Published on November 6th, 2017
What are the best inbound marketers doing to get great results from their campaigns?
That is the question that I set out to answer each week here on The Inbound Success Podcast, and now that I have published the first ten episodes, I wanted to take some time to distill the lessons learned from those interviews.
Ten episodes might not sound like much, but the people that I spoke to are some of the most impressive and accomplished marketers I know, so there's a lot to digest. I've boiled it all down into 14 lessons that you can begin to apply right now to improve the results you're getting from your marketing. Some of these are just good reminders to follow the inbound methodology, and others showcase why its so important to think outside of the box when it comes to inbound marketing.
Listen to the episode here, or read the transcript (below), to learn how these top marketers are getting great results.
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I've spoken with some amazing marketers over the course of the last ten weeks, and I've learned a lot from each of them. Don't have time to listen to all ten episodes? Here's the TL;DR...
Lesson #1: Don't just follow the "plain vanilla" inbound playbook
Inbound marketing has been around for a while now, and then there are plenty of books, articles and training programs that can teach you the basics. It's a good methodology that has stood the test of time, but unfortunately, it is no longer enough if you want to get really outstanding results. This is lesson #1 because every one of the next thirteen lessons illustrates this point.
Yes, you should be doing inbound marketing, and doing it well. If you're not creating content on a regular basis, your chances of getting found online aren't great. Given the number of buyers who refer to online sources as part of the buying decision-making process, that's a problem. So read on to learn how other marketers are building on the classic inbound methodology and hacking the process...
Lesson #2: It really is all about the audience
Sounds obvious, right? I mean, everything I've ever read about inbound marketing says to start by developing buyer personas. Most good marketers are doing this, but not all are really using what they learn from their research to develop their marketing campaigns. We catalog audience pain points and challenges and then we turn right around and create content that is all about us, not them. Why our product/service is great, how it is going to solve their problems. Yes, we're referencing that audience, but at the end of the day, we're doing it in a way that is designed to sell them something.
Two of the people that I interviewed had great takeaways about this topic:
- John McTigue, formerly of Kuno Creative, talked about the research he did when he was putting together his SaaS Marketing for CEOs campaign. In our interview, he described how he learned that CEOs wanted to hear how other SaaS CEOs were tackling their marketing challenges and NOT how an agency thought they should do it. So instead of creating a bunch of content featuring Kuno's recommended solutions, he produced an ebook that featured SaaS CEOs talking about their approach to marketing. Listen to my interview with John to learn more.
- Stephanie Casstevens of Label Insight shared the story of a campaign she carried out for a company that sells medical waste disposal solutions. Instead of creating content about medical waste disposal, she focused in on the pain points that the company's audience - administrative professionals in medical practices - were experiencing and used that to create content around solving the challenge of patient no-shows. It had nothing to do with medical waste and everything to do with the audience, and it turned out to be the key to opening up a conversation with the audience they were trying to reach. Listen to my interview with Stephanie to get the details.
Lesson #3: Involve the audience in your content
Whereas John and Stephanie talked about focusing on your audience's real needs when you create content, two other experts shared why involving the audience in the creation of your content can be so powerful.
- Databox CEO Pete Caputa has developed a process for crowdsourcing his blog content and the result has been incredible growth in the company's organic traffic and leads. The idea is simple. Create a topic, then cast a wide net and ask your audience questions that relate to the topic. Take the answers and compile them into a blog. It's quick, easy, and incredibly effective because, more often than not, the people he mentions in his blogs promote and share the posts, which drives more traffic back to the Databox site. Listen to my interview with Pete to get the details.
- George B Thomas of The Sales Lion wanted to reach HubSpot users, so when he and Marcus Sheridan started their podcast, The HubCast, they decided to featured "Tweets of the Week" by HubSpot users. Every week, people tune in to the podcast and read the show notes to see if they are mentioned, and those who typically share the content with their own followers. It's been a great way to build The HubCast's audience and today they have some of the most loyal listeners of any marketing podcast. Listen to my interview with George to learn more.
Lesson #4: Get really niche
I think it was on The HubCast that I first heard George and Marcus say "the riches are in the niches." It's a good lesson and one that I've seen work time and time again. The more narrow you go, and the more specific the audience you target, the more successful you will be.
- Greg Linnemanstons of The Weidert Group shared a campaign he did for a client that is a wholesaler of pizza dough. The company targets food service distributors as well as pizza restaurants and Weidert recognized that there was an opportunity to become the most trusted online source of information for pizza restaurant operators - an audience no one else was really catering to. They took a deep dive and created some fantastic content for this niche and have seen great results. Listen to my interview with Greg to learn more.
- According to George B Thomas, the main reason that The HubCast has been such a big success is that it is focused on a specific niche - HubSpot users. The content of the podcast is all about helping HubSpot users get more out of the tool and the podcast has developed a very large and loyal following as a result. Listen to the interview with George to learn how The HubCast was designed to serve the needs of HubSpot users.
Lesson #5: Don't be afraid to use pay-per-click to get results
When I first started using inbound marketing, the term "pay-per-click" was treated like a dirty word. Many marketers felt that PPC was the bad guy and inbound was the good guy - you either did one or the other. Thankfully, those days are over and now marketers have realized that all of these different tactics can live in harmony with each other.
- John McTigue used PPC (and retargeting specifically) to amplify the audience for his SaaS Marketing for CEOs campaign. Listen to the interview to hear which platforms and tools he used, and the results he got.
- Rick Kranz of OverGo Studio is one of the top experts I know when it comes to Facebook advertising, and he shared the details of his "progressive Facebook remarketing" campaigns in our interview. Check out our interview to hear exactly how he uses Facebook ads to generate impressive ROI for his clients.
- PPC isn't just for big marketing campaigns with large budgets. ThinkHandy CEO Chris Handy used both Facebook and Instagram advertising to reach young moms as part of a campaign to promote a new Spanish immersion preschool. Listen to the interview with Chris to learn more.
Lesson #6: Test and analyze
I know lots of marketers who do a great job designing campaigns and creating amazing content, but when it comes time to launch the campaign, they take a "set it and forget it" attitude. These days, we have so much data at our disposal that we can use to determine whether our campaigns are working. Why not put it to good use?
- Rick Kranz did just that with his progressive Facebook remarketing campaigns. Because they were designed to be evergreen (meaning they could stay up and run for a long time), he watched the data carefully to determine whether the campaign was working and which specific components were performing well. What he learned was that the last step in his campaign wasn't effective and this led to him dropping it from the ad. There were a number of other changes that he made which, taken together, led to him getting impressive ROI for his clients. Learn exactly what Rick did by listening to the episode.
- IMPACT CEO Bob Ruffolo's interview was all about conversion rate optimization. A few years ago, IMPACT started following the ConversionXL playbook and using it to carry out a series of experiments on the company's blog. The result was an optimized blog layout that produced 3X the number of leads and subscribers and dramatically increased traffic. This was so successful that now IMPACT sells a "Blog Optimization Package" for $799. Listen to my interview with Bob to hear how IMPACT used testing and analysis to get these results.
Lesson #7: Sometimes, less is more
We marketers really like to bedazzle things. We create beautiful landing pages with amazing graphics and spend hours designing stunning layouts for our emails - sometimes just because we can. As my husband always says to our kids "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
- John McTigue illustrated this point beautifully in our interview. For his SaaS Marketing for CEOs campaign, he created an email lead nurturing workflow that featured a series of emails completely devoid of any design. Why? Well, highly designed emails are obviously targeted at a large audience, whereas plain text emails are what you typically receive when you're getting an individual email from a specific person. As a result, you're more likely to pay attention to plain old non-designed emails than you are to those beautifully designed versions. Listen to John's interview to hear why.
Lesson #8: Use a format that plays to your strengths
When you think of content marketing, do you think of written content? If so, you're not alone. Most marketers assume they'll need to write blogs and produce other written materials in order to be successful with inbound, but not all marketers are great writers.
The good news is that great content comes in many forms - written, audio (podcasts!), video, and visual (think infographics), etc. The best marketers use the format that plays to their strengths.
- George B Thomas doesn't feel he is a strong writer, so he chooses to podcast and is also a prolific creator of video. Listen to my interview with George.
- Chris Handy shared the story of Mi Casita, the Spanish immersion preschool that he worked with, and highlighted how one of the teachers there is creating Facebook Live videos that feature her reading children's books in Spanish. These have been a huge hit with the school's target audience. Listen to the interview with Chris.
Lesson #9: With channel marketing, its all about making life easy for your partners
Selling via a channel can be a great way to scale a business and grow revenues quickly, but often-times, channel partners are working with multiple vendors. As a result, it can be hard to get their attention and even harder to control or influence the number of sales and/or leads that they generate for your business.
The solution? Make life easy for your resellers by providing them with content and materials that make marketing your products a no-brainer.
- In my interview with Ed Marsh, he explained why its so important to create content and marketing assets that channel partners can use to promote your products/services to their customers. In his case, it was about creating email copy and white-label ready content that resellers of industrial equipment could use to market to their audience of buyers. Listen to my interview with Ed to learn more.
- Greg Linnemanstons did the same thing in his campaign for the pizza dough manufacturer by providing food service distributors with content they could use to market to pizza restaurant operators. Listen to my interview with Greg.
Lesson #10: Don't be afraid to combine inbound with outbound marketing
Just like pay-per-click used to be treated as a dirty word, outbound marketing has had a bad reputation amongst inbound marketers. And just like attitudes towards PPC are changing, so are attitudes about outbound marketing. When used together, they can produce great results.
- Patrick Shea shared how when he left HubSpot for Cyberreason, he knew that a purely inbound approach wouldn't get him the results he was looking for as fast as he needed to get them. His solution was to combine inbound marketing with a form of direct mail called "dimensional mailing" - all under the umbrella of account-based marketing. Listen to my interview with Patrick to learn what he did and the role that nerf guns played in his creative campaign.
- Chris Handy's campaign for Mi Casita blended inbound marketing with PPC and in-person events. The school's orientation session brought prospective families in to learn in person what the school was like and proved to be a very effective strategy for selling enrollments. Learn more in my interview with Chris.
Lesson #11: Producing bad/mediocre content is worse than producing no content at all
It used to be that you could blog once a week and you would see pretty good results in the form of increased visitor traffic to your website and new leads for your business. Now, inbound marketing has become de rigeur and there is a LOT of content available online - so much so that buyers are becoming fatigued and it is getting harder to stand out.
Creating content takes time, and if you're not going to do it really well, why bother? Bad content isn't just a time suck - it can actually erode your relationship with your target audience by destroying the trust you are trying to create.
- Greg Linnemanstons talked about this in our interview. He said "trust is fragile" and made the point that bad content can quickly ruin your relationship with your buyers. Listen to the interview to learn more.
- John McTigue said basically the same thing. Hear what he had to say.
Lesson #12: Focus on helping rather than selling
As marketers, we're often measured by how many leads we generate, or how much new revenue our efforts bring to the business. The problem with this is that it causes us to focus too much on selling. We create content that is disguised as something that focuses on the audience but is really about pushing our product or solution, and we forget that most buyers aren't ready to purchase.
When we shift from making it all about us, to really trying to just help our audience, that is when the magic happens.
- Greg Linnemanston's campaign for the pizza dough manufacturer is a great example of this. They created a ton of content about how to run a more profitable pizza restaurant. While some of it was focused on dough (the product they were trying to tell) a lot of it was not, but all of it WAS focused on the pain points that the pizzeria operator was dealing with. Learn more by listening to our interview.
- In her campaign targeting physician's practices, Stephanie Casstevens proved this point by developing the whole campaign around patient no-shows - something that has nothing at all to do with medical waste disposal, which is the service she was charged with marketing. It was precisely by eliminating anything relating to the service from the campaign, and instead simply trying to help her audience solve a common pain point, that she was successful. Listen to the interview to learn more.
Lesson #13: Have a clear definition of success
All of the interviews I conducted were with people who carried out "successful inbound marketing campaigns." The question is, how do you define success? The best marketers answer that question by setting clear goals and objectives that are easily measurable - and they involve the sales team in this process.
- In my interview with Stephanie Casstevens, she explained how she developed definitions for what constituted a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL) for her medical waste disposal campaign. She started by meeting with the company's sales team to better understand what they were looking for in the leads she delivered to them, but then took it a step further and analyzed the company's marketing data to determine which attributes (either demographic or behavioral) would indicate that a lead was highly qualified. It was a fascinating discussion and you can learn more by listening to our interview.
Lesson #14: Pop-ups work
Yup, you heard me right.
Just about everyone I talk to says that they hate pop-ups, but the data doesn't lie. Pop-ups get great results, as long as they are not overly intrusive.
- Chris Handy shared how he used HubSpot Marketing Free to add pop-ups to the Mi Casita website and in doing so, increase lead conversions by 4X. Listen to the interview.
- Bob Ruffolo described IMPACT's blog optimization process and the role that pop-ups played in helping the agency to dramatically increase subscribers and leads. Listen to my interview with Bob to learn more.
That's 14 lessons learned... from only 10 episodes!
I got a lot out of these interviews and I hope you did too. I can't believe its been only ten episodes and reviewing all of these lessons learned has gotten me even more excited for my next ten interviews. I hope you'll join me on the journey.
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