Where You Get Your Information Makes A Difference; Here’s Why
You’re practicing inbound marketing. Maybe it’s going well, but could it be going better? Or maybe it’s not going so well and you expected more. Where do you get support? Where do you get new ideas? Where do you go for help?
Before we look at all the places inbound marketing advice resides and the differences in the quality and context of that advice, I want you to consider a slightly different but related situation.
What do you do when you don’t feel well? There are a variety of places for information on your health, too. You can go to the web, ask your friends, talk to a doctor via a telemedicine service, read articles, attend conferences and consult with a specialist. It’s probably going to depend on the severity of your condition.
I want you to think about your marketing challenges the same way you would think about your health challenges. If you were really sick, it’s highly unlikely you’d rely on the internet for advice. It’s highly unlikely you’d pick the cheapest doctor and it’s highly unlikely you’d pick a doctor with packages on their website, right? Does your business deserve anything less? Isn’t your business at least moderately sick if you can’t generate enough leads to grow?
When you’re not sure what to do and you’re looking for guidance, here are some of the places where guidance exists, along with the pluses and minuses associated with these resources.
Blogs, Articles, Videos Or Podcasts With Marketing Advice
I’m going to guess that 10,000-plus marketing blogs exist on the internet. Every agency has one and every self-proclaimed expert also has one. For me, this is like the WebMD of marketing advice. There are some good blogs and some really bad blogs. What makes this challenging is it’s hard to know what’s factual and what’s someone’s opinion.
Like diagnosing your own condition via WebMD, it’s hard to know because you’re not a doctor. None of the blog articles are written about your specific situation. What we learned early on is that every client, every industry and every inbound program performs differently. While best practices do exist, rarely do they apply universally to all clients. This makes getting your advice from blogs challenging.
Most of these articles are usually between 800 and 2,000 words, so they tend to be superficial and not very specific. I’d suggest using resources like these to guide your decision-making but not to dictate what you do.
Tool Providers And The People Who Work For Them
Another set of resources is the people who provide tools to support marketing and the tactics within inbound. Sticking with our medical metaphor, think about them like the pharmaceutical companies. What is their major motivation? It’s to sell their medications.
Companies like HubSpot, Marketo, Moz, Adobe, Engagio, Salesforce.com, Optimizely, MailChimp, Velocity and SharpSpring (just to name a handful from the list of hundreds) all have their own agendas. They’re trying to get you to buy their products, so while their information might be interesting and even helpful, it’s important to keep their information in context to their mission and goals.
All of these companies have very active blogs stockpiled with helpful information and supported by some of the brightest minds in the field.
But once you start talking to the other people who work for these firms (the salespeople, the consultants, the “experts” available to help you), you should look below the surface. Questions you’ll want to ask include: How long have you been with the company? How long have you been practicing marketing? What other companies have you worked for? Where did you learn what you’re suggesting to me? How old are you? In most cases, the people you’re working with are young, inexperienced or singularly experienced with one specific tool, type of marketing or company.
Again, I’m not suggesting this is bad, just that you understand the context of the advice. Reverting to our medical analogy, how would you feel if you received advice from a doctor who just graduated and is practicing in her second year? I’m sure you’d feel different after you received advice from a doctor who has been practicing for 10 years as opposed to just one or two. Or what about medical advice from someone who only knows about one medication instead of all the possible treatment options? See where I’m going with this?
Inbound Marketing Agencies
Just like doctors, there are thousands of inbound agencies. They are not created equal. Some have been doing this for months, while others have been practicing inbound for over 10 years. Some are staffed with interns, others with people one or two years out of college and then others with seasoned marketers. Some agencies simply practice inbound and nothing else. Other agencies offer a wider set of skills and expertise. Some agencies look great on the outside but have only done a handful of inbound engagements, while others have done hundreds of engagements.
Do you want a doctor who is learning at your expense, or do you want one who has the experience to know how to handle any potential situation during your operation or treatment? This has a lot to do with your investment, too. Inbound marketing agencies that are still learning are often hesitant to charge what it takes to do the work well and what they’re worth. They don’t have a lot of opportunities, so they want to score the ones they do get, lowering their prices to win the business. Would you hire the cheapest doctor to do your surgery? I wouldn’t.
When you’re evaluating inbound agencies, look at investment levels, but don’t pick the agency based on which is the cheapest or which is going to give you the most stuff. You should know enough about the team members who will be working with your company to trust that they have the experience and knowledge to get you to your goals. That is the most important factor. Which agency is going to give you the best chance to recover? Which agency is going to give you the best chance to generate the leads you need to grow?
These events are a great way to get a lot of information from a lot of different sources in a short amount of time. However, most of this information is even higher level than the blog articles you read, and it can be hit or miss. You attend a session that sounded great on paper, but in reality it’s pretty basic and not enlightening. You leave and try to find another session, but instead you have to wait for the next series of sessions to start.
A lot of these conferences have major entertainment components. That’s great for the fun factor, but if your business needs help, you might be serious about investing in treatment options as opposed to watching comedians or musicians.
To mitigate this risk a little bit, look for conferences that bring in practitioners, people who have lots of experience delivering and not just lots of experience speaking. Professional speakers are great at “edutaining” you (entertaining and educating), but if you really want to get better and heal your business, look for conferences, sessions and speakers with the practical knowledge and experience to give you real-life answers to your real-life questions.
Put all the information you get at conferences in context, too. If you went to a medical convention and learned about treatment options for your condition, you’d come back and discuss it with your trusted medical professional. Together you would collaborate, discuss and co-create a recommended course of treatment. The same relationship needs to be formed at your company. Conferences are wonderful, but you need to bring back the information and discuss it with your trusted marketing advisor to see how the new information can be applied at your company.
Your Trusted Advisors
Speaking of trusted advisors, you need one. But you need to proceed with caution here. Marketing is not medicine, law or accounting. Everyone thinks they’re a marketing expert. You probably have a handful of marketing experts in your family or circle of friends.
That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean a proven, battle-hardened practitioner. Not someone who reads magazines and says they’re a print expert. Not someone who watches TV and says they know how to produce a commercial. Not someone who reads inbound blog articles and says they know how to do inbound marketing.
Do your best to treat marketing expertise the way you treat medical expertise. Because everyone says they’re a marketing expert, it’s going to be challenging to wade through the bull to find the key information. People are going to be pushing and pulling at you with different opinions. One person will push you out of your comfort zone with something innovative and new. Then someone else will come along and push you back into your comfort zone with something you’ve already done but could do differently. Which way should you go? It can be very confusing.
My recommendation is to use a few filters to limit the distractions and focus on the solid advice. Do you respect this person? Does this person have the background, credentials and experience for you to respect and consider what they say? If yes, then there might be some value in their comments. Does this person have the track record to support their position? Is this person a practitioner or simply someone who talks about marketing? Ask about whether their ideas are coming from practical experience or simply theories. This is a good filter for separating the posers from the actual experts.
Actual Experts With Actual Experience
If you think you have an actual expert, here are a few ways to be sure. Does this person ask a lot of questions? Experts know that every situation is a little different, and asking questions is a way to provide insights as opposed to just opinions.
Experts also like to think about their advice and guidance before they give it. They might want to go away and discuss it, talk to colleagues or do some additional research. Sticking with our medical analogy, would you feel good if your doctor gave you a diagnosis without asking you any questions, taking any tests or talking about your situation with anyone else? No way, right?
An expert should be intimate with your business, should ask a lot of questions, should do outside research on your behalf, should consult with other experts and then bring you thoughtful, insightful and personal recommendations that make sense to you, can be applied by your company and have a track record of producing results in similar circumstances.
If your expert isn’t working like that, you might be working with a good salesperson as opposed to a true expert.
Our world is filled with information from so many different sources that it’s difficult to always know what’s right, what’s true and what’s going to produce the desired results at your company. But it’s not as hard to keep in mind the context of the information, the source of the information and then do some investigative work on your end to make sure the information is valid, true and going to be constructive in your situation.
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