One of the most common challenges with inbound marketing is time. There are only 24 hours in the day, and most of us have our waking hours filled with other tasks already: getting new customers, supporting existing ones, building our product (my favorite!), meetings, interviews, and more.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had an army of marketers willing to work for you, ideally on-demand and at a reasonable rate? Well, you’re in luck! The modern web brings that power to your fingertips.
Marketplaces, the Ancient Solution
Thankfully, the world is full of talented people, and the web lets you hire them more easily than ever before. You don’t have to walk downtown to some market and check out vendor stalls, fun as that may be, in order to find a qualified vendor to help with one or more marketing needs.
As a marketplace consumer, it’s good to make sure you can track the performance of your vendors or providers. For example, if you’re buying a blog article from a guest or shadow author, do you have the tools in place to know how many page views, leads, and customers that article generated? If not, considering putting such a tracking / analytics system in place, if only so that you can properly evaluate vendors.
There are many online options for marketplaces. Take a look at eLance and oDesk for fairly broad coverage, with professionals in many different areas, or more specialized providers like Wistia’s “ 50 Grove ” for specific needs like video production, or InteractMedia’s “ Zerys ” for marketing content.
At HubSpot , we want to make these marketplaces even easier for our customers to access and leverage, so we’ve brought them into our own ecosystem and product. We have a Service Marketplace which lists registered providers in various areas, as well as an Apps Marketplace (under the Community tab in the HubSpot product) listing assorted marketing-related apps from around the web.
We are working with these providers all the time to make the user experience integrated, to make it feel like one application, and to ease issues like user registration, payment, and transaction auditing.
Referral Programs: Word-of-Mouth Wins!
Another approach in building your army of 100 marketers is to encourage existing (and past) customers to refer new ones. This used to involve a lot of manual labor, including (most likely) hiring a full-time program administrator and figuring out a bunch of legal documents. But no more!
These days, there are a few software packages you can use to easily setup and configure referral programs. They tend to feature built-in tracking and easy social sharing options for your affiliates or customers.
Each customer (or affiliate) typically gets a unique URL for each event or thing you want shared. For example, if you’re conducting a webinar, and you want your attendees to refer others, you can give each attendee a unique link. Then you can track in one place who referred whom, and maybe reward the best sources however you see fit.
Many popular web sites now feature this functionality, such as Eventbrite for webinars and other events, LaunchRock for generic “coming soon” web sites (very useful for micro-sites or campaign-specific web sites), and more. There are even vendors of completely generic, stand-alone referral program management tools, such as Legwork .
Of course, it’s still up to you to make sure your customers are excited enough and positive enough about your product to spread that word of mouth. That’s beyond the scope of this article, but at least in most of these systems, you can only get positive effects from additional referrals. The worst case is that you get zero referrals, and in that case, you likely have other problems to fix first.
But again, make sure you can track the results of your referral (or affiliate) program. How many leads or customers did you get from this effort? Otherwise, you won’t know if it was worth the money, or when and whether to do it again.
Maximize the Number of People Invested In Your Success
One of the beautiful effects of social media is that it gives your customers a voice. On this blog and all over the internet, people talk about social media all the time. We all know it’s great when your customers rave about your product (or service) online, and most of us have felt the sting or pain when the customers are unhappy.
With marketplaces, referral / affiliate programs, and similar online methods, you can put both professional vendors and your customers at your service. You can reward them, if you so choose, with money or other fun items.
But best of all, you can maximize the number of people invested in your success. You can do it in a measurable, analytical way, which lends itself to repeated experiments and tests. It’s usually pretty easy, so if you’re in a pinch for time, consider these options.