Recently I’ve begun to use the analogy of setting a table when discussing the process of inbound marketing.

Too many businesses in the digital realm default to tablecloths, doilies and pretty placeholders like candles, ambiance and a 5-course meal.

But where’s the table? Chairs? How about water and napkins? Are you handing them a bill the first time you have them over for dinner?

The essentials of software and technology-driven infrastructure/resources are imperative for the success of any Internet marketing campaign.

Forget the China and doilies.

Your people (end-users, consumers, customers, clients, partners or vendors) care less about pleasantries than your ability to provide silverware with their meal.

Photo courtesy of ThisNext.com

For example, your 66th website is superfluous at best without analytics and testing:

  • SEO
  • Lead-nurturing campaigns
  • Landing pages
  • Calls to action
  • CRM and CMS integration
  • RSS feeds
  • Mobile, tablet optimized
  • Use of video, live streaming or post-production
  • Prominently placed Search bar
  • Navigation: easy for visitors to find what they want

The same goes for inbound pieces: publishing original content via websites or blogs (owned domains) or repurposing and sharing through social networks, albeit within the parameters of the network’s setup.

Stellar content (print or digital) doesn’t matter if your copy has nowhere to go (shareyoursandcastles).

Metrics platforms like FollowerWonk, tweepi, Klout, PeerIndexorconnect.me make it easier to understand your social networks, and to analyze key audiences’ presence on the Web. Blogs, bit.ly and buffer app also help with scheduling and analyzing content performance, across publics and channels.

Whether you use these tools heavily because you’re a dork, and have too much time on your hands, or passively to truly understand yourself, business and audience — err on the side of caution when implementing new applications for business.

Apps are means to an end, not The End. Calculated risks are important whenever considering the reallocation of time, energy and resources needed to adopt new product or service models. Always make sure new providers integrate with the current systems you use to avoid loss of intelligence or duplicate information.

At the end of the day, the name of the game for inbound marketing is that we can measure everything. HubSpot’s integrated CMS software enables businesses and clients to frequently and consistently monitor and adjust key performance indicators:

  1. Quantity and quality of website traffic
  2. Lead-producing keywords
  3. Sale-converting keywords
  4. Traffic-producing keywords
  5. Blog subscribers
  6. Content downloads
  7. Guest blogging opportunities
  8. Inbound links
  9. Inbound media inquiries

10. Inbound job candidate inquiries

11. Social media reach

12. Quantity/quality of social media traffic

13. Customer retention rates

14. Referral volume

To deny the reality that social platforms on the Web provide us with unprecedented opportunity would be the same as denying the potential of entrepreneurial spirit.

Brian Halligan – HubSpot Inbound Marketing Vision

PR and social media help to optimize, distribute and promote content, but content that converts into long-term sales or customers begins with asking the right questions of yourself, your people and business:

  1. Who is our audience? Begin with target buyer personas, stakeholders and all relevant publics
  2. What do they need? From service/project work, consulting, training and education or full-blown campaigns, understand consumer paint points and the challenges they face. Don’t be afraid to move with the market — it won’t wait. Real-time communication is alive and well, and it’s only just begun.
  3. When do they need it? Timelines, milestones, deadlines and scheduling are crucial pieces for achieving results across communication channels
  4. Why should they choose us over anyone else? What unique talent, values and culture do customers seek? Are we willing and able to exceed these expectations?
  5. Where do they hang out and receive information? Are they active on social networks, and if so, which ones? Do they Google, Yahoo! or bing things? What does their presence online say about their values and personality?
  6. How do they receive information? Email marketing, video, ebooks, blogs, whitepapers, newsletters, print, ads?

Atomizeyourcontent, as Jay Baer likes to say. Winning businesses get what so many miss: It is not enough to know yourself. That’s expected.

You must know your people, and their business. That consciousness must permeate each piece of content and communication, across every touchpoint others have with your brand.

Our partner, HubSpot exemplifies this mantra. So do Starbucks, Zappos and Amazon. These companies dominate and delight their sectors, because their people and culture are their greatest asset (7 StartupSinstoAvoid, Ben Parr on CNET)

HubSpot Chair Dance – One Take >>

“Hire good people, and leave them alone” – William McKnight, 3M chairman of the board

The value of inbound marketing is that its model provides brand advocates, champions and evangelists with the tools and processes necessary to better meet the needs of their publics.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1 When all tools, systems and processes are equal; it is relationships that make your business rewarding and enriching

2 Prepare for and embrace perpetual change, in business and life. Focus on being the best at a few things, rather than lackluster at everything

3 Inbound Marketing captures leads, captivates with content, communicates with PR and social media and converts leads into sales, sales into customers