I spent a day last week in Boston attending a conference called the “Inbound Marketing Summit” organized by my friend and former analyst Allen Bonde. Inbound marketing IMHO is taking off in some important dimensions.
Inbound marketing is a cool idea that’s been pushed by multiple companies recently. For instance, HubSpot held its user meeting early in the summer, and it was all inbound marketing all the time. The company showed off new tools for developing content and managing its distribution as well as capturing feedback from customers.
Content Is King
Inbound marketing relies heavily on content, but if you think you can get by somehow with putting your usual product slicks, brochures and white papers online, you might want to think different, as somebody once said. Inbound marketing relies on a lot of content, and one of the things that impressed me about IMS was the vendor booths representing content creators — literally body shops with staffers who can pump out 300 words on almost anything. I wonder a lot about that.
Granted, you can’t have too much content, because you quickly come to see that your content program is a ravenous beast devouring it as fast as it’s made. Where do you get it? One idea — other than the body shop — that impressed me was HubSpot’s approach to content creation. In their world, everyone in the company is a potential content creator. The old saw that everyone has a story to tell really happens to be true.
If you can organize everyone on your team to generate a piece of content once in a while, you will have what it takes to drive a content marketing program, because there really is no one better equipped to do the job than the people who live with your products. That means people in service, support, marketing and sales. Everybody has something to contribute.
What to write about? Well, how about the top hundred or so questions that customers ask either online or on the phone? Putting that information in a handy place will reduce your workload and save a couple of bucks. Links to each document will fly around the Web on social wings, so it’s all good.
Put It in Motion
That’s not the end of the story. Just as we’re getting to the point where we can produce voluminous information that’s easy to access in print, we’re discovering that people have less inclination to read it. So one of the big eye-openers for me was how important video is becoming in the context of content marketing and service. I’ve been banging on that drum for a few years, but it was still something of a surprise to see so much focus on video.
To face facts though, video has never been easier to make. The vibe these days is that the video that’s well produced is nice, but it lacks the verisimilitude (don’t I sound like a film major?) of something you do in-house just to get the information out.
Whatever you use, video — even more than a print document — has a life of its own. Once it’s out there the links can be forwarded and shared in a real, viral way. It’s available 24/7 and it can produce an ROI.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about a video that Salesforce did on using video in online marketing. Take a look at it, because it’s got some good ideas and some stats — it’s still valuable in a way that a white paper probably wouldn’t be.
So what did I learn? First, content marketing is the new black. Involving your prospects and customers in your thought leadership beats throwing a product brochure at them. Second, everyone in your organization has something to contribute. Third, you can buy content, but you won’t be as successful if you outsource everything, so find a balance. Fourth, video is in your future, whether it’s homemade or something you bring in outside talent to help with.
Speaking of talent, there’s a community called “MediaMobz” that I’ve had good luck with. They have a powerful site that helps you, the producer, conduct an auction for a project. Talented people bid on the project, or parts of it, and you get to make whatever you want to make. I found the pricing reasonable and the expertise high.
Whatever you do, you’ll need a variety of media depending on your objectives and budget. Content marketing looks like it will be a lot of fun and it’s showing up at a good time. Good luck with it.