Inbound Marketing 101

Inbound Marketing 101, Rand Fishkin

On Thursday, February 16th, Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, presented on “Inbound Marketing for Startups” at The Startup Conference in Seattle, WA.  Since co-founding SEOmoz in 2004, Fishkin has established the company as the Internet’s most popular SEO software.  Fishkin is also the co-author of the Art of SEO (O’Reilly Media, 2010).  The main theme of the presentation was how to earn customers without buying them and its content was equally relevant to both startups and large companies.  Below is my summary of Fishkin’s exceptional presentation.

How do customers buy in 2012? You do not buy customers, you earn them by doing exceptional things. This means creating exceptional products and services, as well as doing exceptional things everywhere. For example, while you can pay for advertising on Google (interruption marketing, far right side of user’s screen), you must earn exceptional search results (inbound marketing, middle of user’s screen). The earned results are free and more valuable. It is the same for Facebook and Twitter. The fact that 90% of spend is for interruption marketing does not make sense.

What is interruption marketing?  The  goal of interruption marketing is to stop you from what you want to do to sell you something that you do not need.  The goal of inbound marketing is about adding value to people.  That is, companies create great products and services and the web (through inbound) helps you decide whether or not to purchase them.  Interruption marketing is the opposite of inbound marketing (content, email search, social, etc.). Inbound marketing is any tactic that relies on earning people’s interest rather than buying it.

Inbound Marketing Channels

1 – Content.  Content is the foundation of inbound marketing.  If you do not have great content, there is no chance of success.  Content can be community, distribution, pictures, products, words, etc.

2 – Email.  Email is social’s secret weapon.   For example, you log-in to Facebook when you receive an email from them about a  friend’s birthday.  Email is also effective because people gave permission to hear from you.

3 – Search.  How we find things (navigation).  Search is discovery.  Discovery leads to sharing.  Search brings in the most highly qualified traffic.  Users click on 80% earned results and 20% paid results (advertisements).

4 – Social.  Social is at the top of the funnel.  It is a major influence on search.  Social is about discovering new things.  Search is about the realization of a need.  Social demands great content and rewards it.  “No one will share crap on the Internet.”  Social is fragmenting into multiple communities; e.g., Facebook (750M), Google+ (50M), LinkedIn (120M), Twitter (200M), etc.  It is not a one network social world.  It is a multiple network social world.  Thus, social media marketing is complex.  It is much more than getting “likes” on Facebook.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
The funnel only exists, so it can convert – that is, awareness to consideration to purchase. You have to fill the top of the funnel, so something comes out of the bottom of it. CRO means measuring and testing. It means listening too (i.e., making changes that reflect customer feedback). A lot of conversion involves soft metrics, including branding, familiarity, messaging (not what you say, but how you say it) and trust. Familiarity and trust accelerates conversion. While CRO is a critical process, it requires holistic marketing to succeed.

Building An Inbound Marketing Strategy
Questions: First, what is your target audience? Second, where is your target audience on the Internet? Third, what content do they like? What content works there?  Fourth, is your content exceptional? It must be exceptional to realize a strong ROI. Fifth, how will you get visitors into the funnel? For example, brand, email, mail, telephone, trial, etc. Sixth, how will you measure and improve? Discover: Identify inbound marketing methods that look promising. Test: Invest creating value in the niche/sector. Measure: Track impact. Repeat: Do what works.

Ten Inbound Marketing Tactics for Startups

1 – Community Platform.  Give your community a platform to share and talk about your products and services.  Mine user-generated content for insight.  For example, Dribble is a show and tell for designers.

2 – Embeddable Content.  Create and spread embeddable content for others to use.  For example, Simply Hired provides users with hiring trends for companies and people to embed on their websites.

3 – Leverage Google.  REL=Author helps accelerate search results where the author has demonstrated thought leadership.  Video XML Sitemaps helps accelerates user clicks in search (videos receive more clicks than links).

4 – Media Connections.  Use social media and social networks to connect with the media, including bloggers, journalists, etc.  For example, FollowerWonk lists the most followed users on Twitter by specific subjects.

5 – Mine Contacts.  The people most likely to engage with you are the ones that already know you and like you.  For example, your Twitter followers will listen to you because they are following you for a reason.

6 – Mine Social.  Mine the social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) for engagement opportunities.  For example, Minted offered discounted Christmas Cards to Twitter users seeking after-holiday bargains.

7 – Reward Sharing.  Build features into your product or service that require and/or reward sharing.  For example, Dropbox, if I refer you to them, I will receive additional gigabytes of storage and so will you.

8 – Share Data.  Make your data interesting and share it with both customers and users.  For example, OkCupid is a free online dating site.  They regularly share information with users about what is working in the dating world.

9 – Sharing Incentives.  Create sharing incentives for customers and users.  Incent people to link to you (“I benefit if I share”).  For example, Urbranspoon  will feature your restaurant review if you link to them.

10 – Top Influencers.  Create a monthly top influencers list/ranking for your industry.  For example, Seattle 2.0 Startup Index.  Rankings appeal to vanity.  They also drive brand awareness and linking behavior.

Every one of these inbound marketing tactics works together.  You do not have to spend thousands or millions of dollars to get your marketing message in front of the right people.  Do not buy customers, earn them.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry.  All rights reserved.

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