Timothy Dearlove is a Senior Channel Consultant at HubSpot. Recently, Tim shared his inbound content marketing perspectives with Small Business Trends, focusing on how inbound success can make good marketing campaigns awesome and why content marketing is not a shortcut. (Warning: Tim’s ready to ruffle a few feathers about infographics!)
Small Business Trends: What are the content drives that inspire HubSpot the most in its mission to make the best use of content for everything from email marketing to blogging?
Timothy Dearlove: I think you have to start with a pretty basic principle when it comes to creating a successful content plan.
You need to care. When you write with passion your audience can tell. Competition for eyeballs and attention span is high online. As a writer you are competing against lots of other free content. One factor that separates good content from great content is how much the writer cares about the subject material.
I get push back all the time. Certain industries always say, “Well how can we write passionate content on selling nails or manufacturing washers?”
One of our biggest Inbound success stories is Marcus Sherdian, who saved his pool business by blogging. He genuinely cared about pools and helping people with pools. Content marketing was his venue for channeling this. As Marcus demonstrated, if you can channel your passion and helpfulness through your content, you will be successful.
So just care. Care about what you do and who you are helping with your content. If you start with that, the views will come.
Helpfulness is another key drive. We talk about this all the time. We bring it up at meetings. We discuss it on our internal social boards. Be remarkably helpful. Surprise everyone you interact with by how helpful you can be. We approach all of the content we produce through that lens. How will this content help the person reading it?
Small Business Trends: How does content make an impact on SEO (search engine optimization) and social media?
Timothy Dearlove: Content and SEO are like warm pie and ice cream. Could you eat them separately? Of course! But aren’t they so much better when served together?
When it comes to on-page optimization (making sure your site is well optimized with keywords that your target audience searches for), if you have a static site, there is only so much you can optimize. Every new page you publish is a chance to optimize that page for important keywords. Every new blog post represents a new chance to rank for a keyword phrase.
We also know that Google will crawl your site more frequently if you are producing fresh content.
Small Business Trends: What about off-page SEO?
Timothy Dearlove: A wesbite page’s ability to rank depends, in part, on the quantity and quality of the sites linking to that page. Producing a fantastic blog post is something other people will want to reference in their own content. One piece of advice I give to my customers when it comes to producing content that garners links is to write a blog post that other writers would want to use as a reference for their own work.
For example, I might want to write a post about the effectiveness of sending out a social post on the weekend versus a weekday. To do this, I can either do my own testing or better yet, I can find someone who has already done the research. When I find the blog post that contains data on Tweeting on the weekend, I will link to that blog post in my work.
Having trouble getting your content linked to by other writers? Write a post that is super helpful and full of propriety research. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Fresh content tends to perform better on social networks where you encounter a short shelf life for when a social message is relevant. The better your piece of content is, the better chance you have of it gaining traction with your social networks.
Small Business Trends: What is keeping more businesses from fully exploring the value of content marketing?
Timothy Dearlove: You could rephrase this question in a number of different ways and get the same answer. Why did I never learn Portuguese? Why did I stop training for that marathon?
Time and effort. Content Marketing is not a short cut. It’s more cost effective than traditional marketing. It can lead to better lifetime value from your customer base and a lower customer cost of acquisition. We like those things, right?
But it’s not easy to churn our great content and it also takes quite a bit of time. In my experience, I see quite a few marketers give up on a content strategy too soon. If you are starting from scratch it’s going to take multiple months or even an entire year to start bringing in a consistent flow of qualified organic traffic. That’s a long time, but you never get there without the work you put in over that first year.
Also, it’s hard. I want to write a really helpful eBook. Ok, so first I need to do research on my Personas. I do interviews to help define my persona and what they would want to read. Now I need to research the content for my eBook. Then I need to write the darn thing, design it, make it look nice. Finally, I need to promote it (this is where HubSpot comes in by the way) and build a conversion path for it.
That’s quite a bit of work. For just one eBook. It’s an easy way out to give up on a content plan before you let it mature to the point where it helps grow your business. For some people, the results don’t match their efforts quickly enough.
Small Business Trends: What are the three most critical mandates of inbound marketing?
Timothy Dearlove: I am a pretty big nerd when it comes to Inbound so I won’t limit myself to just three. How about I break it down to four? The actions summarized in HubSpot’s Inbound Methodology form an ideal mandate to follow.
Start with attracting the right visitors to your site. You want to balance the challenges of getting the right people to your site with the right volume of total visitors. Thousands of visits from unqualified traffic are fairly useless.
When you have qualified visitors coming to your site, you want to make sure you are converting them into leads. Turning anonymous visitors into actionable contact information.
This is where effective conversion paths and good content offers come into play. After you have leads, you need to focus on closing these leads into customers. Segmented lead nurturing campaigns go a long way to aiding in this effort.
Finally, the last mandate is to delight your customer base. Turn them into promoters for your business.
Small Business Trends: How important is a highly shareable infographic?
Timothy Dearlove: I am most likely going to ruffle some feathers here, but I don’t think Infographics move the needle that much. Now, as a caveat, you can produce a really nice, well researched infographic that will work as part of a blog post. Too often, marketers take a shortcut when they produce an infographic. They use bad data or cover a subject area that’s already been covered in depth.
I subscribe to Rand Fishkin’s viewpoint that a marketer is smarter to spend time producing other kinds of “visual assets.” If you are going to put an infographic together, make sure you do the research. Always remember, the primary goal of portraying information in that format is to take complex data and make it digestible.
Small Business Trends: How does content make an impact on email marketing and lead generation?
Timothy Dearlove: Content is a key element for effectively managing the buyer’s journey from start to finish. Email marketing and lead nurturing are really effective ways of ensuring your prospects have the information they need so that they can make an educated buying decision.
When we talk about the buyer journey of a typical customer, it starts with education. A website visitor has a problem and needs a solution. You produce content to help that visitor with that problem.
After the first conversion with the educational piece of content, you then need to nurture that lead. We typically find that leads are not ready to talk to a sales rep right after they consume an eBook or White Paper (or any piece of educational content). What you have done is begin to talk to this lead, but that conversation is happening virtually.
Are you going to hard sell five minutes into a conversation after answering just one of your prospects’ questions? No. You need to have a content plan that adapts to this line of thinking. This is where email comes in to play.
With email marketing and lead nurturing – two channels a marketer controls - you can make sure you send your prospect all of the content they need to make an informed buying decision. After they download an eBook, you might send them pricing information or a recorded webinar that walks the prospect through your product.
What you are trying to do is give the prospect all the information they need. They will do their own research as well, but you can rest assured that they can always lean on your emails to find what they need.