Inbound marketing is about content and context

On Tuesday of this week I took myself off to an Inbound Marketing event in London run by the nice folks at @strangepr and sponsored, in the main, by @hubspot.

I saw some great presentations from @dmscott, @dianaurban, @jenniferyorke, @mvolpe, @fbelzer and @Richard_Y amongst others. Thanks to all.

Here’s some highlights and lessons from the day that stood out for me:

1. To be successful at inbound and content marketing you have to understand your buying personas.

  • The buyer persona theme was one that ran throughout the day. The bottom line: When producing content, make sure whatever you create is targeted at the people that you want to attract and engage.
  • Hubspot started selling to 2 personas and now sell to 6-7.

2. Inbound marketing = content + context

  • To be successful: make it personal
  • Your customer’s lifecycle stage is your context
  • Your inbound marketing efforts will be ever more effective if you are producing content that is right for your buying personas BUT is also aligned to where they are in their buying cycle.
  • Context marketing is saying the right things to the right people at the right time
  • Hubspot’s buying cycle: Awareness – Evaluation – Purchase – this could be applied to and useful for many firms:

Mapping your content and inbound marketing to the customers buying cycle

3. The biggest barrier to inbound and content marketing is fear – fear of doing something new and getting it wrong. Get over it and start. You will make mistakes but you will get better over time.

  • Stuck for ideas to write about: Use trendspottr as a source of ideas of what to write about.

4. Build your digital marketing assets over time – blog, video, flickr, slideshare etc – and you will build the long-term value of your business. This may not feature on your balance sheet but the more content that you create, the more links you will build (as long as it is good content), the more authority you will develop and the easier you will get found.

5. To be successful at inbound and content marketing you need to adopt the mindset of a media company not a sales or marketing department. Content and inbound marketing is not just about events or campaigns but about building a long-term relationship based on trust and value.

6. The only ratio that really matters in your marketing and sales is your LTV: CAC Ratio (Long term value of your customers (LTV) and the cost of acquisition (CAC)). Hopefully, your LTV is much higher than your CAC. If not, then you might want to figure out why.

7. Advice to ecommerce firms: Product content is not unique – So, to improve your ranking in Google etc create content that adds value to your customers, that is unique, gets linked to and gets shared.

Overall, I found the day really useful, met some interesting people, caught up with others, learnt some new stuff, added to my to-do list and conducted another couple of interviews with @dmscott and @mvolpe (watch this space for when they go live).

What I found particularly useful was the material on buyer personas aligning content to buying cycles. This will help me in some of my marketing and strategy consulting work with a couple of clients in the retail and technology sectors.

If any of this sounds too new and hard to you then do ask me about the small and fast growing business marketing consulting that I do.

In the meantime, watch this space for those interviews for more on this exciting area.

39 comments On Inbound marketing is about content and context

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  • It all sounds so simple doesn’t it!! Thanks for sharing this stuff – it’s a nice summary. I think in a few years everybody will get this stuff, but right now Hubspot are the leaders by some way. Definitely a company to keep an eye on (or invest in!). I’ll be keeping an eye out for those interviews.

    • Hi Hugh,
      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Sounds simple indeed but to quote a PE song that I like….it’s “Harder Than You Think”! 🙂

      Well, to get over the fear, to get started, to build up momentum, to keep going and to keep improving.

      Much harder than a broadcast, campaign driven way of marketing. Don’t you think?


  • Good write up Adrian.

    As a sales guy I found @fbelzer very interesting. Frank talked about how marketing is going inbound but sales is still stuck in the traditional mindset and needs to aligned with marketing or you give mixed messages.

    The buying personas is a key aspect of marketing and post #IMUK12 it’s something I’m looking at within Nimble.

    – Richard.

    • Thanks Richard,
      That’s spot on about Mr @fbelzer (unfortunately, I missed most of his presentation as I had to be on a call).

      I’ll look out for how you integrate buying personas into Nimble. First, I’m off to sign up for my trial and am looking forward to learning more when I interview Jon Ferrera, your CEO later this month 🙂


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  • Adrian,

    This is no where near my area of expertise so I have a question about buying personas.

    On my blog I express my persona (can’t help but do so). Some people like it, some people loath it, I am often referred to as Marmite.

    Which is more important? That I express my personality truthfully and honestly and hope to attract an audience? Or modify my style to attract a target audience?


    • Hi James,
      You raise an interesting point and one that came up in a discussion that I was having about the same thing at the very conference.

      Personally, I think blogging splits into roughly two areas:
      1. You have a product/service led business and you use blogging to help promote that and your business; and
      2. You are in the advisory/consulting/freelance/author etc space and you use a blog to share thoughts and opinions

      For me, I believe that the former should be more attuned to writing for specific buying personas and the latter is more of a personal branding platform. However, that does not mean that the latter should not write with their audience in mind (their ‘buying personas’).

      So, I would suggest that for you it would better for you to continue to write truthfully and honestly but with the caveat of thinking about who is reading your material, who you want to read your material and how useful is it going to be for them.

      Does that make sense?


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  • Hello Adrian
    Great timing, guess what I am working on right now? Formulating a digital strategy? And guess what is front and centre – figuring out what content and tools will be useful to the key user groups carrying out their key tasks. So I have been grappling with the very issues that you outline here.

    One of the most difficult things to get at is the context of the customer. As it is not that easy to be with customers when they are doing what they are doing.

    All the best

    • Hi Maz,
      I’m pleased that the post was timely 🙂

      Yes, context is much harder and requires empathy, understanding, watching, listening and a lot of asking to find out about customers. However, what I have found useful is to remember that we are customers too so our instincts as customers can be very useful and insightful if unencumbered with our business stuff.


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  • I am really impressed with your writing skills and
    also with the layout on your blog. Is this a
    paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up
    the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one

  • Regarding #5, I’d say operate like a media company with a strong focus on sales and marketing. How else are you going to measure your impact without converting traffic and leads? Content is fun, but analyzing data and strategizing accordingly is a challenge.

    Overall, Hubspot E-Books is a great introduction to results-based social media.

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for dropping and adding your perspective and nuance. I’d agree….media company with a strong sales and marketing focus….but that sales and marketing focus has to be on building the relationship with your existing, potential and future customers by being valuable, useful and timely for them.

      Indeed, Hubspot’s ebooks are a great place to start to learn more about this fascinating and fast moving subject.


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