Nov 6, 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
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
marketing has been around for a while now, and the 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, you're 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
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
- 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
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
are 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
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.
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 Ruffalo'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 - somtimes 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
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
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
- 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
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
- 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
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.
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
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
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
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.