Summary of Sold-out "Science of Inbound Marketing" Session at Dreamforce 2011

    by Dharmesh Shah

    Date

    October 18, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Way back in September (seems so long ago), I had the opportunity to speak at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference (which is now the largest software conference in the world, with over 45,000 registrants).  HubSpot had a remarkable presence at Dreamforce.

    There are three parts to this article.  The first are some key points and hilights (with convenient, inline tweet buttons).  The second is the slides used in the session (some of them are pretty funny).  Finally, there's a full transcript of the session at the bottom.

    Hope you enjoy it.  Also, you can find me on Google+ here -- +Dharmesh (hanging out there in addition to my usual twitter stuff @dharmesh)

    Key Points from "Science of Inbound Marketing" Session

    1. People hate outbound marketing (cold calls, spam, junk mail, etc.)  This makes inbound marketing a much more effective, and cheaper way to reach people.

    help those that mention you get more attention and over time you get more mentions.  describe the image

    3. Inbound marketing consists of three parts: get found (draw people in), convert (visitors to leads/customers) and analyze (to see what's working and what's not).

    It is entirely possible for your marketing not to suck. describe the image 

    5. The Internet has shifted the balance of power.  Now, mere mortals can choose what they listen to, watch and pay attention to.

    6. Determine what the half-life of your marketing channels is.  Do specific programs "decay" to almost nothing once you stop funding them -- or do they keep delivering value for almost forever?

    7. As you SEO, so shall ye reap. Plant your search seeds early.  describe the image  

    8. The best SEO strategy is to help Google make humans happy.

    Your industry isn't boring, your marketing is boring. describe the image  describe the image

     11. If your marketing is broken, marketing automation just gets you to the wrong place more reliably. describe the image  The last thing you want to do is automate marketing that's broken.  Instead, transform your marketing into something that actually works and you can be proud of.

    12. Actionable metrics don't mean squat if someone, somewhere doesn't act. describe the image  Just because you have a fancy analytics system that tells you a bunch of things you should do, you're not making progress until you do them.

    Slides From Session

    Transcript of “Science of Inbound Marketing” Session at Dreamforce 2011

    The Science of Inbound Marketing
    Dharmesh Shah

    Hi. I'm Dharmesh, and I'm a total geek. I don't do public presenting for a living at all. I write code usually until about 2:00 in the morning, every single night including weekends except on nights like last night. I had a great day, by the way. And it was great up until the point that I got home and made the unwise decision of changing out about 80% of my slides before coming in this morning, so I was up until late, late, late. But I think it's going to be fun I think you guys will like it. I think it's better we'll see. If you have questions along the way, feel free to ask it. You will not interrupt my train of thought. I don't really have trains of thought. I'm a relatively disorganized guy. So, just raise your hand and get our attention. We'll have someone run back with the microphone. Usually we save the questions for the end but this will keep Kirsten's life more interesting, instead of just waiting.

    So, this is the hashtag for the session for those of you who are Twitter leaders out there, and my name happens to have an extra h on it where you wouldn't expect.

    A couple of quick things. I'm don't really do marketing for a living, but I write a lot of content and do marketing-ish stuff and I've learned things. And Brian didn't get a chance to tell you a whole lot about the inside workings of HubSpot marketing and stuff that works because he's more judicious than I am. I have no such limitations; I can say whatever the hell I want. So if you have questions about HubSpot marketing or things like that, we're going to share some of the insider tricks with you that we've used actually to kind of do our own marketing, so use them wisely.

    I'll drop the first major trick because this one's kind of subtle and it's a little fun. So, everyone that's got a social media account and you're doing marketing and you have a blog, you will kind of tweet out a link to your blog post, right? Everybody does that oh yeah we've got 1000, 5000 whatever number of Twitter followers you have and you write a blog article, you'll send it out to your Twitter account, you'll send it out to your email list and say, hey, come read our blog article. Well, that's all really straightforward and obvious. What's not as obvious is the value of what I call second order promotion. And what I mean by that is - instead of just promoting your own stuff, obviously you should also promote really good content that's out there on the web, you should also make a deliberate effort to promote other people that are writing things about you.

    So imagine this now: Imagine you've been reading the HubSpot blog, and every now and then you Tweet it, or every now and then you write a blog article about HubSpot. You might magically discover that the articles that you write about HubSpot tend to get a lot more traffic than just about any other thing you write about. And this could be I'm not saying this is what we do It COULD BE that we have an army of people with 600,000 collective Twitter followers watching the HubSpot brand and helping those that are writing about HubSpot get more attention. I'm not saying that happens, but I'm not saying that doesn't happen.

    So, as an example, as we're going through this and you're a Twitter person and you're Tweeting, and you just happen to Tweet out one of these things, there will be HubSpot people, maybe, sitting on the sidelines. Maybe I'll get home tonight and re-Tweet my best stuff and follow all of you. It does work.

    So I'm going to start with a very quick story. Most of you have been exposed to inbound marketing at this point, but I want to tell you about a short story. I'm a geek; I'm not a marketer. I didn't grow up in marketing- I've written code. So, this is my simplification of marketing and marketing history. So, once upon a time in a land far, far away, it was really easy, or easier to be a marketing magician. Because what you had was you had this magical wishing well and you threw coins into the magical wishing well and leads and prospects and customers emerged magically somehow. And this is like the kind of marketing budget thing, so you have a budget, you kind of fill it out there, you get billboards, you do advertising, you do all the crazy outbound marketing things that people did that really worked well and for the most part, it worked ok back then. And as long as you had enough of those gold coins that you continued to pour into the well, leads continued to come back with varying degrees of regularity. And then something problematic happened. The Internet came along. And bestowed this magical power on all of the people all across the land. And allowed mere mortals to actually have power and decide what they read and don't read. And decide whether they will or will not talk to marketing people. And they revolted. They were like, We're not listening to this crap anymore. I hate marketers. And they had the power to actually communicate and block all of this wonderful outbound marketing out. And so this is the fundamental thesis, right? The fundamental thing. This is about as squishy as I get. It's going to get really geeky from here so enjoy it while you can.


    And so, this made the princess very sad. And, along came inbound marketing. So, the idea behind inbound marketing is that instead of taking this budget and spending this budget to kind of broadcast your message far and wide, why not use that same budget to increase the probability that those that are looking for you - that actually want what you have to sell will actually find you? That's the fundamental thesis.

    And it makes marketing less of this and more of this that marketing people will actually love and it was possible. And there was much rejoicing once that happened. And that is the end of that story.

    All right, so now getting into the tactics of inbound marketing. Brian and Mike have talked a lot about inbound marketing before, so I'm going to jump into some of the details. And the idea here is that there is actually two parts to inbound marketing: by the way, if I suddenly look up and make eye contact, it's because I have this little mental note that says hey Dharmesh, you're forgetting to make eye contact. Look up and make eye contact. So that's why it seems sudden.

    So, the idea here is that there's two parts to inbound marketing. There's the first part, which is the top of the funnel how do I attract more people at the top of my funnel? The second part the middle of the funnel is like I've got all these web visitors and people coming to my website or my web properties or my Facebook page or whatever how do I convert them at increasing rates into qualified leads and customers? So there's two kind of primary parts that compose inbound marketing. And I'm going to attempt to talk about both, and make an attempt to convince you, if you're not already convinced, that inbound marketing is the path of truth and justice, as Mike Volpe has already told many of you outbound marketing might actually kill kittens. We'll talk about that.

    Structurally, the way we think about this in terms of cycle for inbound marketing: It kind of starts with creating content, optimizing that content so that it has the widest degree of reach, essentially, promoting it because it doesn't really work that well if we have this great, awesome content and just put it out there. It does take some effort to promote it. Then, take those visitors that you're getting, convert them, measure, measure, measure, test, analyze what's going on and never repeat that cycle. So that' the overall structure. We're going to talk about pieces of this to the best of my ability, given the hour that I have. For those of you who are put off by the fact that I talk really fast - I have only one other speed, it's even faster, so this is about as slow as I talk. Sorry.

    Talking about content - you guys saw some of the opening slides. Content is a very interesting thing. We think we've gotten really good at it. I'll share some secrets with you as to how we think we built up this content machine. But as an example, the presentation that you just kind of rolled through was on the front page of SlideShare as the most popular Power Point presentation for the last 48-ish hours since we've been here. It's gotten 51,000 views, which, for a B-to-B Power Point presentation that's not about a consumer-y kind of topic, that's pretty good by the way. And if you guys have presentations that have done better awesome, I'm very impressed! We've had videos I think Mike Volpe showed this one I'm not going to show you again but I think it's very cool. Look it up on YouTube. Just go You Tube Inbound marketing. It's done really well. The message here is we've done a bunch of things we have other charts, we have cartoons. One of the big lessons that we've learned around content creation in inbound marketing is that you're not really going to know what kinds of content works for your audience until you actually try it. And things that may seem counterintuitive for instance, we have a bunch of marketing cartoons that we've done a while ago. And they're just funny cartoons about marketing and social media. So, they're mostly on topic. And this turns out that they are one of the best performing types of content. You would think, Oh, marketers that are out there B to B marketers which is our target market are relatively serious people. As it turns out, you are not serious people. You really love those cartoons. And so, we've tried lots of different things videos, research articles, normal blog articles, opinion pieces, slides, audio podcasts. Everything. And the idea is if you're measuring it well enough, you will then find the patterns of what kinds of things happen to work for your market. We'll talk more about how you do some of that measurement and how you go from there.

    Other things that we've done that's interesting how many people saw Dan Zarrella from HubSpot this week? You guys missed an awesome presentation. Sorry, didn't mean to make you feel bad. Dan is our resident social media scientist. He had a webinar a B-to-B webinar that targeted businesses mind you - that had 30,000+ people register, and 10,000 people attend. Online - not like, watched it after the fact 10,000 people at the same time, watching a B-to-B marketing webinar. And he got a world record for this. The Guinness people came over, gave him a certificate, took a photo, and it was cool. And it may sound like some of the stuff I'm telling you is like, bragging, and my apologies because it is, and part of it is to convince you that some of this stuff can work and we're going to get into the details around how we do it. So that's the end of my self-centered bragging.

    All right, so let's look at the 3 steps that you need just from a macro level. You need to get found- we talk about that how do you pull people in? You need to convert them and then measure what matters. We're going to walk through those pieces.

    The getting found part: This is going to get a little bit geeky. So, who knows what a half life is? A half life for those of you who don't know, is that if you have like a traditionally, the measure is if you have a radioactive material - the half life measures how long it takes for that material to decompose and go away. So, for instance, Twinkies might have a half-life of 24 years. It will take that long for them to completely decompose and go away. So the idea is that there's this kind of decay rate that happens in most organic things. So, over time, the Twinkie or radioactive material goes down in a half-life and keeps going down and eventually, sometimes, goes away. And the reason I'm bringing this up, is that your marketing all the channels that you use, all the sources of your marketing have a half-life. That means you will have something, it will drive some amount of traffic, and then you'll see this decay. It's like oh, we did this, we took a billboard out and you will maybe see a spike in the number of calls coming into your call center during the time the billboard runs, and then you're going to have a decay rate. I would argue with you that billboards have a very, very short half-life. Like, once the billboard goes down, the overall impact of that billboard is essentially gone and you'll have this kind of trailing value that you get other than people you've already converted as a result of the billboard.

    We're going to talk more about Internet marketing, online marketing. I'm going to show you two graphs. So, the top graph this is from my personal blog shows the traffic I received from one of the social media sites. It's a hacker site that's about programming because I write about startups and programming. What you will find is that the traffic that I get from this particular social media site - think of it as being like a StumbleUpon or a Twitter. So my blog is running along, usually I'll get about 1000 -2000 visitors a day, and then all of a sudden, it will spike to like 10,000 20,000. And then it will go right back down again. So, that's the top one, where I'm getting traffic from social media sites it's very spikey and the decay rate is very, very fast.

    The lower chart same time period, same blog shows the traffic that I get from Google. Now, what's interesting about the Google traffic - this is the organic Google traffic since I don't buy any traffic for my personal blog - you will see that it kind of comes in waves but there's no big spikiness. The funny thing is on any average day I might get like, say 300-400 visitors from Google, but the decay rate is essentially near zero. If we were to plot the running average of this, once I start getting rankings for an article, that article will continue to get traffic pretty much forever. It never goes to zero. The larger message here is that when you're thinking about your marketing campaigns, you think about like, Here is the spike that we expected. We're going to get this - that's great, we want some of that but then what's the decay rate going to be and what's the long tail of value that this particular piece of content gets? And you want to do both. And there's value to doing both.

    You want to invest more in those things that have long-term value and lower decay rates. And Google is a very good example, right? And we have some data around lots of people search, we all know that - lots of people search not just for random pieces of information, but they are searching for a product or service. Lots of data on this as well not particularly controversial. And so, my message to you would be - if you're not doing this already, you should be investing in SEO. You should be investing in a) knowing how much traffic you're getting organically from the search engines, and b) investing in increasing that number over time. Not just because it's cheaper in the short run but also because it's longer lasting. So you invest in this asset you have this blog article or slide thing or podcast or whatever, and you accrue this authority in Google and usually your rankings will improve over time as Google starts to trust you as you're putting more of your content out there, but it really works. It takes time, but it really works. It has a very, very long tail to it.

    So we're going to take just a one-minute excursion down Google because I'm super geeked out on SEO things and it wouldn't be fun for me if I didn't say anything about SEO. One thing you guys might not know is that, and a lot of you may buy Google AdWords to some degree, which is the kind of paid side. What might not be known to you is that most of the traffic that Google generates for websites people actually click on the free/organic links. So, all the traffic your particular keyword is getting, all the search volume most of that economic value is going to not the paid side of the Google page but the free which is in the middle, on the left side. So, even if you are buying Google AdWords traffic, my advice to you would be try to measure how much you're spending and make your SEO goal to drive that number down over time by creating comparable, optimized , really, really good content for those specific keywords that you're already buying anyway, because that's the easiest way to come up with an ROI analysis on your SEO content.

    In order to really get traffic for those keywords, you need to rank in the top 3 results because the majority of the traffic goes to the top three. If you're ranking on page 2, 3, 4, N humans, carbon based life forms, don't actually go to those subsequent pages. Based on data, if you don't see what you're looking for in the first page or two, you just change your search terms, like oh, I must have asked Googled the wrong question. I will just rephrase my search instead of actually going through each page. So you need to rank in the top that's the key message there.

    The way Google works this is a dramatic oversimplification but still accurate - there are two parts to the ranking algorithm in terms of how Google decides whether your website ranks for a given keyword or whether someone else does. The first is context. And this is something that's interesting because most of the context you can kind of control the on page SEO. What this means is to what degree does Google believe that your website happens to be about whatever this user is searching for?

    So let's say you're trying to target real estate broker Boston as your search phrase, because you have a real estate brokering business. If you want to rank for that term, obviously your website has to send some signal to Google that that's' what your website is about. The degree you can help Google figure that out, the more often you will rank. And obviously, lots of people spend time (and it's not that hard) optimizing their websites and making sure that they are sending the right signals to Google. That's not that hard to do relatively straightforward.

    The second part, which is probably the most important and hardest part, is building authority in Google's eyes. Authority for the most part can reduce down to a single thing, which is get more links. Get more high quality links from people that Google already trusts. So, if you have a blog and the New York Times links to that blog, here's the way it works: Google says, Oh, I already trust the New York Times. NewYorkTImes.com has very high authority; it's a very trustworthy site. The New York Times links to your blog some portion of the trust and authority that New York Times has built transfers over to you through that link. So, it's an implicit endorsement. And just like any other endorsement, the more powerful the person that's endorsing you, the more trustworthy they are, the more value you get from that endorsement. But every link counts or, most links count. So you should try to attract more links that will drive the search rankings and the best way to drive more links is essentially help Google make their users more happy.

    I will summarize years and years of SEO research into 30 seconds the answer is: The best way to rank in Google is to be rank-worthy. Is for your content to be rank-worthy. What I mean by that is type in the search phrase that you'd like to rank for. Let's say it's Boston real estate broker. Look at those first few results. If you can't honestly answer, Oh, those results are crap. My content is much better. Users would be much happier if they found my article versus the stuff that's ranking right now. If that's true, you can fix that. If it's not true, your SEO goal is to make that true. Is to create the content that is better than what Google is already ranking, and Google usually will figure the rest out. There's no big trick to it it's not a technical problem it's a create great content that people actually want to consume problem.

    We're going to transition into social media. This is the other half of the get found. Let's talk about building a social media following. My response to this would be great so you want to build a following what you really want is screaming, raving fans. People that are really, really passionate about what you are doing. If you look at Mark Benioff he kind of fits into that category. It's like, ok well he's kind of marketing and selling Dreamforce is about partly selling more Salesforce, right? We're all customers, right? Most of us are? The funny thing is, we all spend money to come out here to spend more money, essentially on Salesforce. So how can you get that kind of passionate, loyal following? How do you use social media to kind of awareness out there so you get that kind of attention?

    Whenever I talk about social media and writing great content, one of the most popular pieces of and it sounds reasonably compelling, it's partly so the issue is that it's not that your industry is boring, it's that your marketing is boring. HubSpot has over 5,000 customers now. Most of them B to B companies, mainstream businesses that are doing normal things. We've got a heart of America kind of economy businesses, and for the most part, they are kicking butt. Even businesses that you wouldn't think, like oh my god, I can't believe social media or blogging

    I'll give you one my favorite examples. So, we have a business a customer that the business is basically to produce fences for llamas. That's the business. I kid you not. They are specialists and sell worldwide they build fences for llamas. And it's a small business - less than 5 employees. What he started doing was he essentially started creating content. So, he ran around with a video camera, and started basically answering the questions his prospective customers asked. Like, here's how not to install a fence for a llama. Here are the kinds of things to look out for. Like, all things llama fence related, he blogged about. And we would think, how many people out there are really going to read content about llama fences? And the answer is, he doesn't care how many there are, as long as they are his potential customers. Like, even if it was only 50 people a month. His blog traffic, his leads, his customers have gone through the roof. And we have hundreds of those kinds of examples. If someone that's selling llama fences can do video blogging, can write a blog article like every other week and can drive traffic and grow their business 100%, I don't think you have a good enough excuse that your industry is boring. I think it's very possible to do creative, fun things, which he has done.

    The other thing that comes back is, yes, Dharmesh, you are right. We should be able to be doing it, but we don't have approvals and it's hard to convince my CEO, the board, the company, my spouse, my dog that we can do this stuff and actually do it. I empathize with you. It is hard to make those changes, but we've created a bunch of content and there's lots of people out there that will help you make the compelling case why you should be producing more great content and what economic value there is. It doesn't have to be controversial, it doesn't have to be risky to be good and attract links although that works really well and we'll talk about that.

    So you should be having more fun and doing more creative things to the degree that you can. If you really, really believe in your heart that there's no way ever your organizing is ever going to be able to do anything even semi risky or fun when it comes to marketing, and they are going to be outbound marketers for the rest of their lives, my advice to you would be to find an organization that does value that. It's not worth it, it really isn't. It's much more fun, and it works. We want you to do the right thing. We think it's the path to truth and justice.

    The other thing we found works in terms of trying to get attention and write your blog content, or any kind of content, is polarizing works. And I'm not talking about sensationalism. What I'm talking about is your business and your content and your blog whatever it is you're creating for you to take a stand that you're passionate about. If you take an appropriate and hard enough stand, essentially, you will have some percentage of the world that will absolutely completely disagree with you. They will think you're an idiot, they will think you're wrong; they will think you're evil. They will think all manner of things. And the weird thing about polarizing is that for every one of those people that passionately hates what you represent and what you're talking about, you will get one of those rabid, passionate fans. If you go in the middle - like, Oh, yeah, we're going to write content that is not particularly controversial we kind of have an opinion and it's relatively strong but we're not going to take a hard stand. The average article, blog, anything gets average results. And average results kill companies. That's not the way to build a marketing organization anymore.

    So, for example, Mike Volpe had this flyer up this week and we use it all the time and we use different kittens because the Internet supplies an infinite number of kitten photos, which is awesome. So this is one of ours, right? So when we started the company, we took a stand and said outbound marketing is bad kills kittens - bad things happen. Inbound marketing good. That's what you should be doing. Path of truth and justice. And then we would get the question, which you're probably asking yourself right now. Well, Dharmesh, that's great that you believe passionately, but don't you guys do some outbound marketing? Haven't I seen you do x or buy Google AdWords? The answer is yes! We're trying to grow a business. So we do the outbound marketing and that's fine, but the reality is that from a belief perspective from a passion perspective, you need to take a relatively firm stand on whatever it is whatever message you're trying to drive home. Otherwise, it's really hard to stand out and get traction. So don't be sensationalist. You can be humorous and still be sensationalist to some degree and it works out because nobody really takes this seriously.

    So we're going to talk a little bit about Twitter. I'll give you an anecdote. My co-founder and CEO at HubSpot when he first encountered Twitter, h

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