This isn’t my usual kind of post.
Most of the time I try to write a post that is going to teach some aspect of inbound marketing, or is going to showcase some of the work done by our clients, or is going to present a roundup of current content marketing information.
This blog is more real, a gut-level tell-all. I’m pretty sure I’ll be afraid to press publish at the end. But I’m going to do it anyway.
Inbound marketing ruined our business
We were perfectly happy. Our traditional agency was producing incredibly high-quality video, branding, social media content plans, websites and so on. We were stretching our creative muscle and having a great time doing it! Most of it was project-based work, though we had a small core of repeat customers and some retainer work.
While working on the social media for our company one day, I ran across some materials by HubSpot, a marketing automation software company. They had an incredible selection of free reading materials, so I downloaded a couple of eBooks and went to work. A few days later, I got an email with an offer to try a free demo of their software.
I clicked it.
We spent a month fooling around with HubSpot’s incredibly powerful software, but we didn’t really take full advantage of it. We loved the analytics, loved the reporting. I didn’t create any campaigns and the software languished for the last half of the month.
Not long after our demo, David got a call from HubSpot and started into a series of conversations about the marketing software and what it could do for our company. Since we had a business trip to Boston planned in the near future anyway, we set a time to meet up at the HubSpot offices and discuss this in person. I saw how serious David was about using HubSpot, so I began reading about it. I discovered the term “inbound marketing.”
Inbound marketing is the phrase HubSpot coined to describe a whole new way to approach your prospective customers. With inbound, you attract interested prospects to your company by providing useful, entertaining and informative content that they consume as they approach their buyers journey.
To illustrate, look at Visual Creatives’ journey with HubSpot: we happily browsed their website and downloaded some marketing materials. We were — in HubSpot’s language — in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, where we were just barely aware we had an itch that needed to be scratched. Next we downloaded their demo software as we entered into the consideration stage. We were asking questions like, “How hard is this software to use? Does it integrate with our WordPress theme? Do we like it?” And finally, we met with the company and entered into the decision stage, where we jumped both feet into HubSpot and began using it for ourselves and some of our customers.
That’s when Inbound Marketing ruined our business.
When you realize the power of attracting prospects with information they want to consume, any other kind of marketing feels intrusive and aggressive. We knew we needed to take a hard look at how we we ran Visual Creatives.
What we changed
- Our website. As much as I hate to admit it, most of our website was focused on, well, us. After HubSpot training, we wanted our website to become a place where clients and prospects could go to solve their problems. We tore our website apart and started weaving it back together. And that blog we had neglected to start writing? Well it became the heart and soul of our identity as a company.
- Our identity. The process of rewriting our website copy slapped us in the face. We started having a series of conversations about who we really were. Were we still a traditional production agency? One of the biggest problems our clients faced day after day was how to use the amazing content we produced for them to drive sales and demonstrate an ROI. HubSpot and inbound marketing solved that dilemma for them and for us, but what were we called now? A marketing agency? We haven’t fully answered that question yet, but the best description we’ve come up with is that we are now a hybrid marketing agency. We still offer our clients the best of our traditional production services, but we know that the most effective means for them to use our creative content is to launch inbound marketing campaigns of their own.
- Our methods. We begin our engagements with our clients now by listening to their core challenges in their business and helping them see the holistic, big picture of their marketing. While they may approach us about a series of social media images, for example, their real pain point is that their social media needs to drive leads to their sales team. We address the core pain points and offer solutions that are measurable, repeatable and that delight most of our small business owners.
- Our services. Our core service is now offering inbound marketing and content creation to our clients on a monthly retainer basis. We have simplified the process for our clients, saving them salaries and aggravation in the process. Our traditional services — branding, video production, website design, print — all work together with the inbound process to create cohesive results for our clients. We’re happier. They’re happier.
Where Visual Creatives is now
Several months later, our team is astounded at the fundamental shift that has taken place in Visual Creatives. We have redefined our core identity, segmented our services, and refocused our energy. In many ways our business today is unrecognizable compared to our business six months ago.
These are scary and exhilarating times for Visual Creatives. We have the adrenalin rush that comes with a startup combined with the fear of change that comes when you’ve been running a fairly successful business and have come to a pivot point.
There wasn’t much choice, really. We learned about Inbound marketing.
So proceed at your own risk. A quote I’ve heard for years sums it up pretty well.
“They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it’s not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.” (Terry Pratchett).
Marketing and advertising have changed. The consumer has changed. And while outbound marketing still has a secure place in the marketing toolkit, it now must be supported in a framework laid down by inbound marketing strategies.
In the end, inbound marketing really did ruin my business, but it built a stronger one in place of the old.