Link building is hard. I think it is the hardest part of a successful internet marketing strategy.
I wrote a few new articles on link building on the HubSpot blog. The first one talks about how to construct a good inbound link and why link building is so important. The second one talks about what methods to use to build inbound links to your site. Both articles link to a lot of other authoritative articles about blogging written by other bloggers. The first article has a lot of great comments from HubSpot blog readers who shared some link building success stories and ideas. With these two new articles, there's now a good amount of link building articles on the HubSpot blog, giving a good overview of link building best practices.
There was some very colorful non productive banter in my recent blog article, Cold Calling is 280% More Effective than Inbound Marketing.
In short, someone called me conceited for writing the post the way I did:
I should be able to stop here and have you see why I called your post sophomoric, but in case you don't yet understand I'll add a little more here.
Consider your statement "I talked to 3 people today who have a decent sized sales team who spend their entire day cold calling. Yes. Cold Calling. All day."
You seem to think you have it all figured out because you know what works for one little corner of the world. You don't yet understand that there might be a lot of reasons that things are done a certain way. The sales manager at these companies that you mention might be luddite idiots -- or you might be the carpenter who thinks the solution to any problem is a hammer. In any case, you can't deny that there was conceit and arrogance in your statement "...who spend their entire day cold calling. Yes. Cold Calling. All day."
HubSpot, in our quest to make people feel really bad for relying on cold calling to build their sales funnel, has filmed a slightly more humourous and less insulting way of getting the point across:
I fully expect my sales training development expert readers to have some constructive and thoughtful feedback.
Preface: These are my thoughts and things from my perspective and don't necessarily represent the views and experiences of others at HubSpot. I'm guessing that people, especially our founders and management, from HubSpot will add more perspective in the comments.
When I joined HubSpot in November '07, I was extremely excited. HubSpot was a perfect fit for my passions at the intersection of online marketing, small business marketing services and software as a service. I had a conversation with Auren Hoffman shortly afterwards telling him what HubSpot was doing. He remarked, you really are attracted to business models that help small business owners grow their business. I hadn't thought of it in that light. But, he was right. I love helping small business owners with what is usually their most pressing problem: lead generation.
Being in a fast growing business in a rapidly evolving industry, however, I quickly grew a bit concerned about some of the sentiment internally about selling our services to small business owners. Every decision HubSpot makes is based on analysis and numbers. And the first few months, while I was there, a larger % of small business owners had cancelled their subscriptions (even though it was only a small number and usually because they were going out of business or changing direction). Also, previous to joining HubSpot, the majority of the sales team had sold larger products to larger companies. So, they all pretty much preferred selling to marketing teams with established budgets, instead of small business owners that needed a lot more education and had to decide between buying HubSpot and taking their family out to dinner each month. The marketing team was also making large strides at attracting marketing professionals to our site and converting them into sales ready leads. They recommended those leads get priority in our queues and most of the sales team happily obliged. Further, the development team was developing more advanced inbound marketing capabilities like closed loop marketing and lead scoring and focussing less on solving the problems of small business owners. We even starting requiring small businesses to start paying for a year long subscription in advance, to ensure that they were committed.
In short, it seemed like we were raising hurdles that prevented us from helping small businesses, while shifting the company focus up stream towards larger small businesses.
A few months into my time at HubSpot, though, things started to change.
I started selling our content management system to small business owners as a primary reason why they should start with us. I specifically remember some early clients like Dr. Edward Kwak, Darcy Cook and Dave Lima where HubSpot had an immediate and extremely positive impact on their lead generation and business growth because they now had control over their site.
A few months later, we instituted an internal scoring system to determine our most successful, most engaged and most improved clients. In aggregate, my clients, many of them small businesses were getting the highest scores.
Around this time, the numbers were crunched and it was determined that small businesses who use our Content Management System (CMS) were almost always successful.
Things started to turn around internally. Management realized that we could serve both small and mid sized businesses successfully. But, it was quickly becoming apparent that they had different needs.
As a result, on September 1st, HubSpot Owner and HubSpot Marketer were launched. HubSpot owner is a complete system for small businesses to manage their website, blog, traffic acquisition and lead capture. It also includes our internet marketing training program which teaches internet marketing practices in SEO, PPC, blogging for business, social media marketing, etc. It includes all of the SEO tools, social media marketing and blog analytics tools, marketing analytics, lead intelligence, etc. It sounds a bit complex to the average small business owner, but the brilliant thing is that this is all they need to make the web work for them. It actually makes the process simpler by putting everything into one package.
Altogether, HubSpot Owner provides a complete low cost turn key lead generation system for small businesses, as long as they are willing to dedicate the time to making it work. It removes the need for a technical webmaster. It removes the need for external costly custom web development. It lessons the need for hiring external marketing resources that most small businesses and solopreneurs cannot afford and who rarely generate a measurable ROI. It makes it possible for small businesses to be in control of their website, online marketing, their online lead generation and ultimately the growth of their company.
As you can tell, I'm pretty excited. By the end of August, we signed on 155 new clients bringing us to 750+ clients in total. When I started in November '07, we had <100 clients altogether. It's been an absolutely amazing ride. We're helping so many small businesses generate leads. I'm very confident, with the new product streamlined for business owners, we'll help many many more in the future.
Of course, in my day, there were many high school students that just read the cliff notes to do a book report. I am sure that today, kids just browse the web and cut and paste a report together. Either way, it's a shortcut that most teachers will quickly detect.
Readers of your blog, or the lack of readers of your blog, will know when you don't read other blogs too.
You shouldn't write a blog unless you read other blogs. Reading, commenting and linking to other blogs are more important parts of growing your blog readership than writing great content is.
Get yourself an account at Google Reader and start subscribing to some blogs. Read them for inspiration. If you're human and you know how to relate to people, leaving comments and linking to other blogs will happen naturally. Guess what will happen next? People will start reading your blog, linking to you and leaving comments. Then, you'll have a successful blog. Kinda like getting good grades helps you succeed too.
I met Chris Baggott at the Inbound Marketing Summit, where I also saw Seth Godin speak in person for the first time. I twittered Seth's whole speech here. I have followed Chris's blog for a long time as he founded Exact Target, an email marketing software as a service company.
I don't have as much of a man crush on him as he does on Seth, though. The video above is clever bordering on scary stalker dude. But, it has a great lesson about blogging. Anyone starting a blog should watch it.
Two great blog posts.
Tony Cole shares the story of his son's heart attack and brain injury.
Al Turrisi shares a story about a man that wrote a book by blinking the letters.
Being sales experts, both of them drew the parallels between life's adversity and how we react to it and selling adversity and how we react to it.
Craig Klein left a comment on my blog this morning. I checked out his blog and saw a great post that I had to point people to. Here's an excerpt from the full article:
Bottom line: Recent experiences like this one show me that too many sales people still haven't gotten the message - sales is not about talking, telling or teaching. Its about listening.
Your goal is to continue to ask the prospect questions about their world. Understand what's working for them, what challenges they face, where they think they're heading and most importantly, what are the greatest risks they see in the current world or in the future. What are they afraid of.
Why? Because people buy for emotional reasons. Especially in business, people buy things because its a piece of a vision in their head or they buy because they're afraid of something. Either way, if you know what that is, then its easy to show them how your product or service can be a crucial part of the vision or protect them from failure, cost overruns, etc.
IF business owner = idiot WHERE business DOES NOT HAVE CRM
THEN 80% OF business owners MUST BE idiots.
Most small businesses do not employ a CRM. Many "have one" but don't use it. I'm not saying it's easy. But, it's necessary for any small business that wants to be bigger or more profitable someday.
Here's a great list of questions about CRM that you should ask yourself.
- Do you know who your most profitable customers are, and what they purchase?
- Are you aware of the current sales opportunities your sales team is working on?
- Do you know which opportunities are at the beginning, middle, or end of your sales process?
- Can you list the marketing campaigns that generated revenue and which ones failed?
- Do you know the reason for the successes? How about the failures?
- Employees only need to go to a single database for all business information, right?
- Employees never have to enter the same information in more than one database or spreadsheet, eh?
- Do you provide your sales people with current customer account status to avoid wasted time?
- Can you easily control information access for each employee?
- Do you have a trail of: Communications with your clients, problems reported, and solutions implemented?
Whether you use Sage CRM, Salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, Landslide, Zoho, or Sugar CRM, it doesn't really matter. You need to start implementing.
Dharmesh and the HubSpot internet marketing software development team launched another free tool the other day.
As companions to the free SEO tool, Website Grader, and the press release SEO tool, Press Release Grader, Twitter Grader analyzes a Twitter users influence.
Unlike the other tools, Twitter grader has a leaderboard which shows the highest scoring users. Of course, it's only evaluating the users that have evaluated their Twitter profile via Twitter Grader. But, as of today, that's atleast 20,420 people, including Barack Obama, who comes in at #1 right now.
Dharmesh is hard at thought about how to help small businesses and marketing professionals leverage the social mediasphere to market their businesses more effectively.
There are some new features in the main HubSpot software which help businesses improve their blogging (Blog Analytics) and identify social bookmarking entries (HubFeed) that are related to their products and services (so they can participate in the conversation). I've started using these tools to generate greater returns on my time spent blogging and leveraging social media sites.
Twitter Grader is more of an experiment at this stage. And probably more of a "we think it'll be cool" application than anything.
However, any thoughts about how Twitter Grader could help a company better leverage Twitter are welcome. HubSpot is listening.
When is LinkedIn Grader coming, Dharmesh?