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Unfair and Unbalanced

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Can Inbound Marketing Work for Public Relations?


In late August, I attended a three day "Inbound Marketing" conference in Boston hosted by a rapidly exloding Cambridge upstart called Hubspot. I admit I didn't realy know anything about the concept of Inbound Marketing and was really being dragged there by my brother who seemed hot on the idea. Expecting maybe a couple of hundred people like him would show up at the Hynes Auditorium, I was a bit stunned to find more than 3,000 excited people extolling the virtues of this new high-tech marketing trend. At the opening ceremonies (which featured a live musical performance from Cindy Lauper) the Hub spot hosts said this year marked the third annual Inbound Marketing convention. The first,in 2010 brought about 400 people. Last year, a little more than 1,000 showed up and this year...well, clearly this was something I should probably try to figure out.

inbound marketing, cindy lauper, strategic communications

As best I could gather Inbound Marketing is a post-Internet strategy for getting found by customers as opposed to finding customers (outbound marketing). Traditional methods of advertising, billboards, newspapers, and other megaphone and interruption-style tactics of corralling clients, have given way to someting called "selective consumption," in which the Internet and all its various social media tools are utilized at top efficiency to get customers to find you. Hubspot essentially sells software to make it easy to climb the ranks of Internet search engines, generate inbound links, and drive web traffic in ways that build new leads and contacts that can be converted into customers. Even Cindy said she was an Inbound Marketing strategiet.

Okay. it sounds simple enough and the thousands in attendance at the three-day seminar certainly were enthusiastic about its effectiveness as speaker after speaker talked about how it drove new business and led to huge explosions in revenue and employment growth. 

And yet, the testimonials all seemed to come from high-tech firms, marketing companies whose main function is to build customer lists, and other product and service firms who praised the concept with increasing levels of misty-eyed rose-colored success stories. It didn't seem to me that Inbound Marketing would work for a classic PR firm because, well, PR by its nature is outbound in its approach. I couldn't readily comprehend how Inbound Marketing could work for a PR firm like mine that sells crisis communication services, media and content management and strategic communications planning, among other things.

Then I ran into another Hubspot evangelist who was also joyously celebrating the power of Inbound Marketing and attributing his huge jump in sales to Hubspot. Thinking he was another high-tech geek I asked him what he did and I was a bit flummoxed when he said "I sell anti toenail-fungus cream." He wasn't kidding. And my first thought was that if this new marketing strategy can work for toenail fungus cures it can certainly work for PR. But I figured it would take some serious immersion, study and goundwork to convert the Hubspot methodology to my business. 

Turns out that wasn't necessary. Because later I met up with David Meerman Scott, the author of a book called "The New Rules of Marketing and PR," who has already laid out the secrets of Inbound Marketing for PR companies and claims an amazing success rate.

"The lines between PR and marketing have blurred to become unrecognizable," he said. "It's time for a new type of agency, one built to take advantage of the communications revolution, one that helps companies get in front of buyers when they are ready and eager to engage."

Okay, after listening to him and others, I was sold. Now, I'm an Inbound Marketing Ninja and am in the process of overlaying the Hubspot concept on to DBMediaStrategies. Will it work? I can't tell you that. Talk to me in three to six months. Better yet, subcribe to this blog and I'll keep you updated on the progress as we add and incorporate the Inbound Marketing strategies. 


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