Listen to the podcast to learn more about the 13 things that the world's top-performing inbound marketers are doing, and get links to the specific episodes where you can dive deeper into each topic.
Welcome back to the Inbound Success podcast. My name's Kathleen Booth. I'm your host, and this is the 100th episode of the podcast.
I thought this was a great opportunity for me to take a break from the usual routine of interviewing some of the incredible marketers that I get to speak to every week and look back on the last 99 episodes and try and digest some lessons learned.
I've had the incredible good fortune of speaking to some really amazing marketers in the last two years as I've done this podcast. It's given me an opportunity to meet people I otherwise never would have met, to learn some things that have really kind of made a difference for me in the way I think about marketing, and have prompted me to take a second look and reevaluate the way I've been doing some things.
So, thought it was a great opportunity to share some of those lessons learned with all of you.
How The Inbound Success Podcast Got Started
But first, I wanted to just take a moment and tell a story about why I started the podcast.
It was about two and a half years ago that I had my own marketing agency, Quintain Marketing. I had had the agency for 11 years. I'd gone to a lot of marketing conferences and listened to tons of podcasts, and watched webinars, always looking to make myself a better marketer. I had a lot of clients that I wanted to help. I also wanted to market my own agency and do better every day.
I always would listen to these folks talk about the marketing work they were doing and the incredible results they were getting, and so infrequently felt that there was anything really tangible that I could take away from it and immediately use to improve my own marketing.
This podcast was really an attempt to solve for that. It was me trying to scratch my own itch, and in doing so hopefully helping some of you.
The interesting thing about this has been that it has certainly done that for me, and it has also done so much more. I already mentioned that it's enabled me to meet so many people I otherwise would never have met. There are a lot of people in the marketing world that I really admire and respect. And having the excuse of saying, "Hey, would you like to come on a podcast?" is a great way to meet someone new and to meet and to form that relationship, so that's been great.
I've also met some really incredible people that I didn't know about through my guests when I ask them who else is doing a really great job with inbound marketing. And those relationships have been amazing.
One of the most amazing and incredible things about this is that it changed the entire course of my career. One of first people I interviewed when I started the podcast was Bob Ruffolo, who is the founder and CEO of IMPACT. Now, I work at IMPACT. The reason is that before we started to hit the record button for the podcast interview, we were just talking about how things were going. I was telling him that I thought I might be ready to make a change, and that led to me selling part of my company to IMPACT and joining the team. That's been a really major shift in my life and a great one. I've learned so much. I get to work with some really smart people every day and do very, very interesting work.
All this has come out of this little podcast. And most importantly, I've learned a lot about marketing. As I said, that was my original goal.
13 Lessons From Interviewing 99 High Performing Marketers
So without further ado, I looked back through the 99 episodes I've done before today and really saw 13 themes emerge. That's what I'm going to share with you today.
1. There Is No "Secret Sauce"
The first one ... And some of these, by the way, are going to seem like no-brainers, but they're important because it's important to remind ourselves of the things that we kind of already know. First one is, in most cases there really is no secret sauce to being an amazing marketer.
The folks that I interviewed who were the most successful have a few things in common. Number one, they are voracious learners. They're always trying to improve their knowledge. They're always hungry for more. And they're consistent. That's huge, the consistency.
A great example of that is Goldie Chan. I interviewed her. She's often referred to as the green-haired Oprah of LinkedIn. She has the longest running daily channel on LinkedIn. She's posted a new LinkedIn video every day for I think it's about two years. It's incredible. It doesn't matter where she is, what's happening, whether she's feeling well, whether she's traveling, what her access to Wifi is, she finds a way to do it because consistency is so important for her. And it's really paid off.
They also do a few things and do them really well. A great example of that is Rev Ciancio who I talked with about Instagram marketing. Rev has an incredible Instagram presence. Which by the way, do not look at it when you're hungry because his pictures are all of mouthwatering hamburgers, french fries, pizzas, chicken wings, nachos, essentially everything that's bad for you, but that tastes so good. But, Rev has a fascinating strategy for how he approaches Instagram and has built an entire business around it. He does one thing, and he does it really well.
Alex Nerney talked about Pinterest similarly, just a platform a lot of inbound marketers overlook, but he's really figured out a way to make it sing for him.
The hungry learners who are consistent and who pick a few things and do them really well, that's really the secret sauce, which essentially isn't so secret. That's number one.
2. Listen To Your Customers And Prospects And Use What You Learn in Your Marketing
Number two is they really listen to customers and prospects and use that in their marketing.
Again, sounds like a no-brainer. We always talk about the need to do persona research and to build buyer personas, but I think what happens is we get very often so caught up in building the actual persona that we forget the big picture, that it's not about having this fictional profile of a person. It's really about understanding the way our audience thinks, what their real pain points and needs are, and the language they use to talk about that.
A couple of the interviews I did were great examples of this. Barron Caster at rev.com who uses their own transcription product to transcribe all of the conversations they have with customers and then pull actual words that customers have used out and feed that into the copy on their website and landing pages, and that's gotten them amazing results.
Val Geisler and Joel Klettke, two of the most accomplished conversion copywriters out there, both also talked about this type of research and understanding deeply, deeply the needs of customers and prospects.
Paul Blamire at Atomic Reach, who is head of customer success and makes it a point to speak to new customers shortly after they've onboarded and really understand what brought them to the company and how the product is solving their needs. And he feeds that back in not only to marketing but to product development, to every aspect of the business to deliver a better customer experience from first touch in the marketing process all the way through the experience of using the company's product.
3. You Don't Need Fancy Tools Or A Big Budget
Number three, you don't necessarily need fancy tools or a big budget to get incredible results. There are some really great examples of this.
Oli Billson who I recently interviewed about the small events he's doing that are delivering tremendous amounts of revenue to his business.
Chris Handy who talked about marketing for a Pre-K school, really small campaigns, but they just really ... They understood their audience, and they used the available tools that they had and got terrific results for the school.
Adam Sand, who's using direct mail in conjunction with inbound marketing, super old school, but very effective for him.
And Harry Campbell, who's The Rideshare Guy, and he's probably the top content creator in the ridesharing space. So think Uber, Lyft, Lime, Bird. He just started blogging and has created some great content and a big following.
You really don't need fancy tools or a big budget. You can do it on your own with what you've got, if I go back to the first thing, if you're consistent, if you pick a few things and do them really well, and if you're a hungry learner who is willing to roll your sleeves up and apply what you're learning.
4. Connect With Your Audience On An Emotional Level
Number four, the best marketers connect with their audiences on an emotional level, another thing that might seem obvious but that I think a lot of marketers get wrong. We tend to put our marketing hats on and make our marketing all about ourselves or we fall back into that comfortable place of corporate jargon, and kind of robotic speech, and use words like leverage and synergy. Nobody talks like that in real life, or not at least the people that you want to hang out with.
The people who talked about this were Kieran Flanagan of HubSpot who shared their hearts and minds strategy for creating content with two types of content, content that solves a person's problems and tells them how to do something, that's really that mind's content, and then the heart's content, which taps into a pain and emotional need that the audience has.
Then, Katie Stavely from Mautic. This is ironic that these are the two examples I'm giving for this one because HubSpot and Mautic could be considered two different sides of the same coin, HubSpot being a paid marketing automation, CRM, customer service platform, and Mautic being a completely free open source alternative to it. Katie talked about how important it was to be authentic in your marketing, especially with their audience, which it's all about community. It's opensource software, so your community is helping you develop your product.
But regardless, the idea is to really make that emotional connection.
5. Sometimes The Biggest Wins Come From Content That Is Not Related To Your Products Or Services
Number five, with content marketing, sometimes the biggest wins happen when you don't create content about your products or services.
We as marketers, as inbound marketers, think a lot about top-, middle-, and bottom-of-the funnel strategies. We're always brainstorming what are the questions that our audience is asking as relates to our product or service. That often leads us to create content that is very much about us and not so much about our audience.
But, I had two interviews that I thought really highlighted how successful you can be if you flip that script and talk nothing about yourself. What I mean by that is ...
I'll start with Stephanie Baiocchi, who was actually Stephanie Casstevens at the time I interviewed her. She hadn't been married yet. And funny enough, she was not working at IMPACT. That's another great outcome of the podcast. Now she is. But, she talked about a campaign that she was running for a client that sold solutions for medical waste from physicians' practices.
Originally, they were creating a ton of content around medical waste, and it just wasn't working. The reason is that their audience, which is really the office managers for physicians' practices, already has a medical waste solution. You can't be in business if you don't, so they weren't out there searching for any information about medical waste. They didn't even realize they needed to switch providers or that they had a problem.
It was when she kind of took a step back and thought, "What are the biggest problems that office managers have? It doesn't need to have anything to do with medical waste," and she realized it was patient no-shows. They created a patient no-show policy template that office managers could use.
That was a total home run. What it did was it opened up the conversation with their audience so that eventually they could begin talking about medical waste. But at that top-of-the-funnel level, they needed first to really open that conversation, and product- and service-related content wasn't going to cut it.
Another person who did that really well was Ryan Bonnici, who is now the CMO of G2 Crowd, but at the time was working at HubSpot. HubSpot's a company that has a huge audience. Of course, trying to broaden the top of the funnel at a company like HubSpot is challenging. All the low-hanging fruit is gone, and so you really have to get creative.
He was trying to target a small business audience. He really asked himself, "What are the problems that small businesses have?" And, again, doesn't have to have anything to do with HubSpot. He realized when you're starting your business or when you come to work at a small business, one of the first things you have to do is come up with an email signature. You're usually either copying one that somebody else in the company has created or you have to create it from scratch, and it's kind of a pain.
He built an email signature generator, an online tool where you could type in some information about yourself and it would spit out a really nice-looking email signature. That tool generated a ton of traffic, leads, and revenues for HubSpot, and it cost them only $6,000 to build it, but the impact was enormous.
So, great lesson learned about getting out of the habit of creating only product- and service-related content and thinking bigger.
6. Paid Ads Are An Essential Part Of Any Inbound Marketing Strategy
Number six, the old myth that paid ads are not inboundy is dead, or it should be dead. This one was woven throughout almost every interview I did. It's funny because when I first started working with inbound marketing, it was back with my old agency. I had discovered HubSpot. We were following their original methodology of attract, convert, close, delights, for those of you who've been in the HubSpot world for a long time and all.
I remember many times going to INBOUND and seeing Brian Halligan stand on stage and talk about how the old way, the old interruptive way of marketing was paid ads, and people didn't like being interrupted. I think we all read that as, well, paid ads are not acceptable if you're an inbound marketer. That myth started dying, I think, several years ago, but it's worth repeating that paid ads are, I would say, not even just inboundy, they're essential to an inbound strategy in this day and age.
I'll just list off a bunch of names of my guests who've talked about it. This isn't even a complete list, but Mark Rogers, who at the time was with Carney and grew The Daily Carnage newsletter using Facebook ads; Sterling Snow from Divvy who's used ads to drive leads for their platform; Moby Siddique who has his own inbound agency and does some incredible Facebook ads work with Messenger bots; AJ Wilcox, who is a LinkedIn ads expert; Ali Parmelee, who's one of my coworkers here at IMPACT who does incredible things with Facebook ads; Anthony Sarandrea; Rick Kranz. The list goes on and on.
All of them attribute the success that they're getting and the incredible results to some form of paid ads. Let that be the final nail in the coffin of that old myth. Let's really embrace ads, and not just checking the box with ads and promoting our posts, but really taking a full funnel approach to advertising. Because that's the other thing that these folks talked about is it's not about boosting something on Facebook. This is about really digging in and getting good at ads and thinking how ads can be used at every stage of the funnel.
7. Content Distribution Is Critical
Number seven, it's not enough to create and publish your content on your website. You've got to promote it and distribute it. This is one that I've heard time and time again. A lot of the best marketers I've spoken to say you should spend twice as much time promoting and distributing your content as you do creating it. I think for a lot of us that equation is backwards.
One person who talked about that was Kipp Bodnar who is the CMO of HubSpot, probably one of the companies that is the best at inbound marketing. He talked about what a game changer it was in the last year when HubSpot really threw some muscle behind content distribution and how that impacted their traffic. This is a company that already had amazing traffic, by the way.
Then, Phil Singleton. I loved my interview with Phil who is an SEO expert and an author. Phil talked about this great strategy he uses for clients where he's creating e-books, just like lots of inbound marketing agencies do. But then he takes the e-books that he makes for clients, or he takes a collection of blogs, for example, and compiles them into any book, and he publishes them as Kindle e-books on amazon.com, and also in some cases as hard copy books through Amazon direct publishing.
It is so simple, and straightforward, and inexpensive. It blows my mind that more marketers are not doing this. It was a cool episode, so definitely check that out.
But yeah, the lesson is don't just like write those blogs, create those e-books. Think about what are you going to do with them once they're published. How are you going to get them out in front of the world?
8. Original Research Can Drive Tremendous Results
Number eight, original research can have amazing results. I had several interviews where people touched on what has come of original research.
One of the people I think that that is most famous in the marketing world for doing this is Andy Crestodina. He has been doing a blogging survey for several years and really credits that with bringing a lot of attention to his agency, Orbit Media, out of Chicago, giving him a ton of backlinks and press. It's a pretty simple survey. He does put quite a bit of effort into promoting the survey itself so he can get a lot of responses, and then once he gets those responses into packaging that content so that he can turn it into things like infographics and articles, et cetera.
But, it's not just Andy. Michele Aymold from Parker Dewey uses original research and data to boost her marketing results.
Clare Carr from Parse.ly, they actually don't even have to do that much research because simply by the nature of the product that they sell they have access to a lot of proprietary data. She's really productized that and used it to get a tremendous amount of press. In fact, she was able to dramatically cut back the amount of content she was creating while getting better results because the data itself was so attractive to their audience, and it also helped her reduce their PR spend.
Then, Rebecca Corliss at Owl Labs. They produced the state of remote work, and that's gotten them quite a bit of traction.
9. Community Is A Powerful Tool To Fuel Growth
Number nine, community is such a powerful tool for marketing.
This is an interesting one because here at IMPACT we've been working really hard over the course of the last two years to build our own community called IMPACT Elite, which is on Facebook. We've learned a lot about community in the course of doing that. I would say it has been a game changer for our business, certainly. We now have over 5,000 people in that community. It's a delicate balance how you run it. You can't make it all about yourself. It has to truly be about helping the members of the community and getting them to the point where they're almost running it, if you will.
I spoke to several other people who have built communities and had similar experiences in terms of the community being a fundamental tool in the growth of their business.
One was Bill Faeth who is a marketer who specializes in the limousine and transport business. He has Limo University, and he has a big community around that of limousine companies.
Frank Gruber, who started Tech Cocktail in the beginning and turn it into Tech.co, which was then acquired, he now has a company called Established. But, he began this grassroots community all over the country of startups and people interested in the startup ecosystem and wound up building a tremendous media business from that.
Nikki Nixon who at the time I interviewed her was running the FlipMyFunnel community for Terminus.
Ameer Rosic who has a community focused on blockchain called Blockgeeks.
And Mark Graham, who is an old friend of mine doing amazing things, he's up in Canada and has a software platform called Commonsku and has built a great community around that.
All of these folks doing incredible things with communities in very different niches, I should say. For Bill, it was limo companies. For Frank, it was startups. For Nikki, it's people who are ABM practitioners. For Ameer, it's folks in the blockchain community. And for Mark Graham, it's people in the promotional products world. All of these different niches need communities and people are hungry to connect with others who have similar interests as they do.
10. The Quality Of Your Content REALLY Matters
Content quality. I had a couple of great interviews on this. This is one that I'd love to talk with more people who are focused on this. In this day and age, you can't just be creating content and checking the box. You have to really create great content that is better than anything else out there if you really want to get amazing results.
One person who talked a lot about this was Oli Gardner and how he is putting a lot of effort into really making the content that they create be the best that's available on the Internet.
Emily Maxie from Very talked about this, too, really digging deep and creating unbelievable resources for your audience.
Both of these folks are getting great results in terms of traffic, and that traffic ultimately turning into leads, because they took the time to create in-depth pieces that really added value for their audience.
Seems like it should be obvious, it's another one of these, but it's really not too a lot of us. I mean, you might think your content's really good, but is it the best? When you Google that topic that you created content about, is your piece the best thing that you can find in the search results? If not, go back and spend the time and make it better. I think one of the lessons I've learned is it's better to make less content that's better content than it is to create a high volume.
11. Creating A Podcast - Or Being A Guest On One - Is A Good Way To Build Your Brand
Another theme that came out was podcasting. It's sort of ironic because we're on a podcast talking about podcasting. But a lot of my interviews, as I went back and reviewed, had to do with podcasting, beginning with George B Thomas, who I've had the privilege to work with over the years here at IMPACT. He's now at Impulse Creative. George is a prolific podcaster, and he's ... It might seem easy when you listen to him. It just seems like, "Oh, there's a guy that just has a great rapport with his audience," but he puts a ton of thought into how he does these podcasts, how he structured them so that they not only deliver value for the audience, but that they have naturally built-in incentives for people to share them and to grow his audience. That's really worth listening to if you're somebody who wants to start a podcast.
Andrew Dymski is another person who's been podcasting for a long time and who I've been a guest on his podcast. He's been a guest on mine. He's got some great insights.
Ryan Hawke, who has The Learning Leader podcast, Ryan blew my mind just with how prepared he comes to everything. He talked about this, too, how before he does an interview the amount of preparation he does, the amount of preparation he does when he even just invites somebody to come on his podcast. This guy is serious business, and that's why he's so successful. He really has put the thought into it and turned his podcast into a business.
Dan Moyle came on the show and talked about podcast guest interviews. So not necessarily starting a podcast, but if you want to get the word out, going on other podcasts as a guest. At the time, he was with a company called Interview Valet.
What's been really cool for me is seeing the other side of that. I get pitched a lot by companies like Interview Valet, and there are certainly other ones as well. They'll send me an email and say, "Listened to your show. Thought it was great. Here's a guest that I think would be really good for you." That's how I've gotten a lot of my more interesting guests.
There's something to that podcast guesting strategy that really I think can help you get traction and raise your profile if you're trying to build a personal brand or trying to get the word out about a product or a service. There are plenty of companies like Interview Valet that, for a fee, will take care of that for you. It's kind of like having a talent agent.
I also talked to Jay Acunzo about podcasting. He is actually a consultant to other companies and helps them create, produce, and get the best results out of their podcasts. One of his clients is Drift, which comes up a lot on my show. People love Drift, always cited as one of the best examples of a company doing inbound marketing really well, and they have a couple of podcasts.
Lots of folks talking about podcasting. It really stuck out to me that it's not just about, hey, everybody should have a podcast, and I don't think everyone should. It's not right for everybody. But, podcasting can play a role in almost everybody's marketing strategy for sure.
12. Video, Video, Video
Number 12, video. Can't have a list of trends and things that are important in marketing without talking about video these days. Some of the guests that I've had that have spoken about this are some of the more impressive people that have been on this podcast.
In 2019, I opted to kick the year off with an interview with Marcus Sheridan, who is an amazing man that is a big role model for me. I currently get to work with him at IMPACT. But, he's somebody that I followed for years and I have so much respect for because he sees things about marketing and about customer behavior that a lot of other people don't, even though they're staring us in the face.
One of the things that he has really seen and committed to is that when it comes to marketing and selling, we can't just tell people something. We have to show it to them, too, and we show it to them using video. He talked about how important video was going to be in 2019. I know that he's out speaking at conferences and talking about video all over the world.
Also, Eric Siu. I kicked off 2018 with Eric Siu doing predictions for last year. He talked about video as well and was like, "Video's going to be huge in 2018." So in both of my kind of yearly prediction episodes, the guests that I've had have cited video as one of the biggest things we should be paying attention to.
And then, of course, I already mentioned her, but Goldie Chan, who is a LinkedIn influencer and creates a new LinkedIn video every single day, has made a career around those videos. She's amazing. She travels all over the world and is sought after as a speaker because of the LinkedIn video she creates.
And Dennis Yu who has turned video into a formula for building people's personal brands. It's really impressive what he does. They're these short little videos that he films. Using that medium has helped countless people create brands for themselves.
13. Lead With Brand
Which brings me to my 13th and last lesson learned from 99 interviews with incredible marketers, and that is that all of these strategies, and tactics, and approaches are powerful. But at the end of the day, the most important thing in marketing is brand. Brand is paramount. Without it, you can have some quick wins but you'll never have a true success that will last over the long term.
I'm only going to cite one example here because it's the one that comes up the most. And if you listen to this podcast with any degree of regularity, you know that at the end I always, always ask my guests, "Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?"
There is one company/individual, the company and the marketer who's spearheading it for them, that by far comes up more than anybody else, and that is Drift and Dave Gerhardt, who I was very fortunate to have as a guest early on. I can't tell you the number of times people have mentioned Drift, and it's not just people from the marketing world. It's folks that have come onto this podcast from all different industries, and they all cite Dave Gerhart and his work building a brand at Drift as the one succeeding the most with inbound marketing.
It's not for me to say what that brand is or to really try to encapsulate what Dave has done, but I think it's fair to say that they've built a brand that's incredibly authentic. There's no artifice. There's no fancy tricks about it. They, of everybody, really reflect everything I've said about the past, you know, this list of 12 to 13 trends I just spoke about today. When I look back through this list, they are doing a few things and doing them really well. They really listen to their customers. It's not about fancy tools or a big budget. The things that make them successful don't have anything to do with that. It's about connecting on emotional level. It's about creating content that sometimes doesn't have anything to do with your products or services. They do paid ads. And it's not enough to create and publish your content, you've got to promote it. They are so good at that.
They've got a tremendous community, really high-quality content, a bunch of podcasts. They use video better than almost anybody else, especially on LinkedIn. Checkout Dave Gerhart's LinkedIn presence. And they just have a really strong brand. So my hat is off to Dave Gerhart and the team at Drift for ...
If I had to give out an award for top inbound marketers, I think it would go to them.
Thank YOU For Listening
But really, everybody that I've interviewed over the course of the last two years has been so impressive. It is just my absolute privilege to get to do this every single week.
I also wanted to say thank you to you for listening. Podcasting is a funny exercise. As I record this, it's Sunday morning, and I'm sitting in my home office, which is a tiny little room that actually had to be permitted as a closet because it's so small. There's chaos happening around me in my house. I'm by myself talking into a microphone. I'll go away, and I'll turn this into an episode. It'll go live tomorrow. You'll be hearing this Monday, if you get the episode right when it comes out or sometime after, and you're out there listening.
But when I create these things, it's just me in a room. To know that there are people who choose to listen to this every week is just an unbelievable honor and a privilege to me. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening to this content. I hope so much that you've learned something from it and that, even if it's in a small way, it's helped you get better results from your marketing and feel like a smarter marketer. If that has happened, then I feel like I've succeeded.
With that, I will say I would love to hear from you. It's been a hundred episodes. If you are a regular listener, please take a moment and contact me. I always say at the end you can tweet me @workmommywork, which is my Twitter handle, but you can also message me on LinkedIn.
However you want to do it, I would love it if you would get in touch and let me know what you like about the podcast and what's something that I can improve because I'd love to make the next hundred episodes even better. With that, I won't belabor it. Thank you again for listening, and I'll see you next week. Or not see you, I'll be talking to you next week for episode 101.
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