How Traditional Marketers Can Learn to Be Inbound Marketers

Posted by Katie Del Angel on Thu, Nov 12, 2009

We're pleased to highlight another of our guest bloggers! Welcome to Rick Burnes, of HubSpot! Enjoy the read.

This article was written by Rick Burnes, inbound marketing manager at HubSpot, a Kendall Square company that provides inbound marketing software. Rick leads HubSpot's Get Found team -- the group of marketers that uses social media, content and search engine optimization to get HubSpot found by prospective customers.

So you're a traditional marketer. For 15 years you've been buying ads in your industry's trade publication, showing up at industry events and sending out direct mail to lists that you buy.

That's worked well for you. You thrived with this approach in a series of successful technology companies.

But now you're concerned. You're the VP of marketing at a new technology company and you're finding it more expensive to get good results out of these channels. People don't respond to direct mail or print ads the way they used to. You know there's a new approach to marketing -- inbound marketing -- but you don't know where to start.

I recommend doing five things:

Dive Into Social Networks

To be a successful inbound marketer, you need to build relationships online, constantly. Relationships built on online social networks serve the same roll as traditional relationships, with one significant difference: It's easier to maintain a lot of loose connections (people you know, but not well). These loose connections give marketers a significant new channel for reaching and attracting prospects. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the most important networks now, but don't get too attached to a single site. Instead, just focus on getting comfortable building relationships online. You'll find it's not hard -- it's just like the relationship building you've always done, except that you do it at the laptop, not the country club.

Measure the Impact of Your Channels

Traditional marketers lamented their inability to figure out which half of their advertising spend was wasted. Inbound marketers don't need to do this. With the web and closed-loop marketing (marketing that tracks website visitors by channel through their conversion to customers), you'll know which of your marketing channels are generating the best ROI. You can then use this information to optimize your marketing spend scientifically. No need to rely on intuition anymore.

Focus on Getting Found

Instead of going out and finding (interrupting) potential customers, focus your time on things that help you get found by potential customers. Instead of buying paid advertising, focus on ranking in organic search engines. Instead of paying for sponsorships, build a product and cultivate relationships that earn endorsements. HubSpot and many of its customers have found that customers that arrive on your site organically convert to leads and sales at a much higher rate than those driven to your site via paid media.

Create Content

Networking and SEO will make it easier for people to get to your site, but content will give them a reason to go. Blog articles, videos, research and other quality content will answer questions for your prospects, will build trust, and will pull them into your site in a way that's deeper, more thorough and more persistent than any social network.

Be Entrepreneurial

If you're hoping to learn a specific set of techniques that will make you an inbound marketer, you're going to be disappointed. Marketing success today depends less on knowing a specific set of successful techniques and more on knowing how to figure out successful techniques. Many of the specific tools we use to today at HubSpot -- Twitter and LinkedIn, for example -- will change dramatically over the course of the next two years. One thing that will not change is our ability to learn to use new tools -- our ability to experiment and to be entrepreneurs.

This final point is the most important.

If you can learn to use new tools and techniques, you'll figure everything else out. Tom Friedman summed it up with this story in a recent column:

"A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables. ... Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive."

Marketers, like everybody else, can no longer just do their jobs. We have to be in a constant state of figuring out better ways to do our jobs.

If you'd like to learn more about doing just that, we invite you to join us at an upcoming MITX educational event.

Have you tried these techniques? Tell us about your experiences. Let's expand the conversation.