Taylor Swift is not an inbound marketerThe big news in the music industry this week was the divorce of Taylor Swift and Spotify. In one fell swoop, Swift pulled her music from the paid streaming service. Old albums and new yanked from the cyber waves and from her audience’s online playlists. Her reason behind this? Push her audience to buy her albums rather than streaming them for free.

We all want to get paid for our hard work. To quote Kevin Costner, “Nothing is free in Waterworld.” But where she takes a stand in increasing album sales, she turns her back on her audience. Core to inbound marketing is the connection with your audience. A connection made by sharing content and building trust, a trust Taylor Swift is arguably risking. Here are a few things Taylor Swift doesn’t know about inbound marketing. A focus on buyer personas and content strategy may have kept her relationship with both Spotify and her audience intact.

Do your Buyer Persona Research

Your buyer personas are the heart of your marketing. They are in the content you write and the updates you share on social. 25% of Spotify listeners have streamed her songs with a total of of 20 million playlists containing one. Her audience ranges from the closeted fan (like myself) to the avid listener who will beat the Swift drum (my coworker, Jennifer). We all love listening through our day with the rental system Spotify offers, akin to Netflix. I don’t buy albums. If I can’t get it on Spotify I move on to another artist (why hello, Katy Perry). Am I alone? Likely not. Music lovers don’t want the commitment of an album and being forced to buy one alienates a large audience.

Gate Some of Your Content

Everything doesn’t have to be free. It’s ok to get paid for what you do. In fact, you should! I’m happy to share advice with tips and tricks in my blog posts. But guess what, if I sit down to write an e-book you better bet it’s going to require an email address to read it. It’s all part of your strategy and mapping out the buyers journey to content, getting those viewers down the funnel. Rather than cutting everyone off at the knees by pulling what was already free, build momentum with ungated content. Drive people to your offer through your helpful free content. Think Beyonce and her new album. It came out as a paid release on iTunes- start with free and end with paid.

Loyal Fans Will Be Your Best Advocate

Building up customer loyalty through trust is vital not only to the success of your marketing, but the success of your business. It takes time, consistency, and the right message to build the relationship with your audience and establish that trust. By sharing helpful content with your audience you are giving them fuel to love you. Not only will they be interested in buying what you have to sell, they will also tell their friends to shop with you too. In rocking the boat, Taylor Swift is causing a potential upset of this loyal fan base. Fans so used to listening to Speak Now while polishing up their October marketing report (oh wait, that’s me). Pull the plug and now I’m not sure what to think (and neither does her captive audience).

But what about when everything is free… and forced? U2 jammed everyone’s iTunes with their free album. What a great idea- free and at your fingertips without even asking. It backfired. While Swift took it all away, U2 essentially spammed everyone with an iTunes account. Talk about alienating millions of listeners. There’s a fine line folks. One the one hand you don’t want to gate everything. How is your audience going to build that trusted relationship and grow your following if they have to pay to play? Focus on your buyer personas and stay true to the core of inbound marketing. Provide helpful content to your audience and build your brand through trust. Share your content, gate what’s important, and build an audience of faithful promoters.

But, who am I to tell a star how to run her marketing. Instead, she could have taken a few tips from Brian Halligan and the Greatful Dead, who didn’t make any money on albums but mega money on touring.

But (sigh), maybe we are never getting back together?