Brendan founded the marketing consultancy Mole Street in 2011 with partner Brian LaPann. Their mission is "empowering others to realize their greatness" applying and training their clients on inbound marketing best practices and methodologies to drive revenue.
Transcript Michael: We're going to be discussing inbound and outbound marketing today. Let's first fix that terminology here. Outbound marketing. It's a process of contacting your customers more proactively. Instead of businesses looking for you, you look for the right businesses and then engage with them and then get their business and then basically close them and move them into customers. What is the inbound in Mole Street terminology? Brendan: That's a great question because so many people conflate content marketing with inbound, but at the end of the day, inbound marketing is that process of attracting the attention of target prospects, via content creation, amplification, deployment, whatever you call it in order to build trust. That's really the key, and building trust in the spirit of educating them on a topic for later so they eventually can be a customer or they can become a customer right away, or they can just become through being a center of influence, an advocate for your brand or your methodology. Michael: Because if they don't trust you, they're not going to do business with you. People that you don't trust, they can be professionals at what they do, they can be like, that person knows what he's doing, but if you're not trustworthy, if I cannot trust you in my business, I cannot trust your decision-making process, then I am not going to work with you. So building the trust I think is very important. And I do think that inbound marketing is the only engine in the company that can do that. Because again, talking about outbound marketing, it's more like spreading the message. You already have the message in place and now we just want to get the attention, but building the trust. You can't build trust with outbound marketing. You cannot build trust by sending people emails or calling them. You can build trust by creating that unique image or unique value proposition — your brand, your company, who you are, what you do — and then you can spread that message during the outbound marketing. Brendan: That's why I call Belkins and Mole Street the one, two punch. It truly is a balance of both. Michael, you said something very profound. You said this is the only way that you can use to get there. So that's kind of partially true. I'll use an example — Apple. Apple has spent the last 40 years plus building trust in the marketplace around technology, innovation, best practices about design. They're a proven commodity. They're a proven commodity because they've produced dozens, if not hundreds of products, iterations, solutions. But imagine if you're a company that has an innovation just as disruptive as Apple, but you don't have the press Apple has. You don't get a chance to host your own annual conference. I mean, if Apple puts out a new product, all they have to do is pick up the phone. People are calling. They do a press release on their website; people will call them. For smaller companies and midsize companies, we don't have a brand that's well known as Apple. We don't have that luxury so we've got to educate folks and we've got to educate our target personas, whether it's a service company, whether it's a product company, B2B, B2C. People are searching online for everything, and you want to be found. Bottom line! Michael: So true. Brendan, a lot of folks that I talk to, they always talk about omnichannel approach. Like we need to be Omnichannel. We need to be everywhere. But from my own standpoint, I always want to differentiate that. I always want to say, listen, you have your marketing strategy. Plead that marketing strategy into the inbound strategy and the outbound strategy. And then within that specific strategy, think about the Omnichannel approach. Think about how you can engage with your customers in different, but having an omnichannel approach and having a marketing strategy are two different worlds. Talking about inbound specifically, what are the channels that are kind of main drivers of the inbound traffic? You mentioned content, so content strategy, social strategy. Brendan: What is the main channel of inbound methodology? That's a simple answer. Your website. That's the baseline. Best practices within inbound is content creation in the most strategic way possible using keyword research, using competitive analysis, having proper technical setup from sub-domains to you name it. But where you go into that next level, it's about amplification. Because you could have the most beautiful blog in the world. You could have great keywords, but let's say you're starting your blog. You don't have any traffic yet. It takes time to build this up. You have to supplement it with amplification. You had a great point about omnichannel of course. Omnichannel is a buzzword. For me, it's not about omnichannel. It's about the channels that matter. If your target audience isn't on LinkedIn and they don't use LinkedIn, probably don't need to post as much on LinkedIn. Maybe you use LinkedIn for something else, recruiting or something like that. But it's about where your target prospects are. Where are those user personas? Where do they live? Who do they trust? Where are the centers of influence that are going to connect you to a particular audience that can help make introductions? I did a great call yesterday with a startup group in Philadelphia. We went through the motions. We talked about one of my other strategic partners that really his target persona, his target audience for client prospects is CTOs. CTOs of companies that are doing over 5 million in revenue and they want a particular product. How can he get in touch with those decision-makers? He needs to be creating content that's going to be well received by those folks and then finding ways to get it out on those channels. It's that simple. Michael: You mentioned the blog. It's funny because I think we are that company that spends a lot of money on blogs, but we didn't have any audience and we didn't do it right so we were at the same time, one of those agencies that failed in doing that like what you just said. So we've been focusing on that. We have an in-house copywriter who creates, let's say five or four very unique, very high-quality pieces of content where she does the research first. She spends days researching, creating very actionable content, but then we posted content. We didn't have a lot of audiences, and then after some time, we understood that you know what, we wouldn't be able to get that audience because it's not just about creating the content. It's about having the right structure of the content that technically speaking, for example, when we put a blog and then we have a URL for the article and the URL wasn't structured correctly, we didn't benefit from getting the customers or prospects looking up that article on Google, just because our URL structure was off or meta-description was off. You had a great point saying that it's not about just creating the content or doing blogging, but understanding how the marketing works so that you can use that to your best advantage. For example, we might be having great content and then you use a phrase, for example, as B2B leads, but then if I do the research and then I know that sales leads would have more traffic. So it's better for me to replace B2B leads from the sales leads, because then I would have more customers. Obviously for me, that's the same terminology. Sales leads, B2B leads. For me, the content doesn't change from that word, but if I change that, then I can get 20% more traffic, which is huge for me because that's a lot of leads, a lot of customers. So being that educated on the small details of the process and going through that refinement of the content, the structure, the website, having that structure using the best practice possible, that is rich. I know that startups like old school companies fail in that. And then you spend a lot of money on organizing conferences, putting your offline advertising in place, but your website is off and you'll lose a lot of business. So it's just ridiculous. Brendan: True, and I'm always trying to think of better analogies along the way too, but imagine if you're building a house. You've got the best architect ever. Beautiful. It gets designed. You have the best furniture; you have it painted - beautiful. You put a new roof on it. It's right there. But the problem with the house is let's say the foundation wasn't laid properly and it's at an angle or it takes in water. You don't have a good foundation. Anything you do, it won't be effective. It'll eventually break. Eventually, something will happen. So I think the challenge too is educating people how much has changed with Google and their algorithm? It's always a balance between keywords, the search volume of a particular term, long-tail keywords, you name it, but then also what is that target audience and what would they find interesting? Sometimes we're actually creating content with our clients that the search volume would suggest isn't as much of a priority, but that may be because the clientele isn't as educated on the topic. They don't even know what to ask yet. It is balancing those two things. And I think inherently knowing your target personas and knowing your ideal customer profile which you guys specialize in so well that you're thinking like them, you're using language like them and basically bouncing it off the two. Michael: And then getting in touch with them only using those channels that you know they are in. So if your customers are on LinkedIn, then you should get in touch with them there, but if they're on Facebook, then you use Facebook. You don't use LinkedIn. Brendan: It doesn't matter what. You could love a particular platform, but if your target audience doesn't respect it, then why are you putting that much time into it? So at least we won't be a valuable or viable sales channel for you and it shouldn't be. You shouldn't invest in it as much as others Michael: But at the same time, it is so expensive. I mean, I just started out the business. I have $25,000 in my bank. I started the business, either agency or I have a product or I have a local shop. I don't have that budget for marketing, and you start saying, I need to edit to my website or update my website. $25,000, $15,000, 10 grand. I need to advertising; I need content. Oh my God, it's so expensive. So, what would you recommend if I have a product or service and I have a landing page, or I don't have any digital, so what should I start with? What should I do? What is the budget-friendly or budget-wise recommendation from you being an expert in that domain? Brendan: I would absolutely. I mean, if you're starting at zero and you're opening a new business, let's say you don't even have a website yet. Make sure that you get your Google postcard sent to your office or your retail location and have a Google My Business listing. That's the number one thing. You can even see the way Google; they're changing their methodologies. I could see a day where they're pushing folks away from websites and just towards your Google My Business page and adding more and more content to that. I get emails from them all the time. Add this, add a coupon, or add this bell and whistle to your Google My Business page. It's not just about reviews and the phone number and the map anymore. They're trying to build upon that. So for me, Google My Business has got to be right, because that's truly the baseline.
And then if the marketing budget isn't there, use the free tools. Use the tools that are out there, whether it's a WordPress theme that you buy and add stock images to, or taking photos and just placing them in a template site. Spending 50 bucks, doing it through Wix. There are so many resources. And then just making sure that you have a blog on it. No matter what it is, have a blog on it so that you can control the content. And even if it's 500 words and you're just musing about starting the business and you're going through the steps and today this was delivered and today we've got our first showcase model in. Just talking about it, that's going to start helping you if you're just mentioning the products and services that you're selling, even in a non-sophisticated way.
Step three, make sure you have Google Analytics set up on your website and Google search console. So that let's say you have 10 people go to your website the first month, you know how they found you. Maybe they found you by accident. I mean, they saw the website address that's on the front of your store window and went to it, or they found you through your Facebook page. At least you're starting to educate yourself on the science and the data behind it because, at the end of the day, that's all this is. We look at content and we look at the digital ecosystem as almost kind of math now, and I know you have a background in science, Michael. Whereas in the old days, so much of it was art and you want to have good iconography and you want to have a strong brand and the narrative and all that stuff. It's super important, but now more than ever, it's the data that's going to lead the way. And if you're thinking about your business in that way, whether it's B2B, B2C, product, service, or even a nonprofit, if you're thinking about the value of content to your audience and the channels that they visit regularly, then you're stepping off in the right way.
Michael: A hundred percent agree with you there. Also want to add, I know that you meant that, but obviously set up your social groups or social pages. It takes like one minute to set up a Facebook page, to set up a LinkedIn page, to set up all those pages is easy, but then prospects can find you. I also wanted to add something which is very important, and I know that the more you think about that, sometimes the worse it gets. I'm talking about the messaging and the value proposition. Usually when I deal with or check out any company or their website or their LinkedIn page, sometimes their messaging is so poor because you read through that messaging and you just don't understand what the company does for a living. What do they do? I mean, I just spent 10 minutes looking around, going through their website. I didn't get what they do. I remember like a year ago or half a year ago, you gave me a great recommendation for one of our services. You said, hey Michael. Go to the page, read the first blog. Do you understand what this service is about? I don't understand. So you need to sum it up in a way that it's kind of finished thought. So I did that and it logically gave me an idea. This is what it is about. Do I need to go and read more about it? Yes, I want to. And that's stuck in my head right now. So whenever I'm dealing with new messaging for a new product, or when we create a new product and I put that on the website, I always think about it should be very clear. It should be simple, and it should tell everyone what the hell I do. Brendan: The simpler, the better in hooking the reader. We want to hook folks, build trust, instill the big picture and then start to go down into the methodology and that's something you guys are really great at and you're very transparent. You're very clear on the site about how you do business and how you help clients, and it's refreshing, Michael. Michael: But again, I don't want to sell myself here because I can do that easily. Just get on the call with me, but I don't want to sell myself at this. Talking about the folks that do marketing. Again, I usually wear many hats and I do have marketing people, but a lot of people, just make mistakes, or they're not educated knowing all of those details of the process. So, being in this business for 10 years yourself, what would you say are the main pitfalls that marketers are falling into using doing their inbound marketing? What are the top five mistakes that you know that people do that? I can name one mistake, the incorrect URL structure. It's ridiculous how simple it is, but you don't do that or the description and meta-tags that you don't put to all the links that you have on the website. Do you have anything on your mind that you can share that is on top of your mind? Brendan: You did the first two of four. I think folks that don't understand the value of linking content internally on their website, you're missing the mark there. You're going to get value from a blog or let's say a resources section of your site, but the real way to get maximum value from new pieces of content is by linking back to a king study where that particular service that your profile and your methodology have been used. And then that subsequently is also referenced on your service page. That's less about easy mistakes. It's more like quick wins that if you do it, you're just going to see so much more value. Quick example and I'll use it for you. Email deliverability. If you put out a blog post about email deliverability, that goes deeply into your process, methodologies, watch-outs, things to consider. Great that that post is out there and you're amplifying it. You put it on LinkedIn, you get comments, you get people sharing it. But on your website, you need to make sure that there's a reference on your service page about email services. You need to make sure that if there's a case study on your website where you've done that type of work, you reference the blog. For more information on this, check out our most recent blog posts on email deliverability. So now you've created three kinds of internal links, so to speak. That helps you - big time. And I think people forget about the value and it's just kind of that next level of inbound and SEO best practices that needs to be adhered to.
Let me think of any others. Again, you mentioned the two key ones, certainly the tags, meta scripts, all that stuff. Again, you can have the best website in the world that could look beautiful, branding, you know, all this kind of stuff. If it's a slow website, if you don't have enough server space based on the amount of traffic, based on the functionality of the site. And then the next piece is mobile. Got to have it optimized for mobile. It's one of the key tenets that Google is monitoring. If your site is not optimized from an old perspective, then you're going to get dinged. They're not going to see you as a trusted resource. They're not going to see your website frankly as legitimate because it means that you're not investing in best practices, and between how many folks are using the phones versus using a laptop increasing every day, it's become an increasingly bigger part of how Google basically gives that trust flag to your website.
Michael: Yeah. And still, a lot of folks, don't have a mobile version of the website. So they just put the web and then it's ridiculous when you look at the analytics and see that like 40% of your customers are actually using their mobile phones to check you out and it's just a very poor layout of the page. We cannot use that and obviously the speed of the website. I have this drinking water supplier, and they have a very nice UI/UX design of the website, but it's so slow. So, every time I do the order or reorder the water, I would kill myself. I spent basically 15 minutes doing that because I'm waiting while the page loads and then going to another page and it just doesn't work. Sometimes it's ridiculous, and they probably spent a lot of dollars from that. I think sometimes the websites are slow because you put so many Java Scripts into it. You put a lot of scripts and tracking pixels. By the way, I don't know if people listening to this know this, but the website page size, depending on the code that you put them to the page, and then if you put that extra code and you don't know what that external code is. So, if you put Google-analytics if you put like HubSpot, Pixel. You put other CRM, Salesforce, you put MailChimp, you put other stuff, it gets ridiculous. It just increases the size of the page, increases the lowest. It didn't finish loading before all the scripts are loaded as well. So, we wait for all the scripts are loading together with the page. Another mistake. And also, you mentioned analytics. How would you know if your page is being read on mobile or on a desktop if you don't have analytics on the website? So you do need to put the analytics and people don't put events on the buttons, so you wouldn't be able to track the call to action if you don't put the analytics tracking on the CTA button on the website. People are just missing that. Brendan: And I think to take it one step further, I'm always surprised as how many people don't have a really good working knowledge of Google search console. I think people use Google analytics. It's very common now. If you don't have it on your site, it's kind of like, hmm, what's going on? But taking it one step further with Google search console, and that's how you're able to really tell how people are finding your site, and you can certainly see a lot of great data in Google analytics, entry and exit and all the good metrics, but you really want to get into key content strategy and start using the keyword planner and you need to be able to become fluent in Google search console and really how people are finding you so you can continue to reinforce that. Michael: It's up to eight or nine points now so that's great. Talking about tech and technology in general, I know that we can amplify our performance of how we are marketing by having that extra tech helping us to be more efficient with what we do. I am one of those guys that don't put all the eggs in one basket. I'm one of those guys that like to use different tech, because I always think that if you are a one-stop shop, then you probably are scamming and I'm playing by your rules so I want to have alternatives. When I start shopping around for a CRM, for example, I have a Salesforce or HubSpot, and I started looking at how I can scale this. I get a six-figure monthly subscription or something, or annual subscription. I was like, okay, you know what, it's wrong? I don't have that budget so let me look for this small $25 tool and a lot of them, but I know that you are one of the fast-growing, certified and one of the best partners for HubSpot. I wanted to bounce this off you. Why do agencies or companies like us need HubSpot in general? Would it make sense to go through a partner like yourself to sign up for HubSpot, or should I go and buy directly? And if I need to go through you guys, then what kind of advantage or benefit will I get? Brendan: Simply put, for companies that are not as innovative or tech enabled, don't have their internal product shop, don't have a full-time CTO, don't have developers on staff doing a proprietary CMS and building things from scratch. Not every company is as on the ball as say you guys are at Belkins. So for companies who are looking to go into literally one dashboard — social media, email marketing, CRM. Take advantage of the CMS that HubSpot has, they released about a month and a half ago. It's fantastic. If you're really looking for an all-in-one solution, tough to beat HubSpot. We've used all the platforms. We've used part, not. We've used Salesforce. You name it. We became a HubSpot partner because we saw the benefits and advantages. We had done it the other way a lot.
From a clarity on the data side, if you duct tape enough tools together, you can create a similar experience. Not only can it get expensive, but the data is not going to be as clean. And to be able to have it all in one dashboard, any type of iteration that you want from it, it's tough to beat. To your point about why you're interested in HubSpot. Absolutely. Start using free CRM and HubSpot is a free CRM. I would start using that. Anybody — small business, sole proprietor, 20-person company, 200-person company — start using the free tools available. When and if it makes sense to engage with an agency partner, the benefits are the following. I'd say the majority of the time, if HubSpot knows that you're engaged with a partner - in our case, we're a platinum solutions partner. We've been working with them for quite some time — they're going to be able to give you breaks on pricing. They're going to be able to waive things like onboarding fees. You're going to get great opportunities around training because you're having an agency that's on the platform all the time. That doesn't mean you can't figure it out on your own. It's very intuitive, but it just helps you move more quickly and see the benefits of the platform faster, based on that investment that you've made. So those are the benefits. I think that the best setup is a marketing team that has a few members that want to work with an agency on the strategic stuff, on the training, on the research, on the application. Made a commitment to content, but they're looking for a partner that can be objective and basically help them learn and basically know what they don't know.
Michael: These are great points. I would also want to say that usually when you already figured out your marketing strategy and then having a tool, an all in one solution like HubSpot is a great idea. I think for us, it's usually or sometimes doesn't work, just because we don't know where we are with marketing. We create a lot of new features or new things, and we always need new technology to support that. And that's why if you kind of change everything, build everything, sometimes something from scratch. Sometimes you have an external tool for that, that it starts difficult. But I do agree with you where when I have my marketing strategy figured out, I don't have a technical team in place that can support and build stuff for me. And if I don't want to spend my time on that, if I'm not in marketing myself, I am like a small law firm. Why the hell would I need to create all those tools and all of those details of the marketing process? I just have a one stop shop with HubSpot and I've been great. So again, I don't personally use them, but I do acknowledge that learning library is awesome. It's superior. They have so much stuff there with regards to content, and that content is really actionable. It really helps folks that have a very basic understanding of the process to learn deeper, learn better how you can utilize that and that's great. Because as you mentioned, a lot of companies are putting a lot of content out there, but a lot of that content is generic or the content is template-based, and I think that with regards to CRM or with regards to tech companies, I think that HubSpot has one of the greatest library for marketers and sellers that wants to get from the newbie to the junior, to the more senior level and be on top of all the trends. So that's just great. Brendan: There's no question, and just in closing on that piece, Michael. There were so many companies that use just one piece of HubSpot to make their lives easier. They have their own CRM they're happy with, whatever type it is, whether it's proprietary or another out of the box solution. They just use the marketing hub. Maybe they want to be able to use it for reporting. Maybe they like the email functionality. There are some folks that are using the service hub for tickets, for FAQs, using it as a knowledge base, almost similar to the way folks use Zendesk. There's just so much there. The stuff that they're doing at the enterprise level is probably the most exciting from my perspective, because we focus on mid to large clients. The revenue attribution that they have now is incredible. I mean, to be able to track back every single touchpoint, this client came from our blog all the way through to deal close. So not just, hey, this was where somebody entered our website and why, but no, no, no. Following you the entire way through. It really is account based marketing as well and so it's super exciting. They've really stepped up their game and I'm always shocked when I find folks who don't believe in it or don't understand the value because it really is something for everybody. Michael: ADM and nurturing. This is some high-level complex stuff. I'm probably not going to get into that because I didn't figure it out myself yet, but we are working on that. I do think that if you or we have these multiple marketing channels, sometimes it's very difficult to put all that together and have a very clear understanding of what your customer journey has said they have so many touches with your brand. I think that talking about the inbound and about the outbound as well, I wanted to also mention the importance of directories and importance of review websites and websites that have customers testimonials on them, because I don't know why a lot of companies still don't leverage that piece, and we've seen that it was super helpful for my business. Having a company like Clutch or G2 Crowd or [unclear; 29:15] review or even the leads that you Brandon showed me with the 200 directories in them, that brought so many businesses to us. Brendan: That's just great. Michael: Because again, you need to be digital and all of those directories, by the way, that you've sent me, they're free. So, you just need to spend time, spend a few hours, set the site up with them, but that's an extra place where any one of your customers, you don't who your customers sometimes are. Sometimes there'll be a guy in Virginia, sometimes it can be a person in New York checking you out at the same time, and that was super helpful. I do encourage people to leverage those directories, to be one step closer to building your marketing strategy and that's so great. Brendan: It's a great time in my opinion to be in business because there are so many amazing tools out there. There are so many ways to get data and to track data and to manage that data so you can be more actionable. At the end of the day, people love to make their own business more complicated than it is, no matter what you're selling. It doesn't really matter at the end of the day what the customer journey is. It's going to be different for different folks, but if you use your website to get leads and convert leads or support a sales team that's following up with those leads, you can benefit from HubSpot. You can benefit from marketing automation in general, making it easier, whether it's templates, drip campaigns, lead scoring, you name it, you can benefit from it no matter what your business. Michael: And technology helps you to be more efficient with it. For example, when we started out the business back in 2017, we didn't have copywriters. We didn't have marketers, but we were eager to learn so we built a website. We used [unclear; 31:04] landing generator website with some content. We did the research. We would have started going social. We started posting. We started going out there and just kind of spreading the word about what we can do for our customers, and that gave us this unique opportunity to get those first customers and then start building up from there. Building your company to be only relationship-based and not leveraging those hacks or tricks or growth things that are happening right now in front of you - automation, nurturing, getting HubSpot all in one solution where you can post something like the bottom of your CMS and it will be popping up everywhere. I mean, why not leverage that if that would get you one step closer to your customer? Brendan: Think about it. Every single marketing conference, every single event in the United States, and abroad in many countries are completely canceled through the rest of the year. I know so many salespeople whose only muscle that they would flex would be, oh, I go to this convention every year. That's where I see all my customers. That's where I get my leads when I go to four conferences a year. Well, now all these conferences are canceled. Oh, now they're online. All those soft conversations that you have in line for an exhibit at an event, those are all gone now, so you're seeing people do more webinars than ever. And you're seeing people invest in digital marketing and content more than ever before. People that used to have a portfolio website, they didn't take it very seriously. It was a little bit of an afterthought, basically an online business card to see if this was a real company. Now those same people are reviewing their site and saying, Oh, wait a second. I need content, I need inbound. I need to have this development tool set up to grow and scale. It's got to happen. Michael: Absolutely. One more question for you and then we can wrap it up with a summary. What is your take on advertising in B2B? Because I personally don't do that. I don't think that that would work, but if you can argue that. What kind of businesses and how can you leverage advertising effectively and where does advertising work right now, specifically in B2B? Is it on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn? Again, obviously, you need to know where your customers are, but did you see any pattern with regards to type of advertising that still works? Brendan: Well Michael, there's no one answer here. I go back to something we talked about earlier. It's about the target audience and it's about the channels that they're active on, where they're going to be open to a conversation, but then taking it one step further. We need to be thinking about what we consider advertising. I would argue that some of the work that you guys do with Clutch, and some of the work we do with Clutch and other review sites, that's a form of advertising. Paying for placement, you're paying, you know what I mean? You get access to certain things. That's a form of advertising. It's just different because they have a medium. They have people coming to their site you know that's qualified at a certain level. That's a form of advertising. It's something you're already doing, but maybe you just didn't think of it that way.
When it comes to content amplification and advertising on LinkedIn, absolutely it's effective. It's effective to help get more eyes, and because LinkedIn is so targeted with title, you can do the direct messages. You can do the carousel ads. We're seeing a lot of folks, the inline forms that are absolutely something that we recommend, but it goes back to the fact, how clear are you about your ideal customer persona? How tied into the value of that lead are you? If you get an opportunity to connect with a Chief Revenue Officer at a Fortune 50 company, and he gets to learn about Belkins that way, how valuable is that if that ends up being a sales conversation later, or getting somebody into your pipeline? You could argue that that could be a game changer. So, it depends on the company, it depends on the strategy. It depends on how much of it you're relying on to get leads, or if you're just supplementing and amplifying.