Transforming Marketing with Inbound – InboundCon

In his keynote presentation at InboundCon, Dev Basu (CEO of Powered by Search) shares about how we can make marketing more lovable by joining the inbound movement.

Video Transcription

Dev BasuDev Basu: Great. So, thank you so much, guys, for being here this morning. Your generosity is incredible for giving us the time on your Saturday and coming down and talking about Inbound. So my name is Dev Basu. I’m the president of Powered by Search. I’m a passionate inbound marketer, have been for the last eight years. That’s about when this movement of inbound marketing really got started. So today I’m going to be talking about transforming marketing.

So quick show of hands over here, how many of you consider yourselves to be a marketer. Keep your hands up if you still think that marketing is a great profession to be in. I believe it. I think it’s a great profession because I believe that if every day I work in it, I’m trying to change it. I’m trying to make it better, not just for ourselves, but for our customers and our customers customers. So that’s what really inbound is about. And what I’ll be talking about today is how do we make inbound marketing marketing that is more lovable, essentially. That’s not a word that you often hear thrown around in the board room.

How do we make marketing more lovable? No, we hear more on stuff about how do we get more leads. How do reduce cost per lead. How do we get more opportunities. Right? How do we make sure that our average program is properly connected to our sales force CRM system? Right? How do we make that dashboard work? But do we care about our customers? We’ll find out.

So bear with me while I’m making some changes here. So, inbound marketing is no more just an idea. It is now a movement. It is not just an idea, it’s evolved into a philosophy that is now being adopted. The fact that you’re here on a Saturday morning, you’ve dedicated your sort of weekend to us, is proof of that. Just like you, there are hundreds and thousands of other marketers who are discovering it and going wow, this makes sense. Why didn’t I market this way from the start?

If you really think about it, marketing has evolved in so many different ways, it’s now so much more trackable, that at some point, we all kind of lost our way. We said let’s treat our customers as numbers. Let’s substitute tools for passion and care, and let’s start creating campaigns that are short term, that generate results quick, that kind of get in and get out and we can just kind of move on. Move on to the next campaign, get more leads, and start up again that entire funnel. But now inbound marketing is really a movement, because we are finally reconnecting, we are rediscovering ourselves as marketers, and going there is a better way.

So. I might stand over here. So 109 marketers on a Saturday morning, you’re here to make inbound marketing and marketing in general remarkable. And I thank you for that. So sadly, most marketing is still broken. So a show of hands if anybody here has done telemarketing before. That was me back in 2005. One of my first jobs was in telemarketing. I lasted about a week and a half, was disgusted with myself, and I walked out. And sometimes you have to sort of know the dark side to sort of know what’s better out there, to really transform towards the light. I’m a big Star Wars fan, guys.

But sadly, marketing is still broken, and it’s amazing. And as inbound marketers, the conversations that I have every single day, often with clients, and I find that there’s still so much spend, so much attention, so many conversations happening about the wrong things. But the goals are the same. We want to grow our businesses. We want to make our clients happier. As agencies, we want to be better at what we do and be at that cutting edge, for example. Or if you’re in house, you might be the voice of change, but you end up having red tape, and you can’t change because the C suite, for example, is looking for the same things. They’re looking for, again, campaigns, leads, CPO, reduced CPO, increased leads, for example. Make better use of budget. Don’t let a funnel, construct the right type of funnel, basically. Those are still the metrics that we talk about, and so marketing is still broken.

Why is it broken? Well, we piss off our brand advocates in so many different ways. Telemarketing. We call them while they’re having dinner. The worst experience that I had in 2005 was I called somebody during dinner, and he said that, it was an old man, by the way, and he said, “Why did you call me during dinner? My wife’s just got back from the hospital. She’s just come back from a cancer admission. This is the first dinner that I’m having with her.” It was near Thanksgiving too.

I could not live with myself that particular day. I said why am I doing this for 14 bucks an hour? This is crazy. I should not be bothering people in their time when they’re enjoying that time with their family. Is really what I’m marketing, windows and doors, by the way, back then. It was not at all a useful things for me to do, and I kind of woke up and I said I can’t do this anymore, and I’m going to make it my life’s mission as a marketer to make sure that when people do marketing, it doesn’t matter if its off line or on line for example, it has to be real. It has provide value.

We hammer our customers, and even if they’re not our customers, we buy lists, for example, and hammer them with unsolicited email. Who cares if your open rates are low. Let’s just buy another list. Emails are easy, because trust me, that’s send button is really really easy. Who cares if you don’t know a first name? You just go hi there. Hello. 40 percent off. Only until tonight. We clog mailboxes with flyers. How many of you actually keep flyers when you get them every single week? I don’t. I have muscle memory now. Open the mailbox. Take out. Trash. And it’s one hand. I just go bunch, boom. The only thing I look out for is letters, but even then, most of them are bills anyways.

If you think about it, 12 years ago, the difference in customer love was if you got an email from a company, you got kind of excited. Wow. They care about me, right? Now, it’s different because you sign up for something like an aweber or a mail chimp account, for example, we get excited when somebody from the customer support team writes back to us with a little handwritten note and a smiley face. Or a heart on it for example.

So how times have changed. In a world where we’re so interconnected, for example, what we strive for is real connection with another person. That’s really what inbound marketing is about because at the end of the day, we don’t want to  be treated like a number. We shouldn’t be treating our customers like numbers. We clog up their mailboxes. We interrupt their daily commercials. Why? Because we work for big companies or we own big companies, and because we can. It’s possible. We have to use that money, that marketing budget somewhere, and so what we do is we interrupt their day.

We get them between us and the content they actually want to look at or view or consume, for example, and instead we do commercials. And now it’s pervasive because it’s not just on TV. I mean, I’ve been reading so many magazine articles or articles on the web, about how DVR’s, for example, your Rogers Nextbox is the great enemy of TV commercials. Well now it’s on the web. How many of you can actually go look at a Youtube video. I would say probably every one and two YouTube videos now has an ad associated with it. And that’s annoying.

The founders of Youtube, when they built it, did not build it with the idea that it would become an advertising platform. They built it because they wanted to build the best possible video sharing platform in the world. And it’s grown to be that, but now it’s getting, again, more and more saturated, again, with advertising. The advertisers who are actually going through and doing that are doing it because they can. Because you can’t block out YouTube ads yet. There is no Rogers Nextbox. There is no DVR that can actually do that.

But this is a cycle if you actually think about it. Banner ads, for example, back in 1998 or 1999, people actually liked clicking on banner ads. I’d actually go I want to see the landing page. I don’t know what this is about, and would click on it. Now, banner ads, dismal. Dismal in terms of the actual return they have. Instead, as agencies, we sell them for what? Branding. Never for acquisition. And so what we talk about is the millions and millions of impressions that we’re getting,  full well knowing that they’re not engaged. That people who are looking at these ads are really not engaged.

We build websites to trick people into getting more page views so we can buy higher CPMS, for example. So if you’ve been to any media publishing cite so you’ve seen one of those 20 facts about whatever, and it’s one of those, the slide shows, that you have to click next and next and next to be able to actually see the content. Well why do you think advertisers do that or the publisher does it? It’s because they can get more page views. More page views equals more money. More CPM equals higher rates. Wow. How did we get to this? Why are we this type of world?

We steal their attention while they’re driving. I’m talking about billboards over here. I can’t remember a single billboard where I actually remember the actual phone number. And it’s usually personal injury lawyers, or somebody else, for example, on a billboard. Hurt in a car? Call William Matar. Anybody remember that ad? And it’s even an injury lawyer from here.This guy’s in upstate New York. And I go about this and go would I rather focus on the road or do I care about your billboard. Why are you interrupting my day when I’m doing something really important. I could have my family, my baby in the car, for example. I don’t want to be distracted by a billboard no matter how great it looks.

We divert their gaze while browsing the web. We do so by having flashy banner ads, for example. Popups. Now we’re smart, as marketers. I think marketers, in general, have always been a little sneaky, a little smart, sometimes using their power for good, sometimes for evil. What we invented was the pop over, because they invented popup blockers. So it’s always this fight against what consumers want, and then you have a couple of good people, developers and that type of thing, who go I can do this for the consumer. I can build an ad blocker, okay?

So that Facebook and Google and basically all of that stuff is ad free. But then somebody goes let’s go build a pop over, it’s not going to be a pop up blocker. It’s going to take them years to figure out how to get rid of that. Well we did that. And then we pressure them into the hard sell, which is exactly that 40 percent off until tonight, for example. And we’ve figured out ways to be sneaky even with that. We figured out ways to automate it to make it seem like there’s the hard sell, or there’s scarcity or there’s limitations, for example. Or while supplies last, for example.

We put that in our ads. We put that on our landing pages, for example. We imply that you can actually get away with, have you ever been to one of those landing pages while you’re on the landing page, for example, it says there’s 20 of this left, and then as you’re on the landing page it’s counting down and it keeps going 19, 18, 12. It’s crazy. But we do that because we know it works and it’s going to work on that one sucker who goes got to buy it now, otherwise I won’t get it. And then we mislead them with deceptive advertising.

Does anybody remember sort of 2008, 2009, when acai berry was all the rage, for example. And you had all these websites who were basically saying they were endorsed by Dr. Phil and Oprah, and they were on CNN and Fox, and they basically, just for those of you who might not have heard of this, they were talking about a specific type of berry, kind of like a gogi berry, for example, and if you drank this miracle mix for example, you would just shed off the pounds. No need to exercise, right? And there was a huge huge amount of revenue that these companies generated. They gave away free trials, only shipping and handling. But in the fine print, for example, you would get billed 69.99 every single month. And they put a hold on you credit card for the first six months worth of it. Terrible. That’s not marketing. That’s deceptive. Is this what marketing has really become?

So this sh** drives the brand’s most powerful advocates away, and they turn them into protesters. Now, we’ve seen this. We’ve seen this with some of the biggest brands, because now the power is within the customer’s hands. Your customers and your client’s customers, right now, are more empowered than they ever were before. They know more about you. They know who works in your marketing team, for example. They know how to look for reviews about your product.

They have the power, the influence, and the reach to be able to be one voice and make it heard just by making your client’s or your company’s Twitter handle and saying “You suck. You suck because you lost my luggage. You suck because you charged me more on my bill,” for example, “and I’m going to make a noise about it. I will use the right hashtags, and I will call out consumer action groups. And I will look at influencers and journalists who will write about my story.” It’s a lot easier than calling up W5 news and saying “Do you guys want to do an expose?” It does not take that amount of time. It does not take that amount of evidence. All you need to do is be an irate customer, and now the entire conversation, the power, has really shifted back into the hands of the customer. And marketers frustrated.

They go, well, yeah, I know people are talking about us. I don’t know how much of it is good or bad. I’m not sure I want to know. But lets go buy Sysomos or Radian6, because they’ll gives us another dashboard that’ll tell us. Are 40 percent of our audience detractors? Then let’s go in and find those guys and do something like reach out to them and give them a couple of gifts or freebies so they change their opinion or change that article that they published about us on the web. And so this is what’s happening right now.

Marketing, honestly, sucks. Now outbound marketing also creates negative returns. Outbound marketing is everything that I just described right now, and unfortunately it controls about 80 percent of all marketing budgets. TV ads, telemarketing, billboards, Yellow Pages, flyers, for example, direct mail. Anything that is unsolicited that actually interrupts your day, when you’re not looking as a consumer, right here, you look for products and services every single day. If you are not looking for something, and your day gets interrupted, that’s outbound. Now how can outbound marketing have negative returns?

Now let’s say you took a full page ad out in the Star. It might cost you somewhere between 10 and 20,000 dollars. Maybe you don’t get a single sale out of that particular ad. Maybe it was a billboard that you invested in. Maybe it was a telemarketing campaign. Maybe what you did was candid, you went to candid a post and said let me buy a list for this entire area and the annex, for example. And let me send out a direct mail.

Now that might be $20,000 down the drain, but how can it possibly create negative returns? It creates negative returns if you piss off the people who got that mail. Because even if they weren’t a buyer today, they could have been a buyer tomorrow. Or they could have influenced somebody who chose to do business with you. And that’s how outbound marketing can have negative returns.

So marketing needs to be a more noble profession. And I use that word noble very, very truly, because at my core, I feel like there’s things that we do every day in and out as marketers where at some point we go that wasn’t very noble. I pressed that send button when I shouldn’t have. I bought that list when I shouldn’t have, for example. But who cares, because when the month turns over and my report’s done, I can just go at it again, and switch up tactics or switch up channels or switch up spend, for example.

I truly believe that marketing needs to be a more noble profession. How can we get there? So how do we do this? There is a better way. I believe that way is the inbound way. What is the inbound way? It’s not this. It’s not campaigns. We need to stop thinking about our customers as campaigns. This is a typical funnel, right? Get more traffic at the top end. Get some leads. Spend the f*** out of them, and then get the customers that come out of the other channel.

This is not my graphic. It’s from Ben Chestnut from Mail Chimp, the CEO. This particular company is probably one of the most successful email marketing companies in the world. And they love their customers. They’re so, so successful. They’ve got triple digit, million dollar revenues every single year. I don’t know, they don’t actually publish that, because everyone would make a big ho hum sort of statement around it. But this is a post that he wrote called I hate funnels. And it’s relatively recent. It’s about a week old, actually. And I read it and I said, I still talk to my clients about funnels because it helps them understand how people on the web behave. Drive more people to the top, and treat them right on your website, have great user experience, for example. Out the bottom end comes leads.

But this entire way of thinking is broken, and why is it broken? Because we think of it as campaigns. And the campaign for August or September finishes, and a new campaign for October launches, for example. So what we’re doing is not living a virtuous circle. We’re just basically going back in that same sh** storm of going through and having the pressure of generating more at the top end and trying to squeeze out more at the bottom. Dollars. Customers, you love. And I love how he put a dollar sign next to customers, because it’s interchangeable, right? You’re not really in it for the people. You’re in it for what’s in their wallets. And we need to stop this. I really think we need to stop thinking of things as campaigns.

So what is inbound marketing? Inbound marketing is about creating value before you extract it. Value can be created in so many different ways. You’re creating value right now, today, for the people that you work with on a day in and day out basis, by giving us the generosity of your Saturday and hearing me out over here, so that as well as many of the other speakers we have coming up today.

So that’s the core concept. It’s not digital. It’s not content. It’s not blogs. It’s not white papers. It’s about creating value before you extract it. Value can be created in so many different ways. So deliver value by how we can empower your customers. Empower them before they can even become your customers. That’s what inbound is about. So again, this is, again, Ben Chestnut over here, he’s saying love your customers, they’ll lead you to their friends. Friends will give you some loving too, even if they don’t buy from you. Some will try you out. Some don’t. That’s life.

If you really think about it, get out of the marketing context for just a second, that’s life. You meet a couple of people. Some like you. Some you identify with. Some you don’t, right? We associate with our peers. That’s why our friend groups basically resemble us. We trust those people for things that we buy or use and track with in everything life. When I chose to listen to a radio station online on 8tracks, for example, and I share that with my friends on Facebook, the ones who actually are in to the same type of music as I am are the ones who adopt it. And then they share it again.

Wow. That seemed natural to me. I didn’t expect the guy who likes hiphop to like house music, okay. I’m okay with that. I’m still cool with that person. He doesn’t need to like hiphop music or house music, depending on what I like. The same thing goes on over here. Not everybody will be a buyer or a customer for you, but they have a chance, or the influence to actually have change.

They can inspire somebody else to say this wasn’t for me, but it might be for you. And in an agency environment, we do this every single day where we say hey, you know what, we use a whole bunch of software or tools, or these many different partners that we actually work with. And we know it comes down to fit. The truth over here is that you have to make sure that you love your customers no matter what. And if you do a good job of that, they’re going to tell a few people. Those people are going to tell other people. And then some of them will try you out and some of them will not.

As inbound marketers, this process is happening anyways. We call this word of mouth. Word of mouth has existed for who knows how long, right? But what we can do is make this process more efficient, so that it becomes easier for people to spread the word when you’re doing good work. But the first tenet is do good work, before they can spread the message, right? Because if you don’t do good work, you don’t treat your customers right, then they will spread the message in a more malevolent type of way.

So the other part is how do we find success in inbound marketing? Is it the number of blog posts we churn out? Is it how we can have personalization on our websites. Is it the reporting we create? The truth is, success is defined based on making the people who rely on you look brilliant. So in an agency environment, that means making your clients look brilliant. If you’re selling a product, make sure that people are buying your product because it makes their lives easier.

If you’re selling a service, for example, do it so it actually saves somebody else time. In this situation, for example, where that somebody else, your client for example, values your opinion and expertise. Do you ever have that feeling when you do a really good job and somebody sends you an email saying, “man, you really saved my a** on this one.” You know, or this is amazing. That’s what inbound marketing is about. It’s making those who rely on you look brilliant.

So what if we’re doing this already? I can guarantee you, and hopefully that this is not true for this group, but for most groups that I speak to, 10 percent of people in the audience actually take any action on whatever I say, because you won’t remember 50 percent of what I said by Sunday night. I hope you do. But 10 percent of people actually take any sort of action on what I say. And most go this great, I’ll try this next year, I’ll put a little line item in for 2014 budget, for example.

What if you’re actually doing it right right now? Have you had a look at last year’s year over year report on your ROI? Are those email marketing campaigns working quite as well as they used to? Are your returns on direct mail quite the same. Is the adoption going down or the cost going up and the leads getting sh***ier. Because that’s what I’m seeing with all of our clients, for example, and they’re offline, or they’re other outbound marketing spend. And that leads to frustration.

So how can I create value before I extract it? I’ve come up with a couple of ways. And I call this the inbound marketers credo. Be honest. Be helpful. Give away the farm, and be memorable. So be honest means do not mislead customers, for example. Be honest about who you are, what size you’re at, what your product does, what the limitations are. Be helpful. Make people make the decisions that they need to make before they use your services and products or your clients services and products.

Give away the farm. We’ve been holding back stuff for too long behind things like pay walls for example, or basically witholding our knowledge. Give away the farm because that is the best possible way in an online world where people are on your website or on your online properties 24/7 for example. You can’t patrol when they come and consume your content, but what you can do is control what content you put out there. And then finally, be memorable. Nobody likes reading stuff or consuming stuff that is boring.

Four more. Build the best user experience you possibly can. I cannot stress this enough. Do not skimp out on design or usability, because that is a core user experience that builds what a customer will experience on your sight. It’s not just how it looks, it’s how it works as well. Make something that people love in a sense that don’t just make your products dry or your services dry. Make sure that there’s some interactivity. There’s some spontaneity with it. Ultimately, I think Apple gets this right every single time. They make their products fun and lovable to use.

Keep your promises and then some. So when you say something like on a landing page our reps will give you a call back within one hour, they better call back within one hour. Or make it even better. Do things like what Zappos does, for example. You buy something with regular shipping, they’ll actually send it to you same day at no extra cost. It’s that extra surprise that people crave. The fact that somebody else cares about you and you’re not just a transaction or customer number. And the last thing is be personal.

So who’s transforming inbound marketing, or just marketing, alone? Who do you think? We are. Thank you. So yes, so, inbound marketing, overall, is actually pretty large topic to get into and we spend a lot of time with students. I’m a professor at Seneca College. I’m actually teaching a course right now on social media insertion and strategies.

One of the things that really helps is reading the right material, because there’s a lot of hearsay on line, and there’s only a few good good players, basically, who tell it like it is. But what I find that helps me for example, get better at it every day is reading the right books. So we’ve got five books over here that I’d like to give out. The first one, I don’t know how the best way of really doing this is.

Alex Rascanu: Whoever is eager enough to come to the front.

Dev Basu: Whoever’s eager enough to come to the front. So the first one’s called “The Innovators Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business”, by Clayton Christiansen. Who’d like a copy of this one? Come on up?

Alex Rascanu: Whoever gets to the front first.

Dev Basu: Here you go. Cheers. The next one’s called “Blue Ocean Strategy”. I love this book because Blue Ocean Strategy is about not fighting over the same markets, for example, that your competitors are bloodying up waters around. It’s not about bidding more or getting better search engine results, or creating more content just because your competitors are. It’s about creating new markets. So I saw a whole bunch of hands. Whoever comes up here first.

I’ve got two of the next one, again, one of my favorite books. It’s called “Rework”, and it’s all about how to really make the time that you spend at work the most productive possible so that you’re happiest as well. How many of you spend about 50 percent of your week in meetings? Show of hands? I hate meetings. And this book will tell you how to get out of meetings and still be quite as productive if not more productive. “Rework”. Get up. There you go.

And the finally, the last one is the newest book. I just got back from the MozCon Conference in July in Seattle. And it’s a book by a bunch of guys. Brian Fishkin from Mas, as well as a bunch of other people who have written chapters on this. “Inbound Marketing and SEO”. There you go. I think these guys, the keeners had some advantages over here, right? Right on? Well again guys, thank you for your time, and enjoy the rest of your day.

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