Inbound marketing focuses on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value to their buying decision whatever stage they are at. With inbound marketing, potential customers find businesses through various digital marketing channels such as blogs, search engines, and social media. It is all about generating leads by creating compelling content that develops trust in your business.
When I first started out as a marketer over twenty years ago it was all about finding customers by smashing them with messages, disrupting their lives and being all about us as marketers. The landscape has changed and I have to admit, I much prefer working in this new technology environment. Buyers are now in control, as they use technology which is at their fingertips for instant information gratification. They are well-informed and are empowered as consumers. As marketers we need to evolve with this new behaviour and provide relevant, educational, informative content which will help to influence buying decisions.
An inbound marketing business will build relationships and have conversations with their audiences (yes even two-way conversations, not just one-way as was previously the case for traditional marketing) and give them value.
Analysing and offering advice to a business on their inbound marketing strategy involves in-depth face-to-face conversations as so much of inbound marketing is in the planning and strategy stages. What a consumer sees is often just the end product.
Questions to be asked include:
Have you set goals?
Do you know your prospect’s sales cycle?
Have you developed buyer personas for your typical client?
Do you have a value proposition?
Have you set KPIs and benchmarks for success?
Do you have a campaign schedule?
Do you run A/B testing of campaigns?
Do you run analytics and analyse results?
Do you track conversion rates?
Does your marketing support the overall business strategy?
For the purpose of this analysis I have compiled a 12 point checklist to gauge an overall impression of the inbound marketing methods used my Help Scout and HubSpot. As the analysis could only be conducted from the outside looking in, many of the questions cannot be answered unless an in-person discussion occurred.
The approach taken by Help Scout and HubSpot to Inbound Marketing
It was evident that both companies take a very proactive approach to inbound marketing for their businesses. Creating content is a high priority for both, so keeping the consumer informed, educated and in control are important while also allowing for two-way engagement. There are several digital channels they both use including websites, landing pages, social media, blogs and educational content which share relevant content.
Both Help Scout and HubSpot have clear, responsive and engaging websites. It is interesting to note that both have made the choice of using cartoon type images in replace of photographic images to tell their story. I assume this takes away the very specific demographic targeting and keeps the initial target as neutral. For both, the information on the websites is quite sparse and there is a lot of white-space making it easy for the viewer to take in chunks of information with clear click-throughs if they wish to know more.
Both have included clear value propositions which address the pain points of the reader. For HubSpot it is, “There’s a better way to grow. Marketing, sales and service software that helps your business grow without compromise”. Instantly the reader knows what the business is and what they can do. For Help Scout their value proposition is very similar, “There’s a better way to talk to your customers. A better experience for your customers, fewer headaches for your team. You’ll be set up in minutes. Tools for the most customer-centric business”. Again the reader knows what the product is and it is up to them to now find out more. Both websites do a great job at keeping the information simple and to-the-point. It is the calls-to-action which then drive further engagement. There are CTAs on all pages for both websites but they do not give a strong sales-push impression allowing the reader to make their own decision. Definitely a positive for both.
Social media followers and regular sharing of information is highly important for both organisations. HubSpot has 1,840,738 Facebook followers alone which demonstrates their popularity and the desire followers have to read their information. Each of the posts then click through to the website giving high traffic volumes here as well. They also have 979K Twitter followers, 239K LinkedIn followers, 127K Instagram followers and 51.5K YouTube subscribers. Inbound marketing is all about sharing relevant content and through social media HubSpot do it extremely well. They also entice you to join the HubSpot Academy which is free so gives the viewer valuable information and opportunity for further learning. Again no pressure to buy, just to become better informed. It is amazing how much quality information they offer for free. Help Scout, although not as large, also have a good social media following.
What are the strength and weaknesses for the inbound marketing approach used by each?
Both organisations are very good in finding and communicating testimonials. Some are written testimonials, some are just the company logo and some are video testimonials. This is a very clever way to lay them out instead of just a slab of written testimonials for the viewer to read. HubSpot have taken this a step further and categorised them by industry type to make it easier for the reader to choose the industry most relevant to them.
One item that HubSpot do better than Help Scout is progressive profiling. HubSpot are continually building on their database of prospects. Initial requests to download information may only require a name and email. This then progressively builds to asking company size, marketing budgets, staff in the marketing department etc. Help Scout are not as aggressive in gaining information. For HubSpot this however can then become a weakness as they use this information to make outbound sales calls to prospects and will keep hounding them with follow-up calls. This may become tiring for some and really have a negative effect on what inbound marketing is all about.
What organisation is best at inbound marketing and why?
As the initial concept of inbound marketing was coined by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan in 2005, you would assume they have the strongest grasp of using it. The HubSpot software is based around the inbound marketing philosophy and has grown over the years. Today businesses are engaging with the world through blog writing, podcasts, videos, eBooks, and more. They promote these educational resources via social media and email campaigns. Businesses are now creating all kinds of creative and engaging content, to serve their ideal customer through their online sales funnel. Help Scout of definitely embraced the inbound marketing philosophy but HubSpot will still be seen as leaders.
Give examples of how each organisation could improve its inbound marketing.
Both could improve by going through my twelve-point check list and making sure they have covered all of the items listed.