Digital Reviewer

#EmptyShelf 2016 #17: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs (Wiley, 2010)

inbound-marketing11Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah (Wiley, 2010 – with a newer version from 2014), cofounders of Hubspot.


The foreword is (again) written by David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, in which he describe us a ‘living in a revolution in the way people communicate’ (something that anyone who’s been on Medialit with me will know I would put a question mark after revolution!)

We start at Google or another search engine and we tap our online network of friends, family members, and colleagues via email, instant messaging, chat rooms, Facebook and Twitter.

We used to pay attention to companies with big budgets and glitzy TV ads, now we pay attention to the ones with great web content.

If you have a story, you can command an audience online, publish engaging and useful information on the web, and deliver it exactly when people are interested. This requires an investment of your time and creativity.


Brian’s first year out of MIT, he was working with a number of start-ups, and noticed that customers were getting better and better at ignoring marketing ‘interruptions’. Dharmesh meantime was at MIT working on PhD thesis, including looking at way to pull users in from Googles, blogs and social media, rather than interruption, and discovered how to ‘get found’.. because ‘consumers were now in control’. Describing ‘interruption marketing’ as outbound marketing, Hubspot focused on inbound marketing – requiring rethinking from the bottom-up – using Hubspot as a ‘petri dish’ for testing out ideas, and used this book as a very practical guide.

Chapter 1: Shopping has changes… has your marketing?

“The fundamental task of marketers is to spread the word about their products and services in order to get people to buy them.” (p3)

Tried and tested techniques are no longer effective – e.g. average open rate for emails dropped from 39% in 2004 to 22% in 2008.

The primary place that people seem to be found now is search engines, the blogosphere, and the social mediasphere. Organisations now need to match the way they market products with the way your customer prospects learn about and shop for your products.

Obama has been known as the social-media president – up again Hillary Clinton and her big budget, Obama – little known and a long-shot prospect, had to rely on a range of social media techniques. Obama hired an Internet Strategist, Chris Hughes (a co-founder of Facebook):

… help individuals understand the values of Barack Obama and of our campaign and then to make it as easy as possible for them to actively engage with the campaign’s work. We tried to open as many direct channels of communication as possible – using e-mail, text messages, online networks – and then equip them with the tools to spread the campaign’s message using networking technology such as and Facebook.

Search marketing was undertaken effectively, Facebook widgets allowed users to register to vote, and Twitter was used to undertake conversations with constituents, whereas John McCain talked ‘at’ his. In 2009, I produced this diagram for ‘Super Fun Days Out’, a startup I was working on, for how we might use this ‘new’ social media for business:

2016-02-14 21.37.07

Chapter 2: Is Your Web Site a Marketing Hub?

Many companies use ‘brochureware’ websites, rather than making use of the possibilities of digital technology. Most sites have no information to compel users to stay – merely sales pitches!

Too many companies treat the website as a separate space – creating more activity off site, will drive people back to the online space. Your website = the hub, everything else is the equivalent of freeways/rail networks, etc. “turns your web site into a magnetic hub for your industry that pulls people in.”

The book highlights the importance of the RSS reader – sending an email to every user when there is new content on the site [although I’d think many users now find content solely via social media, etc. and have been unsubscribing from emails]

On p16, see this diagram – the story continues to look at how progess is measured, including links back to your website via a strong keyword strategy:

2016-02-14 21.43.14

Chapter 3: Are You Worthy?

Drawing on Seth Godin, need to consider whether “your product or service is worthy of other people’s ‘remarks’”, or see Benjamin Franklin. One of their tutors used to say “Watch your competitors, but don’t follow them.” For example Apple in creating their first MP3 player ignored the ‘rules’ of the industry that machines focused on feature richness, but therefore could only be used by technies – they instead created a much simpler device they tapped into a new market.

The authors also emphasise the need to be the best at what you do – if necessary defining your market more narrowly – go narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow.

Chapter 4: Create Remarkable Content

The most remarkable content attracts links from other websites pointing to your site – bringing you traffic not only from that site, but from Google who sees that signal as a point in your favour. Remarkable content also spreads well, and because it remains online, continues to work for you without extra cost (and note that if you write on other sites such as Wikipedia which always have high traffic, that’s a source of good links).

Look to produce a variety of content – text, visual, audio, interactive – and note that ‘the more you give, the more you get’.

Create, optimise, publish and market content, then measure what is working/not working. If you’re the right kind of business, consider whether you could set up a specialist wiki for your industry.

Much of the rest of the book is very practically focused – a number of the hints and tips are still relevant, but I’m more interested in the general principles – and the second edition probably provides more up to date content!

Buy the book (or 2nd edition)