Inbound Marketing, Inbound Sales, Inbound Life

My guess is about a third of my readers know this subject way better than I do; and the rest have barely heard of it. Hopefully the third will forgive me my errors, in hopes of giving the two-thirds something of interest. 

My sense of inbound marketing is cadged together from several sources, and I don’t remember to whom I should give credit. Hopefully they’ll write in to claim it. Anyway, here we go.

Inbound marketing, nominally, is a reaction to many media-based forms of selling. Our phone has become an instrument for outgoing calls only. Email is beginning to resemble spam. We have spam filters for email, caller-ID and do-not-call lists for the phone, time-shifting and premium channels for video. All to keep marketers at bay.

The alternative is networks we choose: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and communal sites like The Customer Collective. We invite people in to those networks, and so we answer the “phone” or the “beep” or whatever. Those people, and those channels, are the ones we accept marketing from.

So how does one market to that channel? 

By serving Others. On Twitter, it’s doing 10 tweets about others to one about yourself. On blogs, it’s writing 10 comments on others’ blogs to writing one post on yourself. On LinkedIn it’s participating in 10 conversations to starting one yourself. And so on.

This is both radical and old as the hills. It’s radical for most mass marketers who are still trying to break through the email barrier, and for most corporate bloggers who think the world wants their official brand-spins. Basically, it’s radical for any marketers still trying to sell instead of offer engagement.

It’s as old as the hills for anyone who understands reciprocity. You give to get. You get what you want by getting others what they want. The love you make, you take, and so on. 

In the online marketing sphere, companies like HubSpot do a great job of offering high quality free diagnostics. Having gotten something of value, their customers become trusting, and curious. Trusting that HubSpot knows what they’re doing, and curious to find out more. The most natural thing in the world is to respond favorably to an open-ended question about whether they can offer more help. Of course, thanks for asking.

In the life sphere, we do the same. We like people who do not need, and who give of themselves. We do not like people who are needy, particularly those who deny it, and who seek to get without giving. Given the chance, we hang out with the former, and not with the latter. 

Thereby proving either the unfairness of life, or the paradoxical key to life, depending on how you look at it. 

If you get inbound marketing, I’ll bet you believe in the connectedness of people, and the basic decency of mankind. 

If you think inbound marketing is for fools who will only get themselves conned, I’ll bet you believe in the innate nastiness of people, and the need to protect yourselves from them.

Guess who’s happier.

It may not be quite all that simple—but mostly it is.

Collateral Benefit on the “A” Train

‘You must take the A train,’ is the opening lyric to Billy Strayhorn’s signature Duke Ellington song.

Last night I did just that, enjoying the company of the very wise Peter Firestein.

We were returning from a delightful book party to celebrate the publication of LJ Rittenhouse’s  new book Buffet’s Bites.  I was telling Peter that he really needed to read Chris Brogan, who was the subject of last week’s Trust Quotes interview. (And yes, this is a lot of self-referential links, but it’s all true).

“What’s Brogan’s message in a nutshell?” asked Peter.

I pondered that. “I guess it’s that great marketing and customer relations in the new media age is same as it ever was: the best of it comes from unsolicited testimonials from customers.  And the best way to get that is to focus on the customers and on serving their needs. If you do that, they’ll then market you.”

“And,” I said, warming to the subject, “the paradox is that your own success cannot be a goal—it is a byproduct, a secondary result, an outcome–but not a goal.”

“Sure,” said Peter, “I get it. Like collateral damage—but collateral benefit.”

“Yes!” I said, “Collateral benefit.  It’s what you and I and LJ and (Warren) Buffet believe too. Buffet’s best stock picks are great companies. And great companies are built on relationships—with stockholders, customers, employees. If you serve them, everything works—including your own results. But only as collateral benefit.”

I thought “collateral benefit” was a pretty cool phrase. I still do, hours later. I warned Peter I might blog about it.

So here’s to you, Peter; thanks for the world’s next mega-catch-phrase: collateral benefit.

The rest is up to the rest of you.

The Book You Sold Me Is Not the Book I Bought

iStock_000007343809Small.jpgDharmesh Shah  and Brian Halligan  have written a book called Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs.

At the risk of over-simplification, it says stop trying to push out your message; instead, make it easy for others to find you. To find you: in order to buy from you, tweet you, link to you, find out about you, advertise for you, recommend you.

In their clever phrasing of it: stop doing outbound marketing, start doing inbound marketing.

So the story of how I bought their book is perfectly appropriate.

Last Friday morning, I shared a stage with Chris Brogan, Julien Smith and David Maister. Later that day, I got Chris’s daily blogpost, called Inbound Marketing Is For You.

Turns out it’s an unabashed advertisement for the book, leading off with all the reasons Chris is conflicted and hence the buyer is warned (unless, as he puts it, you want to learn some great stuff).

Well, what’s a body to do? I had just spoken with the guy, I believe he’s high integrity, and here he is pitching someone else’s book, with nothing in it for himself. I have to buy it.

So I click on the link, which goes to Amazon. I pick the Kindle edition (thanks Brian and Dharmesh) and select download to my iPod Kindle reader (which is so good I didn’t bother to buy the new Kindle, by the way).

Three minutes after reading Brogan’s blogpost, I’m reading Chapter 1 of Inbound Marketing, and I realize that I’m now living proof of precisely what they are writing about.

Did publisher Wiley advertise it? I don’t know; if they did, they wasted their money, at least on me (though Brogan did publicize them). But Wiley got a sale, the authors got their royalty payment, and Amazon got its ounce of flesh.

For me the customer, I got a book I was confident I wanted, I felt good about the purchase because I trusted the recommender, and I got it fast and easy. Really easy.

Second best of all, the book has already had an impact on me—I’m seriously thinking about how to use it in my business. The authors should be proud.

Best of all, Brogan, Shah and Halligan all get free shout-outs from me; and not only did they not pay me to do it, I paid them!

So, who got screwed here? Who got left holding the bag? No one that I can see.