Once upon a time in a land void of interwebs and 24-7 connectivity, marketing was a one-way street. Television, radio and magazine ads blasted us with their big brand initiatives: drink our cola, wear our shoes, buy our sportscar! We were even submitted to subliminal advertising messages meant to warp our brains into thinking we were buying into something more than a just pack of cigs. Oh yeah, those were the mean old days.
Inbound marketing has changed all that. Certainly, the Internet, smartphones and social media are part of the equation too. But now as consumers, we hold the power to make more informed choices and we can hold up a “talk to the hand” to marketing that doesn’t hold our interest. The convergence of search, social and content marketing has pulled the rug out from under traditional outbound marketing and propelled inbound marketing to a medium that resonates with consumers.
Why it matters
Most of us in the content creation world are part of inbound marketing in some form. Whether you’re masterminding content strategy for a client, freelance writing for various brands or blogging for yourself, marketing is woven into some aspect of your mission.
Say, for example, that you’re a copywriter for a big beauty brand (lucky you) and you’ve been tasked with creating an online guide that explains how to choose the right makeup for your skin type. You’re not writing about the brand’s latest mascara or new fall eyeshadows. You’re creating a helpful guide that creates trust with consumers but doesn’t scream in their faces to buy their product. That’s inbound marketing in its purest form.
That said, an understanding of the new consumer journey and inbound marketing can greatly enhance your effectiveness in the digital world. Here are five reads to round out your understand of inbound marketing.
1. ‘Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online’ by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
This one’s a no-brainer. Co-founders of HubSpot, the authors delve into the business of inbound marketing best practices in this second and revised edition of the digital marketer’s bible. Part I of the book examines inbound marketing from an analysis and strategy perspective. Part II zeros in on how to get found by prospects via content, search, social and various tools. Part III gets to the nitty gritty of how to convert those prospects once you have their attention. The final part focuses on decision-making, measurement and tracking processes. Download a free chapter now to get a taste of what you’ll learn.
2. ‘Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers’ by Seth Godin
If you want more historical perspective of the Internet-charged consumer shift, this is the book credited for propelling the evolution of inbound marketing. Celebrating 15 years and still as relevant as it was when first published, the author makes the case against “Interruption Marketing” and paved the way for “Permission Marketing” as a way for brands to develop a long-term relationship with their customers. Get inside Godin’s brilliant head here.
3. ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual’ by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger
Speaking of the wayback machine, this read is a prerequisite for understanding how the Internet reshaped the customer journey. Backed by careers at IBM, Sun Microsystems, the Linux Journal and NPR, the authors converge to give an eerily accurate depiction of the new reality of the networked marketplace. Read the original text free here.
4. ‘Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter and Wine More Customers by Marketing Less’ by Joe Pulizzi
“Publishing is the NEW MARKETING,” or so reads the pointed book description. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Pulizzi leads you step by step through the process of crafting content that entertains and informs consumers and ultimately leads them act, without being told to. Read more about Epic Content Marketing here.
5. ‘Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing’ by Lee Odden
This book pieces all the parts together and leads you through how to practically integrate search, social media and content marketing to increase audience engagement. The book is broken down into planning, implementation and scale phases. Get more perspective at Odden’s home base, TopRank Online Marketing.
Finally, one more that didn’t make the list only because it hasn’t been released yet. Keep an eye out for ‘Unselling’ by Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer. If this duo’s previous books are any indication of their brilliance, this new read will not disappoint. Stratten is the outspoken prez of Unmarketing and he brought the house down as a keynote speaker at the 2014 NMX conference.
Happy reading and let us know if you have more must-reads for the list!