Pull MarketingI’ve said many times before that the overwhelming majority of marketing activities are dreadfully unsuccessful.

And now, after playing in the traditional marketing margins for years and chasing smaller and smaller response rates, many marketers are realizing that we have quite literally reached the point of no return with much of our outbound marketing.

The future of marketing is inbound. And one of the biggest challenges with inbound marketing, or pull-based marketing across businesses of all sizes is establishing the mindset for pull. Pull puts customers first. Pull seeks to deliver value. And so, inbound marketing is quite simply defined by this simple phrase from Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan (@bhalligan): Get found!

And once we paint this picture, most marketers say : “Great. Now tell me how to get it done!” So here are 7 steps to getting found with inbound marketing.

1. Name Your Customers

The first step in inbound marketing is an old-school marketing technique but is so often forgotten: research your customers. It starts by defining and understanding the buyer “personas” who are already interested in your solution category. Name them. Define the common buyer-journey back-stories and narratives about them. Get to know who these people are in as real a way as you can.

2. SEO. SEO. SEO.

So do you think SEO is important? It is maybe the most important part because nothing can happen without solid keyword research and a keyword strategy. A real understanding of the customer should take a deeper-dive into the actual keywords your audience uses when searching for solutions. Everyone uses a search engine and researches the big-ticket products they buy. SEO can also help you to understand how they think about the solution and the words they use when they talk about it.

3. Media Consumption

This is a step many people skip but it is really important. What you should define as best as you can is the percentage of time your audience spends in various media channels such as print, online, TV, mobile, social, etc. Then you can model the appropriate mix for your audience. Mary Meeker has already told us that we are way under-spent in online media and mobile.

4. Create Content

Once you know who your audience personas are,  what keywords they use, what buyer journey they take and what media channels they use, you should look at the content you have and see if it meets each of those scenarios. Then develop an editorial calendar to fill the gaps. I have spent a lot of time on Content Strategy lately as this topic is becoming more widely discussed by marketing folks across every industry and size of business. I personally believe marketers should seriously look at blogging because this allows you to test all the elements of inbound marketing. And you can see the results in real time and adjust your strategy.

5. Identify Influencers and Get Social

Everyone uses a search engine and everyone is on a social platform. But don’t make the mistake of so many marketers and setup your social accounts and just start sending out traditional promotional messages. Social requires a different form of engagement. My advice is to find the top influencers in your space. This might include customers, bloggers, media outlets. Then simply ask them how you can best reach your audience or ask them to help you. Worst case scenario is to just emulate what they do.

6. Share With Care

Inbound marketing doesn’t mean you stop promoting anything. It just means you take a more customer-focused and value-based approach. And every channel has certain unwritten rules of etiquette to ensure you are not considered a self-centered blow-hard. For example, on Twitter, some people follow the Twitter 4-1-1 rule. This means that for every 6 tweets, you share other people’s original content 4 times, you RT someone else’s content 1 time for every 1 promotional tweet. And by promotional, again, I mean simply sharing valuable content, not overly promotional crap no one wants. Now this only talks about Twitter but you should determine your own rules for all channels.

7. Response Management

I have always believed that the most important step in the social maturity of any organization is to identify their social response management resources and processes. The ultimate end state will produce a social business where every employee is helping to tell your brand story in some small way. And sales people become more social (and less direct) sales people with strong personal brands. The bottom line is that when someone asks your company a question, that someone at your company is setup to respond quickly to meet the near-real-time expectations we all have.

These are the 7 steps I recommend as you get started on your inbound marketing plan. What do you think? Have I missed anything?

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

15 Comments

  1. KB in Florida said…

    You have many terrific ideas to improve a marketing campaign. The section on “create content” is wise advice. The original, authentic content should trump use of duplicate material.

  2. Jeff Mason said…

    A solid post.

    I find many clients are optimizing and creating content, but few guide their content with strategy or focus on lead conversion as a final objective. Businesses need to turn their marketing core to inbound strategies. Those that do, and the agencies that help them, we create meaningful results.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Great point Jeff! I didn’t get into that here – the need to lay out the buyer journey – but conversion is the ultimate goal! Or capture, then conversion. Consistent content that meets customer needs is just the basis to start the relationship. At some point, marketers need to define when we have earned the right to ask for enough information to follow them on the buying journey more specifically targeted to solutions the meet the customer need.

  3. Mark McClure said…

    This excerpt from #5 struck a chord with me:

    “Social requires a different form of engagement. My advice is to find the top influencers in your space. This might include customers, bloggers, media outlets. Then simply ask them how you can best reach your audience or ask them to help you.”

    I’d just add that asking what you can do to help them (online or offline) can often be the catalyst for helping each other. For optimal results, I’ve found this means approaching people tactfully with whom you already have some form of offline or online connection.

    Reciprocity remains a 2-way street ;-)

  4. Giles Farrow said…

    Great article Michael.

    Solid advice for anyone starting on inbound marketing

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Giles. It’s Inbound 101 but hopefully a good reminder for all marketers (customer-first, content, buyer journey, etc).

      Best, Michael

  5. Bob Innes said…

    With all the “conflicting” expert advice out there and there is a ton, it’s nice to know Michael can, in plain English, communicate basic guidance that if implemented pays proven dividends.

    Now, the real challenge then becomes implementing it. In general, companies just don’t spend the time testing what works and what doesn’t. This solid foundation by Michael serves as my advice to my readers.

    Thank You!

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Bob! “The trick is in the doing!” As they say. And you are right, just taking some basic principles like customer-first or test-and-learn can really go a long way!

  6. Dustin DeTorres said…

    Thanks yet again for another valuable post full of thoughts we can implement today!

    #7 is something ive been pushing for for years as I see the transition from Direct Sales people to Social Sales people. Each sales person today should have an online “brand” to where they are specialists in that specific industry. Heck, we ultimately like buying from PEOPLE.

    • Michael Brenner said…

      So true Dustin! I think this is one of the biggest opportunities for brands today! Enable social selling. Become a social business (the other departments) and become comfortable with your employees as personal brands supporting the business “story!”

  7. Very informative post. I feel the one that resonates best personally is #6 ‘Share with Care’.

    What I struggle with is erring on the side of 4-1-0, lagging in the promotion department, cautious of falling into the ‘promo crap’ category or being intrusive, but I can see how following your other steps for inbound marketing would help clarify what “valuable content” means to your target audience, so thank you for giving context to this issue. :)

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Laura-Lee. I think that is the most important one too. And if you’re sharing something valuable, even if it promotes you, your business or a friend, I think it’s okay. In other posts I’ve talked about building social equity. Once you’ve built some up, I think it’s ok to spend some a little as well.

  8. Tiffany Brown said…

    Great article! I really enjoyed reading the steps you listed here, and I think they’re spot on.

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