Podcast: Inbound Marketing with Todd Hockenberry
On this episode of the podcast, I had the chance to sit down with Todd Hockenberry of Top Line Results. Todd is an inbound marketing expert and co-author of the new book Inbound Organization.
Feel free to watch the podcast in video form or read through the transcript. Enjoy!
Follow Todd on social media. https://twitter.com/toddhockenberry
Justin: Hey guys, this is Justin Collier with Alchemy Marketing. Today on the podcast I have Todd Hockenberry with Top Line Results. Todd is coming out with a new book called Inbound Organization with his co-author Dan Tyre of HubSpot. Today we talk a little bit about what inbound marketing is and how you can apply it to your own business or to your own marketing strategies. As always, I’m going to have links to the actual book in the description, more information on how to reach Todd if you’d like to. Enjoy the podcast. Thanks.
Justin: Alright, so I guess here we are. I guess we’ll just get started. Thanks for watching. My name’s Justin Collier. I’m here with Todd Hockenberry. Am I saying that right, Hockenberry?
Todd: That’s it.
Justin: Absolute, perfect. We’re going to talk a little bit about marketing, specifically about marketing today. We’re going to talk a little bit about your book as well too.
Justin: Before we get started, how about you tell us a little bit about your background? I know a little bit about your background, but for the audience as well.
Todd: Well, I come from up north where it’s cold. Not sunny and blue like it is here in Orlando. Long story short, I kind of grew up professionally, my degree’s in Chemistry so I started out working in a lab at an automotive supplier in Cleveland, Ohio and I kind of grew up working in factories and car plants all over the world. Pretty quickly I realized I didn’t want to be a chemist or a scientist, and I spent a lot of time doing sales support and I said, “I kind of like that whole sales thing,” so I moved into the sales side and I’ve been in the sales marketing side of business ever since and kind of fast forward, about 10 years ago my family and I decided we wanted to move south and had the opportunity to come to Orlando and run a company.
Todd: Unfortunately, it was right in the middle of the Great Recession, so it was probably the exact worst time professionally to move to Florida, but what was great is that opportunity completely fell apart, which was actually a great thing because what it allowed me to do is start Top Line Results. What we did was, my wife and I run the company and we focus on industrial and manufacturing and B2B companies that are struggling with how to grow their business. When we started, that’s what everybody was struggling with. Nobody could grow. They couldn’t get sales, nobody was buying anything, so they were really struggling.
Todd: What we kind of hit on was that we had been doing inbound marketing and digital marketing before we even really knew what it was at the previous companies I worked with, so we started to apply these ideas to these other companies and it was amazing. It was 2009 when we really started with inbound marketing, and the companies just shot up. They started to get leads and they started to grow and they couldn’t believe they were getting all these leads from their website. We were kind of early on in that process. We got connected with HubSpot and we were a partner of theirs, one of the earliest partners they had. I think we were about the 30th partner they had and now they’re like 4,000 or something.
Justin: What do you mean by partner here?
Todd: HubSpot has a partner network of marketing agencies and digital agencies that essentially not really resell their product, but recommend it and go through certain training and they can get certified and then they become an official partner of HubSpot and they get a commission on any leads or sales they bring them.
Justin: Do you go through a series of training through HubSpot? I know where they do a level of training to user platform. Is this analogous to being, say, AdWord certified?
Todd: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what it is.
Todd: That’s expanded significantly since we started. It’s a really good program if you want to kind of get steeped in the methodology and get into the tactics. What was interesting for us is we took those tactics and methodology and we applied them to businesses that had not really been doing that, so there was a little bit of a green field, kind of open space for us and we were really able to grow our business and stay in the world we knew, which was kind of the industrial manufacturing world.
Justin: How did you know that? Is that because of your chemistry background, or how did you fall into that specific niche?
Todd: Well the companies I worked for were all manufacturing companies, so I kind of worked in that space and I was in sales and marketing, so I really got to know the customer and the buyer and understand how they thought and how they bought, so when we started to apply inbound and digital marketing to those companies, we knew the customer. We knew the persona, we knew who they were.
Todd: We were able to help our clients really connect the dots and do really well in terms of driving leads and growing their business. We’ve kind of been building off of that initial background. We’ve continued that to today and we still have a lot of our original clients, so we’ve got clients we’ve had for over eight years of data doing digital marketing.
Todd: It’s great because we can kind of understand and see what worked and what didn’t work, and it gives us a level of history I think that’s kind of unique.
Todd: Yeah, that’s who we are. We help companies kind of grow and we’re moving into more broad-based consulting around how businesses need to be organized and change to adapt to digital and inbound ideas, and that’s kind of where we’re at now.
Justin: Cool, cool. I know I’m going to be asking questions about what type of industries make more sense for inbound versus not, or whether inbound makes sense for all types of industries. For more context, can you give me examples of the industrial manufacturing clients you’ve worked with?
Justin: Just for context.
Todd: Well to answer your broader question, I think the principles of inbound or digital marketing are applicable to virtually every business. I’ve really not seen any that don’t have, there’s some applicability. The reason is it’s not so much about the business, it’s that the way people buy and the way people consume information, the way people learn about things has changed so radically in the last 10 years.
Todd: Think about you and how you buy things now using things like Amazon, you search on ratings and reviews and rankings, and think about how your kids are going to do that, right? How much more farther down that road are they going to be? It’s not going backwards, and it’s virtually every business that’s going to be affected.
Todd: Even if your business isn’t one that maybe gets found by SEO, for example, like somebody just searches doing a Google search. Maybe you’re not going to find your lawyer from a Google search.
Todd: That’s probably not a great way to do it.
Todd: You’re probably going to go with a referral, but I promise you what you’re going to do as soon as you get that referral, what are you going to do? You go on their website. You’re going to check out their social media. You’re going to look at their LinkedIn profile. These things are all kind of connected, and that’s why I think it has an application to everyone.
Todd: From our perspective, we’ve worked with clients on the low end, the smallest client we ever worked with was a solopreneur, one guy, and he had a consulting business and he was really good at inbound marketing. It was a really niche tax accounting specialty, and he was able to generate business all over the country out of his little home office in Indiana because he created content, very niche, very focused content that people would find when they were searching to solve this one particular tax problem so he became the guy, and he just, he was early on and he created content that people found. We’ve consulted with companies then all the way up to multi-billion dollar international publicly-traded companies and kind of everything in between.
Todd: The reality most companies are somewhere in that small to medium range. They’re five to 50 employees, $1-$2 million to $50 million. That’s kind of the range. I would say that for a vast majority of those companies, the cost per lead, the cost of marketing is far lower if you put your resources in digital and inbound versus, say, hiring a sales person.
Todd: What I mean by that is a lot of times when, we’ve heard this so many times over the years, if somebody says they want to grow, they just assume well I’ve got to go hire a sales person to do it.
Justin: Yeah, yeah.
Todd: You probably don’t. You don’t have to. It’s changing because you can now I believe generate a lot more interest and activity with a good digital inbound marketing strategy first before you hire the person to handle those inquiries.
Justin: The actual leads that are coming in. Yeah, absolutely.
Todd: We see those companies in that middle being, the ones that we see being successful more often than not are putting more and more of their money from marketing and sales into digital online marketing. It could be paid ads, it could be sponsored stuff on LinkedIn, it could be sponsored on Facebook, it could be building email campaigns. Certainly good content on a blog or on a website, still very valuable.
Todd: But we’re even seeing companies that are in that mid range really become thought leaders and create online properties that are destination properties to learn about their kind of niche, narrow subject.
Todd: I believe that the more companies can do that, they can have a narrow focus and then go claim their space in the digital world, they’re going to have a strategic advantage over anybody that doesn’t. I don’t see any of this going backwards. I see it as continuing to accelerate.
Justin: Yeah. It’s really leading with value.
Justin: I just realized, you know what we should probably do, too? Let’s go ahead and talk about what inbound marketing is. We kind of just got ahead of that. Now that we maybe sold the audience on inbound marketing, how would you even define inbound marketing? What does that mean?
Todd: That’s a great question. Inbound marketing essentially started 10 years ago and it was defined by the folks at HubSpot. They wrote a book and it was a couple of other consultants and PR people, David Meerman Scott was another one who was very instrumental in kind of defining this and the idea is that because people use the internet to understand and research more and more, that instead of being outbound or interruptive by cold-calling or advertising or billboards or whatever is kind of traditional marketing, that people didn’t want to consume that marketing anymore, but they did want to find helpful information when they wanted to find it.
Todd: The idea behind inbound was to create attractive marketing, marketing that people actually wanted to consume, people sought out and looked for. The idea is to create this kind of magnet that attracts people to you through your marketing. Obviously a lot of that was content. Blog posts, articles, e-books, videos, I mean you name whatever types of content, but the idea is to create the kind of content that’s helpful first, and then as you educate somebody along the buyer journey, then you can get the chance to have a hearing about your products or they’re going to ask you about your services.
Todd: As opposed to the other way around, where people were trying to push their products or push their services. This is more of a pull, right, where the buyer and the searcher was pulling people to them. It really flipped the whole equation on its head.
Todd: That trend is continuing to accelerate, and I would say that inbound is now something that’s even broader than just marketing. It’s been expanded to include sales. There’s certain sales techniques and certain sales ideas that are different if you think about them from an inbound perspective, and even on the service end after the sale.
Todd: Our contention is that the ideas behind inbound have to animate everything everybody does in every company. We think it’s that big because if your buyers have changed and they have certain expectations of you about how they want to talk to you and communicate with you, if everyone in your organization isn’t aligned with that, then you will lose that customer at some point in that journey. You may do a great job in marketing and maybe you do a great job in sales, but if your service people aren’t aligned with that and still think old school, interruptive, then you’re going to lose them. Everybody needs to in the company, in every part of the process, needs to be impacted by inbound.
Justin: I have a question on that actually. When I think about inbound marketing, I think originally I thought in terms of SEO, organic listing, someone being aware of their pain and maybe actively searching for a solution. How often do you think about inbound marketing as terms of maybe having valuable content but using paid mediums to get there?
Todd: Sure. That starts to straddle the line a little bit, but the reality is that paid mediums, you can do paid ad and paid advertising, you could even do print advertising with an inbound approach.
Todd: I’ll just give you an example. If we would run an ad, and I still see people do the ads like this and I’m sure you do too. They want to do a Google ad, they want to get to leads right now, so they set up a campaign and they run an ad and what is the ad? It’s about the product, it’s about buy this, and then when they click the ad, where do they go? They go to the homepage or something like that.
Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Todd: That’s barely above a billboard or a television commercial in terms of interruption.
Todd: But what if you created an ad that said, ” We know this problem,” use a problem statement saying, “Okay, do you need to solve this problem?” Then when they go to the landing page when they click through, they don’t go to the homepage but they go to a page specifically talking about how they can get information to solve that problem. Then it may be there was a conversion form there where you can download our webinar or download our whitepaper or e-book or our checklist or our guide or use our calculator to help you figure out how big a problem it is. That’s a whole different dynamic, right? That’s a helpful, value-first inbound approach to paid ads.
Todd: We’ve even seen it with print. I have a client we did this with in very industrial equipment, and we created some print ads and we said, instead of “Here’s a machine. Check out how pretty it is,” we had a little picture of it, but we focused on, “We know you struggle with these calculations.”
Todd: We created a calculator essentially.
Todd: It was a really complex spreadsheet essentially.
Justin: Yeah, yeah.
Todd: That was the ad. The ad was like, “Go to the website, check out this free calculator. You can download it for free.” It was a helpful ad, so that’s more of an inbound way to do a traditional outbound interruptive kind of thing.
Justin: Perfect, perfect. I’ve got this idea that there might be small or medium size business owners who worry that inbound marketing is giving away the farm. They’re just, you know, “I don’t know what I can give away for free that doesn’t cut into my own pocket.” Do you run into that at all? Do you have clients that are reluctant to educate so much that they feel that they have nothing to sell afterwards?
Todd: Well the reality is most products and services are so close in quality and features. Because we have competition from all over the world, it’s never been easier to start a business. There’s tons of competition in virtually every space. If you think your buyers aren’t going to be able to find 20 different competitors by just Google searching, then I think you’re missing the boat. They can find your competitors one way or the other. There’s a principle called the reciprocation principle, and there’s a book called, it was Robert Cialdini was his name.
Justin: Oh, Pre-Suasion.
Todd: Pre-Suasion, yes.
Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Todd: The principle is the reciprocation principle and the idea is that as human beings, we’re kind of hard-wired to want to reciprocate when somebody helps us. If somebody does something nice for us, we want to reciprocate. If somebody gives us a gift, we want to give them a gift back. Inbound really taps into that kind of innate human desire to build relationships and connections through people that are helpful. That’s what we’re doing here today, right? You have a blog and a website and you want to talk to people and you want to educate and help, and so do I so we’re kind of scratching each other’s back.
Todd: There’s a good feeling there and there’s a good connection between people. When you give away something of helpful value, then you build that trust. You’re starting moving down the road of trust. I heard somebody say something really interesting to me the other day about trust, that it used to be you bought from people you liked.
Todd: Now you buy from people you trust.
Todd: I think that’s really true because there’s so much information and credibility’s difficult to define sometimes and knowing who to trust, but the people that share something that’s helpful without necessarily asking for much in return, just your attention for that period of time and the opportunity to continue to talk to you, I think you build beginnings and the foundations of good relationships with your buyers, as opposed to one that’s adversarial where you might be trying to put one by them or keep the information secret, and that just doesn’t work anymore. The internet and digital marketing has created a world where we have to have radical transparency.
Todd: We can’t hide under a rock anymore. I even tell our clients to talk about their pricing online. That one makes them lose their mind almost across the board.
Justin: Yeah, I imagine. I imagine.
Todd: I said, “Look, I’m not talking about publishing your price list,” but I’ll give you a good example. I have a client in Los Angeles that makes lasers. Their lasers start at around $50, 000. We just said that on the website, “Lasers start at $50,000.” What we did was we eliminated and helped the people that didn’t have that budget or somebody that was working out of their garage and maybe wanted a laser.
Todd: We’re actually helpful to them because we didn’t waste their time.
Todd: We also qualified the company and the visitors who were coming to that site. They knew what to expect, so it set the expectation and it was more efficient and effective for everybody because at the end of the day, people are going to find out what your price is anyway. It’s going to be out there somewhere.
Justin: True, true.
Todd: You might as well be transparent about it. It’s a natural fear, but again I’m not talking about trade secrets or I’m not talking about the things that make you, that are proprietary or that are easily stolen. Again, if you’re talking about how to do something or how to fix a problem or how to solve something, I mean there’s other people that know how to do those things too so you better be the one being helpful.
Justin: Absolutely. Absolutely. I really do like what you’re saying about trust. We’ve got this issue called the agency problem where we’re constantly taking information from outside sources and wondering if their incentives are congruent with our incentives. Inbound seems like a great way to give the information away without the face-to-face pressure of, hey, now that I got your attention, how can I get you to simply purchase what I have to sell whether it’s the best thing for you or not?
Justin: I’m really behind in my inbound marketing, and do you think, again back to SEO, what besides SEO do you think falls into inbound marketing?
Todd: Well I definitely content across the buyer journey is a big part of inbound marketing. Content often times initially in inbound was tied to SEO to try to get ranking online.
Todd: As the search engines get more natural in terms of being able to deliver the right context, you just need to create good, helpful content and you’ll get found. I do think social media and any kind of connections that your customers want or buyers want are part of that. That could be text. It could be a chat bot. It could be chat on your website. These are really important things to think about because inbound’s about really opening up those relationships and getting those conversations started and being engaging, so anything that does that is around the idea of inbound, and I think it’s even part of sales.
Todd: Like you said, nobody wants to deal with the push salesperson that’s just trying to push the product on you. You want to deal with somebody who’s a trusted advisor, more consultative, that’s more interested in helping em understand the problem and how to change it than they are trying to push the product on me.
Todd: Those kind of mindsets I think are a big part of inbound as well. We believe one big underserved area of inbound that will be changing as we move forward is servicing after the sale. These same principles and ideas need to be applied to the interactions your customer service team have after the sale is made.
Justin: I imagine this is largely, or partly for maybe repeat purchases but also for them being advocates for your brand as well?
Todd: Oh yeah, absolutely right. You want them to be loyal, you want them to share, refer, recommend, give you good reviews, good rankings, all that good stuff. Yes, absolutely. This is all tied together. Again, the reciprocation principle, if they’re happy with what you’ve done and what you’re doing, they will be very happy to do that for you.
Justin: Yeah, absolutely.
Todd: Again, from an inbound perspective it’s about mindset first and tools and tactics second.
Todd: The tools and tactics are going to change, but the mindset of being helpful first and being there as an advocate for them and guiding them through the change process they need to go through to kind of solve their problem is really, again, it’s the crux of inbound because everybody I talk to about inbound, the one thing is this word help is what always comes back.
Todd: If I had to use one word to say what inbound is, it would be that idea of help. Helping, and that’s your mindset all the way through all your interactions and everything you do.
Todd: Including your marketing. That to me is inbound.
Justin: What would be an example, you mentioned a few tactics, what would be a tactic or strategy that you’ve used with a client you already have that is an example of nurturing a relationship with a customer after they’ve already purchased? Do you have a good one?
Todd: I do. I just went through a long process yesterday with a client on this one, as a matter of fact. This client sells equipment. This equipment lasts for 10, 15 years in the field. It’s mission-critical for their customers, so what we did is we designed, we mapped out the process of what the key things that were happening along those, say, 10 year processes, and we created content, things like guides, checklists, things to look at even with some videos where they can say, “Here’s the equipment, look here,” and you can follow a video. “Do these checks.” The idea was that if they’re using this equipment once a year, they should be checking these things to make sure it runs at optimal conditions.
Justin: Is this equivalent to, like say you get your oil changed and then Pep Boys or whatever sends a reminder, “Hey, it’s been X amount of miles.”
Justin: “This is the time when you should look into it again”?
Todd: I think that’s helpful from a … Yes, it’s exactly that same thing, but taken to a much deeper level. But that’s the same impulse, right? I think if Pep Boys is doing that they’re being helpful to me.
Todd: They’re giving me a natural reminder, and I know they want me to come in and they want me to use their services, but that’s okay, they’re helping me. They’re helping me remember.
Todd: That’s helpful, that’s valuable. Yeah, I think that kind of an impulse is an inbound way to handle an existing customer. The other piece of that is that we’re seeing there’s a separation between service and what we’re calling success, or customer success.
Todd: Service tends to be a reaction where you need help and the customer calls and you answer the phone or you send an email or you send somebody on a plane to go fix it.
Todd: It reacts to something that went wrong.
Todd: Whereas success is something that’s proactive, that’s defining the process and making sure that customer is successful and making sure they’re reaching their goals and they’re getting the value from the product that was promised to them in the marketing and sales stages.
Justin: I see.
Todd: I think it’s splitting, and we see this with software companies really understand this that have software as service that have a renewal, a monthly kind of fee. They don’t want churn, they don’t want to lose customers, so they pay attention to that customer and watching the health of that relationship. I think that thinking really has to apply to everybody. The statistic is something like five to 25 times more investment to get a new customer than it is to keep an old one.
Todd: The best investment that most companies can make is apply inbound principles to their customers and that process. Keep them, keep them happy, build loyalty, build those relationships and get referrals and references and rankings and all the good stuff you’re looking for.
Justin: Yeah, yeah. Beautiful, beautiful. Earlier you mentioned coming up with the valuable content that attracts these potential customers in the first place. How does one even go about coming up with that content to begin with? Brainstorming sessions, research, what tools do you use? How do you even go about conceptualizing this?
Todd: I love that question. I tell my clients all the time, they ask me this question and I say, “You create content all day long, you just don’t know it.” They look at me like I’m from another planet, like, “What are you talking about?” I say, “Do you answer your customers’ questions when they call and ask them? Do you respond to their emails with their questions?” The answer’s always, “Yes.” “Do your salespeople answer questions and help manage the change process every time they interact with a prospect?” ” Yes, of course.” “Does your service team answer questions, fix problems and document what they did?” All of that is content. Bottom line is good content comes from not you, but it comes from your buyer. Your buyer will tell you what good content is, and by that I mean if they ask you a question and you answer it, you now have good content.
Todd: I’m going to give a shout out to my buddy, Marcus Sheridan, who wrote a book called They Ask You Answer. It’s a great book about content and creating it, but that’s the key to great content. It’s from their perspective. If you try to force it on them and try to get them to think the way you want to think, now it’s just marketing. But if you understand them and you’ve done your research on the persona and who you deal with and who your ideal buyer is, then you can create content from their perspective and there’s nothing more helpful than answering somebody’s questions.
Todd: To me it’s a mindset change first. Recognize that you’re creating this content, and then just get it out, get it down on paper, document it, shoot videos, whatever you got to do. Answer those questions and you’ll be well on your way to having a really good content plan.
Justin: Yeah. I think a really good example of this that I’ve seen you work on in the past is with Bell Performance.
Justin: I’ve been just so impressed by the breadth of content that you guys have come out with, and it’s very clear that what you guys are doing is taking very real questions that these customers are having and answering them before they even have to ask them.
Justin: You must have, would you say hundreds of page of contents, or maybe just dozens of page of contents?
Justin: Thousands. Then so these ideas, are they, again just back to how someone would start going about this inbound marketing phase, is it a matter of someone answering a phone call, saying, “Hey, you know what? This guy had a specific question that I answered. Let me go ahead and write that down so we can write something later.” Is that something you advise your customers to do?
Todd: Exactly. That’s exactly what you do. Ask your people that talk to customers all day long, whoever they are, to write down the questions that they hear most often. You can do the top 10. Pick your top 10 questions, start there. Document those, create content around them. Again, shoot a video, write a little article, write a whitepaper. It’s not hard. If you’re already answering the question anyway you know how to do it. That’s your expertise. Start there and then build on that.
Todd: I’m glad you brought up Bell there, great example. It’s a relatively small company. They have a small team in terms of two or three people that are really creating content for us. They’ve grown amazingly in terms of their traffic and attention online because their questions get answered, they answer these questions and then they get picked up by Google, featured snippets. We’ve got dozens and dozens of them.
Todd: So that when you search this question, you don’t even have to click a link to get the answer and it’s from Bell. It’s been an impressive kind of result for them in terms of this mindset. That’s the first thing that changed for Bell. Their mindset became we are going to educate first. We’re going to help people first, and then they created the helpful content. It really has to go in that order.
Justin: Yeah, totally. Totally. For context, just for anybody listening, Bell Performance, they do a number of things but specifically fuel additives …
Todd: Fuel additives.
Justin: For … How would you describe them really fast?
Todd: Really for any engine. Their tagline is, “We fix fuel.” There’s lots of issues with fuel and their products mitigate any of the potential issues with fuel, whether it’s in a vehicle or stored in a tank. There’s lots of problems and lots of issues, and they’re very technical. Some of them are very detailed, technical answers and that’s okay, because that’s what people are looking for.
Justin: Yeah. I really like how some of the articles are phrased … Let me give an example, and then maybe I can explain what I mean by this. One of my favorite articles is, why is black smoke coming out of my truck? It’s how someone would ask the question. They don’t understand enough about what’s happening to ask in a more technical way. Does that make sense?
Todd: No, that’s exactly right. That’s right.
Justin: Framing the content that you produce and put on your website in a way that it matches how the user would search for it I think is I guess another mindset that you need to have when we focus on inbound marketing.
Todd: Right, that’s a great example and that post gets thousands of searches, or thousands of visits every month. It’s actually Diesel Black Smoke Explained, I think is the actual title.
Todd: The point is that if you wrote it from your perspective, if Bell wrote it from their perspective, it would be something like this. How To Use a Diesel Fuel Additive To Eliminate Smoke. Nobody searches that.
Todd: They don’t know they need a diesel fuel additive. They don’t necessarily even know it’s the fuel. They think it might be part of the engine problem, or maybe the exhaust. Who knows. But what they do state, what they do search is why does my truck emit black smoke? Or something like that. It’s always from their perspective.
Todd: Again, that goes back to that core thing about inbound. Everything’s about starting outside and working in as opposed to working inside out.
Justin: The way I sort of conceptually model this how to approach communication with clients or customers is this, you can think overlapping circle where the small circle represents people who know exactly what their pain is, exactly what the solution is and they’re looking for it. I use this example of buy tennis shoes. The Venn diagram, the circle right outside that might be someone just Googling tennis shoes, and someone outside that might be saying, “My feet hurt.” That would be the equivalent of someone recognizing that black smoke is coming out of their diesel engine. What do I do about it?
Justin: I really like conceptualizing where your target audience is in that cycle. Do you find that you have a lot of the people that are very qualified already, are you targeting them with your inbound marketing? Or are you really just sticking to the people whose feet hurt and don’t really know …
Todd: Yeah, you’re getting into like the next level of inbound and SEO, but you’re right, you want to have content that matches the buyer where they are. For example, in the black smoke example people don’t know what the solution to the problem is. But what if you’ve been around engines for years and you understand where black smoke comes from, so your question might be something like this, “What’s the best fuel additive?” Or “How do I get a fuel additive?” Or “How do I find this particular fuel additive?” Or “What’s the price of this fuel additive?” Or “I want to see third party independent validation of fuel additives.” That’s a little more technical question, right?
Todd: You need to do those things as well as you grow and as you do more in this. That’s where a more mature content marketing and inbound marketing team would go, is to delve into those. We’ve looked at it this way. We’ve often said there’s, the three levels are, really now there’s four, five levels, but it’s really you start with a product. You’re going to have a product, right? That’s going to be what you’re going to try to sell. Then the next layer’s going to be an application. It would be something like fuel additives for trucks. The next level outside of that would be kind of these questions and solutions things. “How do I get the best diesel additive for my truck?” Then beyond that it might be more of a persona or personal kind of thing. It might be, “How do I get my best diesel fuel additive for a garbage truck?” It becomes much more detailed.
Todd: The key is to figure out where you want to get your traffic from and who has the most pain and who has the most interest. The answer sometimes is to go more of the product technical thing and you’re really going for more narrow, specific target persona. I’m looking for fleet managers that run fleets with over 100 trucks. They’re not going to ask the same question the consumer would ask.
Todd: You just have to know your persona and who you want to go after and then you can tailor your content and how you do your SEO to that.
Justin: Perfect. Let’s say you’ve been successful at creating an inbound strategy. You’re now generating a decent amount of traffic to your website, you’re educating people, people are really loving what you’re putting out there. What do you recommend people keep in mind or tips or tactics to getting those people from just being educated to actually purchasing your product? The call to action, so to speak.
Todd: Sure. The most important part of that is understanding the persona and their journey through the stages. A typical stage would be awareness. They don’t know they have a problem, they’re just learning. Then would be something like consideration, where they’ve now defined their problem and they’re starting to look at the difference alternative possible solutions. Then they’re going to make a decision. Now they narrow it down to maybe three or four companies or three or four products.
Todd: The key is to know what the key triggers are in each of those stages as the buyer’s moving closer and closer to a sale or a purchase, that you’re creating helpful content, resources that help them make those decisions. Whereas up front you might have a diesel black smoke explained general blog post to educate somebody that’s moving to the next level to consider whether they want a fuel additive, you might have a research report that shows that fuels have X amount of problems and these are potential solutions.
Todd: Then once they go past that, they might be comparing Bell’s products to the three other most popular ones. It might be an ROI calculator on the cost benefit. It may be something like how to evaluate a supplier or an option. You may help somebody actually through the sales process. You’re tailoring your content to the persona, the person as they move through the process. That’s the best way to do it and that’s what buyers want.
Justin: Yeah, for sure.
Todd: You can’t be helpful right at the beginning and then quit being helpful and just go right to the sale and try to get them to give you their money.
Justin: For sure. Sure. I’ve certainly had experience with clients who want to generate some of their content. They think they’re doing this thing called inbound marketing, but they’re really just writing sales pages.
Justin: Any recommendations to those people? How do you get someone off that mindset where they just feel like they have to be selling in every paragraph?
Todd: My answer to that is pretty straightforward. Nobody really cares about you.
Todd: Nobody really cares about your product.
Todd: If you think buyers do, then you’re going to try to pitch them and sell them. They really don’t care.
Justin: You really need to make the customer or the client the hero of the journey.
Todd: Oh, very good. I like that language. That’s exactly right. The story’s about them.
Todd: Your job is to kind of help them, guide them, consult with them, advise them through the process.
Todd: They are the front and center. That’s what’s great about inbound, that’s what we’ve been talking about. They’re at the center of this process. They’re in control because they can go find an alternative to you in a heartbeat.
Todd: It has to stay from their perspective, so if I’m reading content and I’m reading materials and it’s about the product or it’s about the company, again it’s not interesting.
Justin: Totally. Let me use the example of the black smoke again to transition to maybe another example or a story you could give. In the example of that particular educational resource, it talks about, if I remember it correctly, a few different things you can do. Like let’s say there’s three different things you can do to remedy this pain point. Within that content it says, of the three, “Check out this product we have.” It’s a link that’s just simply embedded within the content. There’s nothing super pushy about it. Every single paragraph isn’t forcing someone into that product. It’s just, “Here is one of the viable solutions that we recommend you look into.” It’s tasteful in a way that feels like you’re simply not being pushed or sold. What does that look like in another one of your clients?
Todd: Yeah, Bell has an eCommerce store so people can buy it on their store, so it’s a relatively low cost purchase. In a B2B sense, they have a B2B business as well, it’s obviously higher dollars but if it’s more of a considered purchase that requires some time and decision and maybe multiple people to make a decision that maybe it’s tens of thousands of dollars, then the key is to be connected and available, that your people are there when they need you, the way they need you, and the way they want to communicate with you, as well as you’re creating content that they can take back with them to help tell your story when you’re not there to the rest of the team that’s going to be part of that decision.
Todd: Again, the idea is to stay helpful and be helpful, and if you’re a sales person having, say, this kind of conversation, you’re missing it. Say you send somebody a … They send you a request for quote. You do the quote, you send it to them, and two weeks go by and you don’t hear from them. What we hear people do, I can’t believe people who still do this, but they do it. They call them and say, “Hey, I sent you the quote. What’s going on? When are you going to make a decision?” That’s not helpful.
Todd: You need to stay helpful through the process. It could be maybe you would create some content that would help people after they have a proposal sort through the options. They may be looking at three different options. How surprised would your customer be if a week after you sent your proposal you sent them another document that said, “Our history with successful customers is that in the proposal review process they consider these 10 factors, and the companies that consider these 10 factors, that answer these 10 questions are the ones that are the most successful on the other end.” That would be shocking and surprising to I think most of you.
Todd: That’s what you’re looking for. You want to keep being helpful through that process and sharing interesting, helpful things and not just being selfish and waiting for them to call you and tell you, “Here’s my money.”
Justin: Totally, totally. I really, really do love this mindset. I do love how it’s putting value first. I love that it’s as selfless as marketing can be, and I like where it’s going. I think we all remember five, six, seven years ago when marketing in search engines was a lot of manipulation. It was how could I game the system? How could I game the algorithm? I think everybody is happier, marketers included, that we can take this more organic, more human to human, more personal approach to it and I’m really happy to see that you’re leading the way to educating people on this new strategy.
Justin: The book you have coming out is called Inbound Organization, and you’re writing it with Dan Tyre?
Justin: Can you tell me about Dan Tyre?
Todd: Yeah, Dan’s a senior VP at HubSpot and he’s been there, I think he was their sixth employee so he was part of their early on team.
Justin: Oh wow. Yeah, how long have they been around, HubSpot?
Todd: I think 11, 12 years.
Justin: Yeah, seems about right.
Todd: Like 2005, ’06. Around there.
Todd: He’s been kind of at the beginning, he was the beginning of this kind of revolution, and Dan and I have known each other for years. He was involved with the partner program and that’s how I got to know Dan. We’ve just worked on projects over the years, and about a year and a half ago we were speaking at an event in California and we met before and we had breakfast and we were just talking about our businesses, what we’re doing, and he asked me where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and I said, “I really want to do more consulting and deal with more high level issues and companies because what I see is,” all the things we’re talking about on this recording, is that these changes in marketing really need to be implemented throughout the entire business and everybody in the company needs to understand this and everybody needs to understand their role in adapting to this change in buyer behavior.
Todd: He got all excited. He said, “I do a presentation called The Inbound Organization, and we’re talking about the same thing.” We both got kind of excited about it and I said, “Well I want to write a book.” He decided that he wanted to do it too, so we co-authored this book and we went on this kind of journey. We interviewed probably 50 to 75, maybe more like 75 people.
Justin: Oh, wow.
Todd: Thought leaders, and the book’s full of stories and full of, there are multiple chapters that are only about kind of case studies and companies. It’s not an academic text in the sense that we’re trying to just give you a series of things to do, it’s practical. These are what real people are doing and here’s the beliefs and how they impact your business.
Justin: We certainly learn through stories, right?
Justin: From what I understand from the book, is it four main principles that one takes away from the book? Or … I don’t know how to ask this even. Are there some macro concepts from the book that you would like to share? How about that.
Todd: Yes. I’ve touched on some of them. The idea that you need to be helpful first is a core one. The idea of creating customer value first, solve for the customer before you try to extract value. The idea that you have to have a narrow focus on a persona and not try to be everything to everybody. Then the idea that all the relationships you have as a business, whether they’re your customers and prospects or even your employees or your partners, all are on some type of a journey and your job is to understand how your business impacts that journey. Then respond and help appropriately across that journey. The idea of thinking about your employee journey, and you’re thinking about how your partners are going through their journey and then basically interacting with them based on that understanding. Those are really the core points of the book.
Todd: The core outcome is we want people to understand how important this is and how they have to change their mindset so that everyone in the organization is aligned around these ideas. It impacts your strategy, it impacts things like your culture, your mission. It certainly impacts what you do every day because your customers and buyers demand it, so that’s the imperative and that’s really what the book is about.
Justin: Beautiful, beautiful. Let me see here. Here’s maybe a more abstract one, and feel free to take this one however you’d like. How do you measure success in something like this?
Todd: Well I think ultimately you measure success in how successful your customers are.
Todd: It’s not just having customers, because we’ve all been around where you’ve bought something and then you weren’t happy that it didn’t work or you didn’t get the value you wanted and you moved on, right? That’s not really success.
Todd: You measure it by having loyal customers that are growing over time, and that’s measured by how well they refer you or recommend you. That is the ultimate measure. Along the way, you’re going to measure the things that we kind of typically think about. Are we generating traffic? Are people paying attention to us? Are we being attractive? Are people converting, which means they’re reaching out to us? Are people moving through the journey? All those things are measurable. You can measure percentages from one stage to another. You can measure the total, but it all needs to be measured because all these things are either being effective or they’re not and you certainly need to measure everything to make them more effective, to get better at it.
Todd: Again, I think ultimately a good inbound organization is going to measure themselves based on the success of their customers and everyone in the organization’s going to know their role in contributing to that success. Not necessarily its profit or not necessarily the sales, to the customer’s success.
Todd: The end result will be margin and sales and there’s certainly business practices you have to follow to be successful. I’m certainly not advocating that you be unwise and go out and spend so much money on your customers and give away everything that you go out of business. I’m not advocating that for sure. You still have to follow best practice business ideas, but the idea is if your focus of success is them, there’s a better chance that you’ll be successful.
Justin: I like that. I like that. Can you walk me through some of just the tools you use on just a day to day basis? Google Analytics, HubSpot.
Justin: I’m curious like, what does Todd use?
Todd: Yeah, on the tools adoption curve I’m probably in the middle of the pack. I tend to wait on tools to see how they flesh out and see if people that I trust use them.
Todd: I’m not an early adopter on most technology, but we certainly use HubSpot a lot. Some of our clients use WordPress and things like Marketo. We use certainly Google Analytics Webmaster tools, Google Search Consult, those kind of basic tools. We’ve used tools like SEMrush. On things like project management, Teamwork is our favorite. That’s our go-to tool we use there. There are Google Docs and Google Shared Docs. There’s a big one, Dropbox. Starting to use more some messaging apps. Certainly all the social media accounts, which actually for us and our clients tend to run through HubSpot. We will use things like Hootsuite for Twitter or for some things there.
Todd: Again, from our perspective we try to keep our tools to a minimum.
Justin: No, no, I understand that and appreciate that. I’m sort of in the same boat. I’m not rushing to be the first to test out any new startup who’s trying to organize information differently. Hootsuite would be an example of a platform that helps you manage multiple channels. HubSpot to me also feels that way. I don’t actually personally use HubSpot a lot, so maybe this is an opportunity for you to even advocate for what they can do. What does HubSpot help you manage?
Todd: Well for us, for our website and our online marketing, it’s the core. We host our website with it. We run our email campaigns through that. All of our social media is published and promoted through HubSpot. Workflow, which is really lead followups, automated emails. Our blog is on HubSpot. Any kind of chat would be on HubSpot. Signups for landing pages, using forms, all on HubSpot. A lot of the analytics comes out of HubSpot. They’ve improved that significantly recently. We can also integrate it with things like Google Ads or LinkedIn Ads.
Todd: It’s a pretty all-in-one tool, and for most small to medium size business that are a certain size, it’s a good tool because HubSpot keeps you from having to be expert at all these other pieces.
Todd: You can just focus on what you do best, and their tools are very good at guiding you and getting you to use best practices for things like SEO and setting up web pages and blogs and things like that. HubSpot now has CRM. They had that the last few years, so we were using it. A lot of our clients were adopting that, because now you integrate all of the marketing data you have with your sales data. It gives you a unified kind of centralized view of the customer, which is a big deal. Having all that data in one place about your customers and contacts is important. That’s a big, huge benefit of HubSpot and they continue to add lots of functionality to it. We lean heavily on HubSpot for our clients and for our own business.
Justin: Yeah. For those listening who may already feel like they have a good setup, maybe they’re already on, say, WordPress or Joomla or some other platform. How easy is it to just integrate HubSpot, or do they have to reinvent the wheel?
Todd: Well it’s work, but it’s not reinventing the wheel, for sure. It’s a considered question. It’s not an easy one to just do.
Justin: I see.
Todd: But it is, there’s advantages in centralizing all of those tools in one place because there’s a lot of integration and again, you get a very deepful picture of what your prospects and customers are doing with that integration. That’s the value, is you get this platform that you can manage your customer and contact relationships with. That to me is the ultimate benefit of something like HubSpot, is to have it all in one place so that you can focus on what you do best, which is either create great content or take care of customers.
Justin: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Let me see if I have any other questions for you. I’m sure I could just go all day on this. Let me go ahead and even get some information for the listeners, for anybody who would like to learn more about you or get in contact with you. Do you want to give away your social media information? Are you on Twitter? Are you on …
Todd: Sure. Sure. The easiest way to get ahold of me right now is go to the website InboundOrganization. That’s the word Inbound, I-N-B-O-U-N-D Organization, no spaces, .com. All my contact information is there. All the information about the book is there. The book comes out April 24th. It’ll be coming out through Wiley. It’ll be at Barnes & Nobles everywhere and you can buy it wherever books are sold. We love pre-orders, and check it out.
Justin: Yeah, what I’ll do is I’ll have links to your social media, links to pre-order the book in the show description so anybody can reach out to it.
Justin: Any final words for our listeners? Any recommendations? Anything you want to just let anyone else know?
Todd: Well I think the one thing I would say is that if you focus on the idea of helping, it may sound simplistic, it may sound simple, it may sound too easy, but it’s actually really hard. It’s really hard to get out of your own head and put yourself in the other person’s shoes, regardless of the relationship. But the reality is that’s what your buyers are going to demand. It’s not even just your buyers. I mean, your employees are going to demand that. People that are looking for jobs today are looking differently and looking for different things than they did yesterday.
Todd: The idea of this help I think is critical, and then the idea that this is a mindset shift. You really have to kind of think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for. If you can do that, then I think you’re going to have a lot more chance of success, and that’s my goal. My goal of writing the book and doing what we do has always been to help people and help them get better and grow their businesses and have better businesses. That’s our purpose and that’s our goal and I would just ask your listeners to kind of take a step back and think about how they think and consider some of these ideas and see if maybe there’s some opportunities to improve.
Justin: I love it. Todd, thank you so much for coming in.
Todd: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Justin: I appreciate it so much.
Justin: Alright guys, that’s the end of the episode. Thank you so much for watching. If you have any feedback at all, please feel encouraged to leave it down in the comments section below. I do read it, and I do want to know the ways in which we can improve the show for you. If you liked it and you know somebody else who would find value in watching this show, please do share it with them. Hit the Like button, hit the Subscribe button. Support us in any way you feel. Otherwise, we’ll see you next episode. Thanks for watching.