Ed. note: Today, ATAK’s very own Content Marketing Coordinator, Meredith Burns, is sharing a few thoughts on her goal to learn more about the importance of inbound marketing. Enjoy!
Up until a few months ago, I had about as much marketing experience as your local neighborhood kid selling lemonade at the end of the street. I knew that a good-looking sign, the need for refreshment, and an affordable price of 50¢ a cup were what I needed to make the sale. Seemed easy enough to get the hang of, right? My previous education and career background had prepared me for the classical music and digital media markets, so I had dabbled in self-promotion before. I was looking for a career change that would let me express myself but also give me the opportunity to help others in the process. My nature is to seek out a challenge, so I pursued a career in a totally different area. After months of taking volunteer jobs and applying, I landed a spot at ATAK Interactive. And so, my journey began!
I had quite a bit of ground to make up on the marketing front. I was quickly introduced to HubSpot as a guide. My new managers and colleagues encouraged me to take a look into the courses on HubSpot Academy. One of my goals for my first quarter of employment was to complete and pass the Inbound certification. I had never heard of Inbound but it sounded good and I knew that it was something that our company had implemented in their strategy. I was preparing myself for a whole new way of thinking. This felt like a great way to dive head-first into the marketing pool.
My first impression of Inbound: not blown away. Turns out the main concept behind Inbound was something I felt like I had been doing since my lemonade stand days. According to HubSpot, Inbound is the “philosophy based around helping people.” It was neither groundbreaking nor a new concept to me. Sure, seems like a great way to generate leads and get people to like you. People love being helped! The Inbound that HubSpot gives us comes off as an “if you blog it, tweet it, Instagram it, they will come” approach.
With that being said, Inbound does have its strengths. There are quite a few tools that have been helpful in my professional growth. Here are some of the things that worked for me from a fresh standpoint:
The main aspect of this method that I liked is that it was a systemized process. Some of it is overcomplicated, but for the most part, it gave me the guidelines I needed.
- Attract, Engage, Delight: It has a nice ring to it. It’s a logical way to market. With this process, both the business and the customer benefit in the end. I can think of MANY companies that could really benefit from a reminder of the “delight” stage. Inbound does a good job of making it understood that the process must be continuous and that appreciating the customer for their opinions and perspective will encourage them to come back for more. In my few months here, I have seen how invaluable this is. With so many personalities and perspectives, a majority of clients/customers will respond best to an empathetic employee.
- Building a SCOPE
- SCOPE stands for Standardize for consistency, Contextualize for relevance, Optimize for clarity, Personalize for impact, Empathize for perspective. These steps fit within attract, engage, delight and are another broken down process that I think is easy to lose sight of. As a content creator and project manager, this process is especially relevant to my daily work. If I am not making timely and relevant content, then I am not really creating anything of much value. My job is to guide clients who have little to no experience in managing their digital image. The SCOPE model is helpful for both myself and my clients to monitor their social media presence
What Didn’t Work
- Combining Funnels and Flywheels
- HubSpot started to lose me on this one. It was way too complicated, and the metaphor just didn’t click for me. I understood the purpose of the flywheel (as representing company growth), but when they tried to fit “funnels” (a representation of the different steps in the Buyer’s Journey) INSIDE of a flywheel, it seemed messy. I had to re-watch the video so that I could pass the test, and I still didn’t quite grasp it.
- Inbound is PASSIVE
- This is a biggie. The Attract stage of the Inbound methodology is supposed to be the moment when the prospective client becomes hooked. The components of this stage include: posting ads, videos, blogs, and creating unique content for social media based on a content strategy. Yes, all of these are great ways to get your information out there, but as someone who comes from a non-marketing background, I was expecting to learn a more aggressive way to make a first impression. This version of Inbound seems to rely solely on digital avenues that don’t require much conversation. This is a more hands-off approach.
- On the flip side, being too aggressive can definitely drive people away. I can’t count the number of times that the fitness club, Equinox, has contacted me within the first week of me expressing even the slightest amount of interest in membership. It honestly drove me away and made me feel like they needed me more than I needed them. Desperate much? So in that sense, airing on the passive side does sound safe. However, just putting out a blog or posting a cool graphic and hoping that it will make an impression is not going to be the only way to get a lead. Setting up a phone call, face-to-face meeting, and showing up a to support your client at events have gone a long way for me so far in my marketing career.
Why Did I Need to Learn This?
I sat down with ATAK Interactive’s CMO, Austin LaRoche (aka, my boss’s boss’s boss), to get the 411 on how this actually is going to help me out in the long run. Here were a few key points he made:
Inbound gets misconstrued and essentially has just become the nomenclature for how we define our online lead generation. It’s about getting good leads to come to us and that’s something that’s really important for companies to be able to do to be able to grow their business.
Okay… got it. Makes sense.
“With a lot of clients that we work with and have success with, I don’t want to call it unintentional Inbound, but it’s been a mixture of a lot of different things. Instead of just ‘if you blog it, they will come,’ we have also done a lot of hard work to connect with local media outlets and face-to-face interaction. That type of exposure helps us get more Inbound leads. When you break down the fundamentals of it, like you did, you can kind of see some of the flaws. It helps you to be able to put it into perspective. As long as you recognize that the methodology is not the end-all-be-all, you’ll see that it’s being able to take the things that work from it and then making them work for our clients.”
Well when you put it like that, I can see why understanding Inbound will be helpful. One step closer to being a real marketer. YEAH! All joking aside, Austin essentially needed me to understand Inbound because it is an important method in the digital world that we live in today. While a very passive approach on its own, we can tailor our strategy to be more proactive and in turn “delight” the customer based on their individual needs. Implementing Inbound into my work has been both intuitive and unintuitive. Overall, the Inbound methodology is a helpful guideline in developing strong business and personal connections.