“Inbound marketing” has quickly become one of the most popular phrases in the world of SEO. Numerous articles have been written about it; numerous people have become advocates for it, and numerous sites have been dedicated to it. But where did the phrase actually come from?
Technically, Brian Halligan coined the phrase in 2005. However, the phrase didn’t really take off until Brian and Dharmesh Shah started an inbound marketing software company called HubSpot and wrote a book on the subject: “Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs.”
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a really long time, but for whatever reason, I just never got around to doing it. Well, I finally read it, and since I’m sure there are plenty of other procrastinators out there, I’ve decided to summarize the book’s main ideas to help motivate others to take the plunge with me.
The book is broken down into four large parts, and I’ve organized my review around those parts. If you enjoy this review, be sure to check out the book. And no matter how you feel about the review (or the book), be sure to leave a comment Now, let’s get to reviewing…
(1) Inbound Marketing
The book begins by detailing outbound marketing techniques (e.g., email blasts, telemarketing, trade shows, etc.) and exposing their flaws in today’s Internet-driven world.
Fundamentally, people do not want to receive information through spam email messages, cold calls, or boring sales pitches. They want to gather information themselves using search engines, the blogosphere, and the social mediasphere.
Since people want to gather information online, the book quickly poses an important question about your website: is it a megaphone (i.e., a one-to-many broadcast tool), or is it a hub (i.e., a community of like minded people that connect and collaborate with each other)?
Ideally, you want your site to be a hub – a dynamic, engaging destination that pulls people in like a magnet and gives them content they can read, learn about, and share with others.
To help your site transform from a megaphone to a hub, you have to move away from outbound marketing and embrace inbound marketing.
You need to stop interrupting people in your target market and “get found” by them instead.
However, this transition is easier said than done. And that’s where one of the book’s biggest contributions comes into play: to be successful, your company’s value proposition must be remarkable.
This notion of remarkability is incredibly important, and it persists throughout the entire book. Essentially, it is a constant reminder that everything you do should be worthy of other people’s remarks. If no one is willing to remark on your company’s offerings, those offerings simply aren’t remarkable (and need to be improved).
(2) Get Found By Prospects
The first part of the book explains the importance of moving from outbound to inbound marketing. This part of the book begins to explain how to actually make that move.
The first and most important step is to begin creating remarkable content. This gives people something about your company to remark about online, which will attract links from other websites and generate interest in the blogosphere and social mediasphere.
You no longer need to spend tons of money interrupting your potential customers. Instead, you need to create remarkable content, optimize that content (for search engines, RSS readers, and social media sites), publish the content, market the content through the blogosphere and social mediasphere, and measure what is working and what is not working.
The book advocates blogging as a great way to create a steady stream of remarkable content because it has the following benefits:
- It establishes your company as a thought leader.
- It transforms your site into a living organism (as opposed to a static brochure).
- It gives your potential customers a way to engage with you directly.
- It helps your search engine rankings.
At this point in the book, the authors have hopefully convinced you that creating remarkable content is critically important for inbound marketing. Now, they turn their attention to getting that remarkable content found online.
Naturally, the first stop on the online scavenger hunt is Google (shocking, I know). If you’re new to SEO, the book’s Google chapter is a great, high-level overview of important concepts such as organic search results, PPC, PageRank, keyword research, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO.
The most effective way to get inbound links is by creating remarkable content that is useful and interesting. And, getting inbound links is the most effective way to get better rankings in Google.
Next, the book focuses on getting remarkable content found in social media. In this chapter, the authors explain the importance of creating an effective online profile, and then, they give helpful advice for gaining traction in the following social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and YouTube.
Obviously, some of the specifics are now outdated for these social networks, but many of the general principles are still applicable. And the overriding message remains relevant: remarkable content should be promoted through social media.
(3) Converting Customers
The second part of the book focuses on generating a larger audience for your remarkable content (i.e., “getting found”). This part of the book helps you convert that audience into paying customers.
The most important element on your site for converting visitors into customers is a compelling call-to-action. Once you have a visitor at your site, you need to show that person exactly what action to take next.
Site visitors were attracted to your site due to your remarkable content; it will require an equally compelling call-to-action to convert them into qualified leads.
According to the book, there are four characteristics of a killer call-to-action:
- Valuable – you have to give away something remarkable to receive something in return.
- Easy To Use – the action should be extremely clear and very simple.
- Prominent – your offer should be prominent and distinct from surrounding text (“it should pop”).
- Action Oriented – use a verb to explain what action to take.
In addition to a killer call-to-action, an effective landing page design is another important contributor to success when converting visitors into customers.
Here are a few best practices for creating a compelling landing page:
- Matching – the content on the page should match the call-to-action.
- Building Trust – the page should project a professional and trustworthy image.
- Go Naked – remove extraneous offers and navigation.
- Graphics Matter – eye-popping graphics can help conversions.
- Keep It Simple – keep everything streamlined to generate a single action.
The problem most companies have is getting more leads, not sorting through the leads they have by grading and nurturing them. Before you spend days and weeks setting up fancy grading and nurturing systems, it is advisable to get your lead creation machine cranking first.
(4) Make Better Decisions
The previous parts of the book focused on introducing inbound marketing best practices. This part of the book is all about replacing your old decision making processes with those centered around inbound marketing.
The first fundamental step in evaluating your decision making processes is to establish a sales and marketing funnel. Then, using this funnel, you can quantify which marketing channels are most effective at generating leads (and ultimately conversions).
Once you have an effective monitoring system in place, the authors advocate replacing your lowest ROI outbound marketing activities with inbound marketing activities and evaluating the change in results.
Evaluating performance doesn’t end with marketing campaigns. You also want to measure your marketing staff to make sure they’re embracing and practicing inbound marketing philosophies. The book offers the following DARC framework for hiring and developing effective inbound marketers:
- D = Hire Digital Citizens
- A = Hire for Analytical chops
- R = Hire for Web Reach
- C = Hire for Content Creators
Now that you’re evaluating your marketing efforts and your marketing staff, the next logical step is to monitor and evaluate your competition. Are they embracing inbound marketing? What are they doing that you’re not? What mistakes are they making that you can avoid?
Monitoring your campaigns, staff, and competition are all very important activities, but one of the book’s final lessons is the value of patience and persistence:
Learning to do inbound marketing has a small hump in the learning curve in a similar way as learning to play the guitar does. In order to get maximum value from inbound marketing in the form of leads, you need to stick your leg in the water for a couple of months to start, not stick your toe in the water for a couple of days. The benefits come very slowly at first, but they accumulate until you reach successive tipping points.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It would have been much more valuable if I had read it when I was a brand new SEO, but it never hurts to refresh your knowledge about fundamental principles.
If you’ve never really been introduced to the concept of inbound marketing, the book is a must-read. And even if you have, it’s still worth a quick skim through.
Now, I’d love to get your thoughts! Have you embraced inbound marketing? What activities work best for you?