Today, on the Day Stage at SXSW, there were a slew of speakers on Internet and social media marketing -- just check out the schedule.
Right before HubSpot's co-founder Dharmesh Shah took the stage to share wisdom from the book Inbound Marketing , Brandon Eley , the author of Online Marketing Inside Out shared his personal experiences in starting an online business. In different words than we use at HubSpot, he basically told us that the fundamentals of inbound marketing are the best solution to drive a thriving business today.
Brandon learn ed some inbound marketing lessons the hard way, but as an early adopter who was growing his business from about 1999 through 2003, it was sort of to be expected. 2BigFeet.com was started as an online business in LaGrange, Georgia in late 1999 by two regular guys who knew how hard it was to find large shoes. In the early days of online retailing, the 2BigFeet team wanted to get found online and turn those eyeballs into dollars. They stumbled along the way, costing the business money and in many cases revenue. Brandon wants others to learn the easy way ... by his example.
Brandon's key takeaways from his talk today:
1. Don't Believe the "SEO Guys"
Right after taking their site live, 2BigFeet hired an SEO consultant who ‘guaranteed' them they'd be on the first page of Google. Sure. Right. At the time, he didn't know better, but today we all should. There is no such thing as a guarantee to get on the first page! There are a lot of tactics that you can employ to improve your rankings , but hiring someone else to do what it takes, which is creating high quality content with relevant keywords, is not the answer. Brandon and the team were a few thousand dollars shorter and had lost about 3 months of time before they fired the SEO guy and worked on it themselves, improving results along the way. SEO is hard work because it is all about fresh and relevant content, so don't believe any hype.
2. Don't Succumb to the Lure of the "PR Lady"
A few years later, 2BigFeet felt they'd hit a plateau, and someone put them in touch with a PR lady who promised to get them coverage in pubs, local news, magazines and more. After a few more months, several thousand dollars and zero ‘free' coverage, the team decided to cut the PR cord as well. Inbound marketing espouses the belief that journalists are out there looking for great stories -- by reading blogs and following tweets -- rather than waiting around to be spammed by a PR pitch. I believe there is a healthy balance that can be reached, but ultimately, great content that is findable delivers better ROI than a pure PR play . I think Brandon might agree.
3. Don't Forget to Do Usability Testing
Finally, in a turn that some might think isn't really about marketing, Brandon talked about usability testing. Turns out, there is a lot of testing in marketing, and in this case some usability feedback spurred the team to do what is effectively an A/B test on a call-to-action . They originally had a promotion code for flat rate shipping, but very few people took advantage of it and were frustrated and confused about how to use it. By moving from a promo code to a more automated flat rate shipping option, they found that conversion improved dramatically. Now, testing is a core part of their culture, and I think it should be for any marketer.
By the end of his talk, part of me wished that the concept of inbound marketing had been around in 1999 so Brandon wouldn't have had to figure it all out himself. The other part of me was thrilled that he shared his story so that small businesses the world over can dive in and be successful with Internet and inbound marketing, the easy way.
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