wonder of communication, is all but extinct, changing conditions have changed the marketplace. The tools discussed in Inbound Marketing are relevant today, even if Facebook is a passing fad it will be replaced by another communication program uniting people across the internet. Hershey, once known as the chocolate company that never advertises, has a Facebook page with nearly five million likes. That should be impetus enough.