The Basics of Inbound Marketing


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The Basics of Inbound Marketing

Table of Contents

What is inbound marketing?

Chris Wilks: Today we'll be discussing a topic that seems to have exploded in recent years. But as we'll discuss, it isn't an entirely new concept. That topic is inbound marketing. Taylor and Laura will talk about what it is, how it differs from outbound marketing, what are its benefits, and how to get started. But let's start with a basic definition first. What is inbound marketing?

Taylor Dodds: I think of it as two tracks of marketing. There's inbound marketing and there's outbound marketing. I would say outbound marketing is really focused on seeking out customers and getting their attention, whereas inbound marketing is all about gaining visibility so potential customers come to you on their own time. It's a little shift in thinking.

We use a lot of the same tools at the end of the day between inbound and outbound, but for inbound it's really about creating useful, helpful, engaging content that people can find at their own pace.

Chris: So it's the difference between pushing out your message outbound, and pulling people in with something seemingly hopefully of value, like we want to help as opposed to we want to sell?

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. Instead of just trying to capture attention, really you're trying to build awareness, develop relationships, offer solutions, and help people trust your brand essentially. And all that culminates in better lead generation and better customer retention too.

Chris: So that leads me to a next question, which was, what are some of the benefits of inbound marketing as opposed to, or in contrast to outbound marketing?

Taylor: I'd say the first one and the biggest one, and one that's the most noticeable for people instantly is, they don't feel like they're being sold to. I think we as humans, we see enough ads these days, there's banner blindness, we fundamentally know when we are being pitched to or sold to. So that's one big benefit.

But there's also a couple somewhat unique tools and technology that are often in play or almost always in play in inbound marketing. The first one would be your CRM or your customer relationship management tool. What that does is bundle all of your marketing and user data about how people react to your marketing, it bundles it all in one place. So you can use that data for better insights or more targeted, more personalized marketing.

The second one is just that: more personalized marketing. How people engage with your brand or what language works the best or what content they're interested in, you can better personalize your marketing and it's more effective.

And then the third thing is marketing automation. So inbound marketing relies heavily on marketing automation from emails to a wide range of content really. So marketing automation also helps increase efficiency in getting marketing programs out or keeping a lot of marketing programs going. If you can automate your marketing, it frees up internal resources.

Laura: One thing I wanted to touch on: what Taylor mentioned about the audience not feeling like they're being sold to, that's building trust. That's building a relationship and that's building trust. Inbound marketing is much, much more effective in doing that.

It's also a lot more affordable. If you look at what outbound is: outdoor marketing, billboards, ads, compared to inbound marketing, where most of that is digital, it's much more affordable. I think that's a big benefit too, but it also is better with lead conversions. There are stats that show that you get 10 times the lead conversions within inbound marketing than you do with outbound marketing. So I think those are some additional significant differences between the two.

Taylor: Yeah. And again, I think it goes back to how we absorb information as people. So I think outbound is really interruptive. You're going down the highway, you see a billboard and you have two seconds to catch it in your vision and then it's gone. Or radio ads or TV ads interrupting your favorite program, trying to get your attention when your mind's not really there, whereas inbound marketing's more informative.

It's all designed to be content that's found right along your journey. So instead of interrupting your day, you're looking for a specific solution. You stumble upon a blog that has a really great solution to your problem and it's, again, not trying to sell to you, but  establishing that relationship. And also, from our marketer side, seeing how people react to your content and what content really moves the needle.

Laura: At the end of the day, what you're doing is empowering your customer. Instead of being in their face forcing messages down their throat, you're empowering them. There's a real significant difference to that. And it all comes down to that content, giving them some very valuable content.

Taylor: Totally agree. And that makes me think about another shift in perspective: there's a lot of upfront legwork in getting to know your audiences and your customers and those buyer personas really. So you know what they're struggling with at every stage of their buyer's journey or the sales funnel, whatever term you use, it's the same thing. Wherever we are in that journey, we have specific questions and answers that we need before we can proceed to the next step.

What is the inbound marketing philosophy?

Chris: I do want to talk a little bit about the inbound philosophy. So there's been a little bit written about, and it's even taken, as far as I understand it, a little bit of evolution over the years, but what is the inbound philosophy? What are the phases of that?

Taylor: Yeah, for sure. So we touched about some of the philosophy, but really it's all rooted in viewing your audiences as distinct buyer personas essentially. So at BrandExtract, we do journey mapping exercises to figure out what those buyer personas are and figure out what they need. And I look at it in three stages.

Some people are going to be in the very early, top of the funnel, attract stage. At this point they're all just looking for informative content, engaging content that answers their questions. Once they know enough about potential solutions to their problems, they start considering between different providers.

So this second stage would be the engagement stage. This is where conversations are happening and you can be a little bit more clear and a little bit more bold with your selling solutions. And then the third stage, the final stage is the delight stage.

The delight stage is for post-purchase satisfaction because that's one thing that inbound really thrives at really, is keeping people within your pipeline and then also continuing to delight them with good content and good answers and help and solutions to help retain customers. And we all know it's much more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain your existing ones.

So that's the attract, engage, delight stage is what I envision is the buyer's journey. And each one of your buyer's personas is going to be within there. So I know we'll get into some tactical examples later for that but essentially that's the philosophy. And so if you have those three phases, your next step really becomes identifying where your audience rests within those phases and then what kind of content is going to be most resonant for them to get them to the next phase.

Chris: Yeah, what's going to move them through that. And Laura, it goes back to the thing you talked about. That delight phase really, for me, is just even more opportunity to build trust with them. It's that relationship building piece, it continues to add value because it does operate as, and I'm borrowing a little bit from HubSpot here, but it does operate as a flywheel. It's not a linear journey, it's more of a cyclical journey.

Taylor: Absolutely. And that pairs really, really well with the marketing automation angle. So you can set up these automated pathways and it's like, "Okay, this is what people in the awareness stage will go through and at the end they'll be ready to move to the engagement stage with a conversion."

Once you set those pathways up, as you get new contacts or new potential leads, they can go and enter that engagement stage campaign and then work to the attraction stage campaign, then to the engagement stage campaign, and then hopefully convert customer. And then they're in a bunch of delight stage campaigns.

So as an example of a delight stage campaign: Do you know when you've shopped at a brand for a long time, say it's some clothing distributor, and then on your birthday you get those emails that's like, "Hey, congratulations, it's your birthday. For you, we're giving you a 20% off coupon."

That's a low level example of a delight stage campaign. You've already been a customer, you're in their system, they have your email, and they know what kind of stuff you're into and what kind of products you like, so they'll go ahead and say, "Hey, I noticed you're really into hats, so here's a 20% coupon for the next five hats you get." So that's all part of the philosophy of looking at what people like and giving them more of it.

How do you build an inbound strategy?

Chris: I want to talk a little bit about how you build an inbound strategy. What are the components and considerations for an inbound strategy?

Taylor: Yeah, that's really good question. So like most things in marketing this actually stays the same. You've got to start off by defining your goals. And for us, defining those buyer personas or those audience personas. Typically three is a classic number, looking at your audience in three different personas, that involves things like your awareness stage or how comfortable they are in their industry.

But yeah, really defining what is our goals and then what are those buyer personas? And so once you know that, I would say the next step would be performing a content audit and really looking at analytics for how people react and engage with that content. And if you can, even looking at how does each buyer persona engage with that content. So I view that as the first step.

Laura: You have to think of inbound marketing as just a piece of the bigger marketing picture, and marketing being the activation component of a brand. So to Taylor's point, as you would with any sort of brand exercise or marketing exercise, you have to know your audience. And that's where the buyer persona exercise comes in, in that customer journey.

But taking it up a level higher, you've got to know the brand too. You've got to understand what that brand is all about that you are promoting, albeit subconsciously, but you're promoting it. And so you really need to know that brand inside and out as well as part of that strategy before implementing any sort of inbound marketing program or any marketing program for that matter.

Taylor: I totally agree with that. If you don't know the ultimate key value you're offering, that's going to make it really, really difficult to figure out, "What can I bring that's unique to the table?" And once you know that, then you have a bunch of selling messages. So that all has an effect.

Laura: Right, because you could have all the tools in the world, the best tools in the world, but if you're not on message, the tools can still fail. The output is only as good as the data that you pull into it.

Chris: And this leads me to what I think are the two most critical components. Look, I think everything has its role here, but I think the two most critical components, or two of the most critical components are content. I think we talked already a lot about the content that goes into that because you're not necessarily selling so much or being as aggressive, you're trying to be informative, you're trying to be helpful. So content is really critical.

But then the other piece that I feel like gets overlooked is data. How are you collecting data? What are you doing with data? Inputs, and again, going back to the flywheel thing, you're continuously getting data from the things you're putting out. Email open rates, click throughs, organic traffic, because Google gives you some indications of what your customers want to see in here.

So yes, up front you absolutely need to have your personas identified and understand them really well. But really what that does is that gives you a hypothesis. And then whenever you start putting stuff out there and you're seeing how your market and your targets are reacting to that, then I think successful programs really do revisit and iterate and try to go from there. 

Laura: Chris, that's a great point and it applies to marketing across the board. You want to have some metrics in place. So one, you've got to get those metrics in place, and two, you need to continuously evaluate and audit and understand those metrics so that you can, again, with any marketing program, pivot as need be, respond to market fluctuations, understand what's working and what's not working.

So with inbound marketing there's no difference. You really need that continuous flywheel of understanding the data. Taylor can speak more to that specifically within inbound to have a really good analysis system in place. But yeah, that is a critical component, I agree.

Chris: And inbound marketing isn't a totally new mind blow concept. It's the core principles of marketing as done properly that we've had all along. We want to be there. We want to be top of mind. And whenever someone's ready to purchase, how do you do that? Well, you leave good experiences, you provide value, you're not annoying them with a billion emails. Taylor, I think you used the imagery of leaving breadcrumbs to your brand.

Laura: It's not new in the sense that it's been around for 10 years, but it's really exploded with the digital era because it's digital. If you look back 15 years ago, nobody knew what inbound marketing was. They may have been doing a form of it, but there was no terminology about inbound and outbound marketing. It was just marketing.

Then the digital era and then this phrase has been coined and then it's just exploded onto the scene. So yeah, I just want to say it's not new, you're completely right, the concept isn't new but the terminology and now how we are utilizing it to support our branding is a little new.

Taylor: Yeah, I see it as we use a lot of the same old tools, but it's using them in new ways. So Chris, you're a data guy, I'm a data guy, we both got started in SEO, and so we're big on analytics and reporting to drive future decision making. I'm still that way, but I think, and going back to what I mentioned, one of the more unique things about inbound is that CRM, bundling all your marketing data in one place, and more specifically relating it to each individual person.

Because a lot of times for marketing teams they struggle because they have all their website data over here in Google Analytics and then they have all of their email marketing data over here in MailChimp or Constant Contact or something. And then they have all of their social media information and reporting analytics within their social platforms. And what a CRM does really well is it's going to bundle all of those metrics in one place and specifically how each individual contact or person individual interacts with all that content.

When you get it all in one place, you can see from a 50,000 foot view, "Okay, so yeah, blogs are really moving the needle. They bring in a lot of people and introduce them to me. But after that it's the social media post or it's the email marketing that really moves people from the awareness stage to the engagement or the delight stage really."

That, I think, is one powerful tool about it is bundling all those analytics in one place and really seeing what makes things happen. And so going back to what you guys said, Chris, two big things that stuck out to you is buyer personas and data. A hundred percent agree, but because now that we can bundle all our analytics in a CRM, I think it becomes even more important to look at those analytics for every single buyer persona and every single stage. Because sometimes you can have a blog, lets say it gets 90% of all the traffic that all your blogs get and you're like, "This is great, we need more of this."

And it's like, "No, that is good but it's highly likely that's good for one type of audience persona." You don't want to leave out those other two. So looking at that stuff helps you realize, "Hey, what's effective for each persona? And what's effective for each persona within those three phases?" Which leads me to the next step of building an inbound strategy, which is building content for every persona in each of those three phases.

If you're going to make content at every stage, one part of that too is leaning back on that content audit. So when you're auditing content, saying, "Okay, I've got a great blog for persona one for the awareness and consideration stage, but really for when they're making decisions, I need some more bottom-of-the-funnel decision level content really showing why we outclass our competitors because they're ready for that discussion now."

And again, leaning on what makes your brand unique: what's your brand value? And that's where that comes back into play.

Chris: And I will say that a journey mapping exercise can be so incredibly valuable for that very thing because it talks about, or it uncovers what your personas are feeling at each step:

  • What are they missing?
  • Where are we or the industry as a whole falling short?
  • What do they want to see?
  • What they want to hear?
  • What they don't want to see or don't want to hear?

So then it helps you not only identify the types of content that you need, but also the channels and the distribution of that content. If we know our audience is a lot younger, then maybe some of our content needs to be on social platforms. If they're a little bit older, maybe some of that content needs to be directly on email and everything in between. There's no one-size-fits-all for every industry or even every company.

Laura: And it does go back to those buyer personas. For people that may not be totally familiar with that, what you're doing is you are dissecting that buyer. You are trying to figure out what they don't like, and where they go for their information. That's that buyer persona exercise.

But another critical component of that is identifying their pain points. So when you've identified things like that, what are challenges to them? What are things that bother them? What are problems they want to solve? You're figuring all of that in that buyer persona, then you can have the content address those things specifically.

And that helps that engagement phase that Taylor was talking about, getting them really interested because they're like, "There's my solution right there. That addresses something that I have a need for or that I'm confused about or that bugs me." And we are addressing that very specifically because we've done our homework with the buyer personas.

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. When you do that homework, it's nearly half done I would say. So a couple months ago we worked with a client and we were lucky enough for them to start with that, a journey mapping to determine our buyer personas. And as part of that, what we were also doing next was creating an inbound strategy for them that we would then later go execute in a HubSpot.

We use HubSpot often, but really that's one inbound marketing tool. This methodology applies to everything, or any of the tools. So we started with journey mapping and by the time we got to the HubSpot strategy section, I was like, "Oh this is great, we know the three top personas and we know exactly what information they want and exactly what information will push them over the line into the next phase." And now they're not just a lead, they're a sales qualified lead. And again, that's stuff we're reporting on.

And this is a little bit of an aside, but going back to the data thing, I know there's a lot of frustration sometimes for people because when you're showing them metrics from Google Analytics and people go to the website and then they're like, "Hey great, so someone visits our blog page, then they click to this content offer or gated form page."

So there's a form, you fill out a form and you get the content for it and you can report upon that and say, "Hey, this page got 100 page views and 12 people submitted on the form." And then the question I get most often after saying that is, "Great, who are those people?" And typically you're like, "Well, we don't know. All we have is their IP address, but it's numbers in Google Analytics." Whereas with CRMs, they have the ability to attribute that form submission to an individual contact.

So if you do go with a HubSpot or a Salesforce solution, you can actually see, "Okay, of those 12 submissions, this is Amy Joy and Taylor Dodds and Chris Wilks all submitted on it. It was at this time and here's how many blogs they read before to get to this conversion. And here's how many emails it took. And here's how many social posts they saw."

Chris: It goes into the flywheel. It's put back into the flywheel so that we can say, "Hey, we know this is a proven path for success. For this type of persona we know that someone does this." And it doesn't mean it's going to work every single time, it gives you have much higher chance. For me, inbound marketing is a great example to get a great case study in understanding where all the pieces of marketing strategies fit together.

Here's why you have the content. here's why you do the personas. Here's why. And you start to see that flywheel take shape and it's like, "Oh, this makes total sense to me." And Taylor, you alluded to it earlier, as a data nerd, I'm like, "Oh, this is so cool." When you see that, when you see those patterns start to emerge, it's just like, "Oh man, that's the gold." That's when you feel the eureka moment for you. It all comes together and it's very satisfying when it works out that way.

Laura:The great tie to this with branding is back to that relationship, building that trust. Inbound marketing is a much longer engagement with a potential customer, with your customer because it's not just about the end goal of making the sale, if you will, but it's also continuing the moments of delight.

So it's continuing with that relationship and building that trust and maybe getting future business that you've established a rapport by now with them. So it's not a one and done sale. This is a long-term engagement. That's another distinction within inbound marketing and a benefit of inbound marketing. You're continuing even after the sale to communicate with them and engage them and inform them and educate them and help them.

Chris: It doesn't feel like marketing. It feels like you're helping.

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure we've all had something break in our house and we've Googled how to fix it and you go through how many blogs that are people trying to sell new doorknobs or tools to fix your door or whatever.

And then an example of a good inbound strategy done right would be just giving the answers in a short, concise, but engaging way, and then leaving them with a, "Hey, if you want to learn more about blah blah blah, go on to this next step."

Will they buy your door parts after reading that one blog? Probably not. But next time they're looking for answers on a similar topic, you're going to have more trust and more authority with them and they know that you're not going to have a billion popups on your site or just immediately rush into the sale.

Chris: And I love that analogy, Taylor, because like, "Hey, this doorknob broke and I went to this site. Okay now the hinge broke and I went to the site. And now I need to place replace the whole door and I know I can't do that, I know who to call." That's the whole goal of inbound marketing. You're giving those breadcrumbs, Taylor, that you've talked about. It's like, "Okay, these guys have helped me 3, 4, 5 times., they're the door experts. So now when I need the kit and caboodle, I'm going to them."

Laura: You are establishing your brand's credibility. That's what you're doing. So to your point, Chris, they've now trusted you, they see you as a credible resource for that door.

Who should use inbound marketing?

Chris: I want to talk a little bit about who inbound marketing works for. Is it right for every brand? Are there some certain instances where it's not? Do you guys have thoughts on that?

Taylor: Yeah. So on one hand I would say this, I'd say yes it's right for every brand because really, it's just a more empathetic method of communicating with people. At the end of the day, we're still people, whether I'm on this side of the screen or on your side of the screen, we're communicating.

Laura: There is no brand this would not work for. Some better than others. B2C versus B2B. We've all had those sort of conversations, but I can't think of one instance where I would recommend to a client, "Don't do inbound marketing."

Taylor: Yeah. Who doesn't want more considerate, more specific help with what they're looking for while avoiding over overbearing sales tactics. Now, I'm not saying that we don't push for sales tactics, but there's a time and place for it.

So people always joke about elevator pitches. In elevator pitches, you're always talking about the brand and the value, you're not talking about how "our door prices are 12.99, it's discounted for today only. You should really buy it now." You're like, "Hey man, we've got 30 seconds in this elevator." So I think it works for everybody.

Laura: Inbound marketing is largely digital, if not almost all digital. So maybe there is a circumstance with, say in the energy industry, if your audience is in the field a hundred percent they don't have a cell phone, let's say because even mobile devices, you can get inbound marketing, that's still part of it too.

Maybe that persona, I wouldn't say that brand, but maybe that particular persona, inbound marketing may not be ideal because they're offline. But other than that, that would be a really rare circumstance. But I think it's something to consider. So is there a brand that it wouldn't work for? I'd say no. But is there a persona that it may not work for? I don't know.

Taylor: That's what I was about to say. But then again, it may be a persona it may not work for but the guys in the field sometimes might be making the purchasing decisions but sometimes not. Or that persona may be like, "Okay, we're going to lean on less digital aspects because for this persona we really need to increase brand awareness or trust in the brand, which can be done with less digital methods."

Totally outbound tactics are not irrelevant anymore. A billboard can still affect brand awareness. But I would agree, it's all about... And again, buyer personas, what are the challenges? What are they looking for? And you mentioned it, how are they getting that info? If the guys in the field are not reading my social posts, I don't want to dedicate more of my marketing resources to social posts. I'm going to dedicate it towards print ads that we can get on their field, on their site so it reminds them of things.

Laura: That's a great point about social and that's part of the research, the buyer personas, when we do those, it's not a rare thing where we've asked the question, "How do you get your information? Are you on LinkedIn and Facebook?" "No, I haven't been on that in years." "Okay, good note."

So there are some other channels and avenues we can definitely use, but that is part of that homework. So we know with that persona that's reaching them through social channels, probably not ideal, but there's so many other ways to do it.

Taylor: And even those companies that are like, "We get all our business from referrals and that's enough for us, we don't need to advertise." It's like, "Okay, well one day referrals will dry up and if that's truly the source you get most to your business and referrals is an authoritative source, what can we do to incentivize people to increase the amount of referrals they make per month?"

So getting back to the delight stage, maybe it's less about attracting more new people, it's about better delighting people so they will do the promotion for you. So all of this, I would say yes, it works because it aligns with how we want to be spoken to and how we absorb information. But that being said, I will say it does particularly succeed for the B2B industry and particularly long complicated sales.

So I definitely see a lot of companies, B2C companies that sell products that are $10 and under, using a lot of inbound marketing tactics, specifically marketing automation and the CRM to get all the data about you.

Going back to that birthday email, that's something that a lot of B2C companies that sell very low price products do. And that's adding value and that's inspiring more sales and it's delighting customers further. But for a company that has a high price product and it takes a long time to sell that product, this is where this really thrives.

Buying a car or putting your mom and dad in a senior living facility is not a decision you make lightly and it's probably not one you make in a single day or it's not even one you view a couple different webpages and you're like, "Nope, I'm good. I'm ready to commit to a full year of this." Or if it's a car, "I'm ready to commit to paying this car off for however many years my note is."

So those long complicated sales, people typically need more information, whether it be sales sheets, data sheets, reading reviews, talking to people that have used it, watching videos on it, what have you, there's a lot more steps until they're at that buying decision. And then that's where all that content comes in. Use a variety of content for the thing that makes the most sense at whatever stage they're in.

Brands that succeed at inbound marketing

Chris: I want to get your guys' opinion on brands that you know or you interact with or you see that do a good job with their inbound marketing? Are there any brands out there that you see in your daily life, as a consumer, Taylor and Laura, is there anyone that's like, "Hey, these guys aren't annoying. They add value to me. If I'm going to buy, I'm going to buy from them. I'm brand loyal to them because their inbound marketing has resonated with you in some way"?

Taylor: Yeah, that's a good question. One that comes to mind immediately, it's probably recency, but this is really cool, and two weeks ago everyone was sharing pics of it on Instagram.

So Spotify, their Wrapped campaign that they do at the end of the year, that is through and through really great inbound methodology and good inbound practice because what they're doing is they're just looking in their CRM, they're taking all the data they have about you like, "This was your favorite song, these were your favorite genres." And what you get is a hyper personalized customized summary about you. And who doesn't want to hear about themselves, right?

So super-personalized added value, "Hey, thanks for being a user. Here's like a little thing about you." And that costs money to make, that costs effort and planning and time. But people go crazy for it. They share it. They're sharing screen caps. There's that delight stage, people promoting for you.

But beyond that whole Wrapped campaign, they have super personalized email marketing. I know I get their emails and it'll have new recommendations and tips for different artists. And even, I think they still do this, where if you follow an artist, it'll be like, "Hey, we know you live in Houston and they're coming to this venue in Houston. So we know you like them, do you want to go?" They're not making more money by directing you to a different band, but incredibly valuable personalized content for you.

Chris: Yeah, I like that one a lot. Laura, do you have any that come to mind for you?

Laura: Well, I would say Uber Eats and just Uber the share ride. I think they're really good at that personalized content and I never feel like they are in my face at all, but it's always, especially since the first time I ordered through them, let's say a delivery, now they've captured the information of the type of food cuisines that I like, where I live, all of that is, "Here are the restaurants around you, the cuisines that you like, you can get your delivery in this amount." But I never feel like it is forced upon me in any way, shape or form.

Taylor: You know what they also do, which is funny? This is not confirmed, but I'm pretty positive this is happening. So I notice I get push notifications from my phone because I order a lot of Uber Eats, but I get push notifications around the time that I normally order dinner. So it'll be like, "Hey, feeling hungry here blah blah." They're looking at what time do they usually do it by the day? Like, "Oh on Friday's, Taylor eats earlier or Mondays he's eating later because he's catching up with work or whatever." All of that, they're really looking at that data as well.

Laura: That is so smart because it is a trend and a lot of times what I order is a trend. On the days I'm in the office, I order poke. It's this normal thing. So I've been getting more and more around those same dates and times the restaurants that have poke, the specials and promotions that have that. So that's a really good point. Yeah.

Taylor: Even if you order food from the same spot multiple times, you might get points to get discounts. That's great. And if you are also one of those top order people, that's what triggers a bunch of reviews. They're like, "Hey, you've been here a bunch of time, please leave a good review." So that's engagement for Uber. That's long engagement for the restaurant themselves. And that's just Uber Eats.

What's really wild that I read about? So Uber, the delivery service, this is a little behind the scenes, but what they ended up doing was they took all their users and they broke them down into every individual state. And then within that even sub-regions, and then that information and data gets pushed to their individual workers essentially.

And really what this nets out in is they're looking at your rides and your regular trips and now what they can even do is if you have a scheduled trip or if it's a trip you do regularly, they can give you notifications that if there's a traffic jam or a potential interruption in that trip. No one wants to be late to a meeting, so that's super valuable.

Chris: Or a flight. That's when I've noticed those come through is, "Hey, there's construction on this bridge, make sure you leave a little early." Houston's been going through a ton of construction by the airport so they make sure book this early.

Laura: It goes back to building that relationship and that trust. I trust them. Are they the ultimate, no-fault company or brand? No, I'm not saying that, but I do trust them and I don't feel like, back to Taylor's point about not feeling like somebody's pushing a sale, I never feel like it's being pushed on me. I feel like they're informing me, they're letting me know, they're sending me offers, "Hey, if you want it, take it, if not, cool." It's not done aggressively.

But I find it helpful. It's helping me. And again, going back to possible moments of delight, I also feel like I am being helped, especially if I'm hungry.

Chris: Yeah. And for me, the brand that I think that does a really good job of this, and it's a little inside baseball here, but Moz. Moz is an SEO software. And one of their brilliant, for me anyway, brilliant pieces of content marketing is the Whiteboard Friday series that they have. Especially early in my career, that was every Friday.

Still I have a leftover reminder on my calendar, every Friday I get WBF, which stands for Whiteboard Friday. I go look at it and watch it. I don't do it as much anymore. But that piece of, "Hey, we're teaching you something. There's this new change that you know about and you can go find it." They're not even pushing that to me. I just know it's there and it's such a valuable resource to me that I know I'm going to go there.

And then we use their software. And it's not specifically for that reason, but I do have a little bit of that brand loyalty to them because of that inbound content that they have created that I can go and access. And it just makes me feel like, "Okay, they're not pushing me, they're not selling me on anything. They're sharing their expertise with me." And I think it's really well done by them.

Taylor: Totally. And that really exemplifies the inbound methodology, what we started talking about. It's not interruptive and it's not broadcasty. It's not like you're getting one piece of direct mail and you'll throw it away and then it's over and done and you don't get a reminder. That is all good content that's optimized for you to be able to find it right at your own pace.

So whether you're searching for Google Analytics for Beginner's Guide or Google Analytics for advanced strategies, whether you're awareness stage or all the way, you're highly experienced with it and you're more in the more expertise stage, they have content for wherever you are in the funnel.

So I think that's a really good example. And going back to inbound content tends to be evergreen. Billboards are going to go away. Direct mails are not going to be hung up on the fridge for too long. But if you write content that's findable at any time and then as connected with automation that'll keep people engaged, then it's a little bit more work in the setup phase but then you can just leave it on, leave it running, and know that people in that stage are being talked to while you're focused on making the next great campaign.

Chris: Yeah. One other example I'm going to throw out, because it just occurred to me. It's a smaller company, it's a place called the Modern Dog and they're a doggy daycare here down the street from us. And we send our dog there once a week and they sent us a physical card, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, all that. And it had pictures. They have 50, 60 dogs, probably more that they keep track of.

Well, there it was front and center, is our guy Ranger. Our dog was there on the front of the Christmas card. It's still data. They know that's my dog. They're personalizing that experience to me. And it's hanging up on our fridge. And it's just building that brand loyalty, it's building that trust.

So I bring that example up to illustrate because we're talking about Spotify, Uber, Moz, these big companies. There are ways that you can do this. Find out the way that fits for you,. Find a way that fits for your brand. What sort of data do you have access to that you can mine, whether it's online or offline?

If it's online, there's probably a whole lot more of it. And personalize those experiences and be helpful and delight customers. That's the gold.

Where to start with inbound marketing

Chris: So let's say someone's listening to this podcast episode and they're thinking, "Hey, this sounds interesting. I don't know where to start though." What would you say, Taylor, Laura, what would you guys say? Where do you start with if you want to take a inbound marketing journey?

Taylor: Yeah, where do you start? So are you talking more about where do you start if you want to learn about it or where do you start if you want to, "Let's go, let's enact it?"

Chris: Where do you start if you are like, "Hey, I want to get the ball rolling on this?" And look, it doesn't need to be super detailed or anything. But high level, "All right, if I want to experiment with it, if I want to give this a go, where would you say to start?"

Taylor: Yeah, I'd say start with understanding who your buyer personas are. Look at your audience, break them into three or four different personas, and really understand what answers and solutions they need at every one of those three phases. I think that will help you regardless, even outside of your inbound strategy, that's going to help you with a whole bunch of other branding and marketing initiatives.

Laura: I would pull it out even further than that. Before then is, let's look at your big picture marketing plan. Does an inbound marketing component fit into that? And as we talked about, it should, it could. And so even from a budgeting standpoint, I think you also want to see what is that marketing budget and how much can you dedicate to an inbound marketing strategy and implementation?

You also want to identify your goals. So I would say even before personas, what do you want out of your marketing? What are those KPIs? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to generate leads? Are you trying to grow revenue? Are you trying to generate more brand awareness? I would start there because then how you are defining those goals, you can tailor that strategy, the inbound marketing strategy, your whole marketing strategy, to fit those goals.

But the buyer personas, yes I definitely agree, that has to be there, but I was just pulling it out just a little bit and let's look at the whole plan first and what that means and your goals as a company and as a brand, what do you want to accomplish?

Taylor: Totally. I would totally agree with that. Goals, buyer personas, one easy way to start and key ways to start. And then I would say from there, start creating great content.

The whole success of this rests on great content. I know, Chris, you would agree that content is king. And so write something that not just you would want to read or would find valuable, but again, this buyer persona would find valuable for their current understanding, for what their current challenges are, all of that. Really great content is going to carry you, especially if people are finding it for years to come.

Laura: Totally agree, Taylor. And one note, because sometimes, oh God, great content, what does that mean? It can sometimes scare people because they're thinking, "I'm not a technical writer. Do I need to hire a writer?"

It doesn't have to be this 12 page in depth, technical, whatever. Great content can just mean a great article. And it could be the top five reasons you do this or the top five reasons you don't want to do this. It could be really simple. I would just tell people, "Don't be afraid about, 'Oh God, what does great content mean?' It's not about how long the article is, it's about how authentic it is."

Authenticity is critical. And it's about, to Taylor's point, addressing some sort of need, challenge, whatever, giving helpful tips, giving that solution. So don't let the word content scare you, or I got to go find me a great writer. I think anybody could pull together some really good content.

Taylor: I totally agree with that. I used to be a writer way back in the day, but if I look at some of the most effective, successful blogs I've written, some of them are in the 2,500, 3000 word range where we're going really, really technical. And then the other one, it's 200 words and it's mostly images and it's more lighthearted. So different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Chris: Yeah. And to tie that all together, the way that you create content, what makes great content, is that understanding of your personas and what they want to know, what their pain points are? If you know that and you know who they are and what matters to them, then it's a lot easier to create that content that ends up being great.

Because if you're, "Oh, me, I'm a marketer, so I'm just going to write stuff that matters to me," then I'm going to miss the boat for who the people I'm trying to actually get to engage with this content. So really good stuff guys. The two things was personas and goals, and then content is the next step. I'm going to make it a three legged stool and say that final thing is that data. Understand where that data's going, where it's coming from, how you're going to pull it together? Be thinking about that.

And for me, on inbound marketing, that's the three legged stool, that's the flywheel. Personas turn into content. Content turns into data, well, can get data from that content. And then that data goes back into informing those personas and what they're thinking, what they're feeling, what they're missing, that sort of thing. 

Laura: It's defining their journey is what it's doing. What that buyer's journey looks like. Where are they going? What is their next step?

Chris: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, look guys, thank you very much. This was really a great conversation, really informative. Taylor, great job on your first podcast. Laura, thank you as always for joining us. And we'll catch up with you guys next time.

Laura: Thanks Chris.

Chris: Bye guys.

Taylor: Bye.