"I've determined the Netflix recommendation algorithm is a total piece of crap." --my best friend Olivia, after watching a terrible movie the streaming website told her she would love.
You know that feeling. Someone suggests a great movie or show is, "incredible––you'll love it SO much! Go watch it right now!" You invest an afternoon in a slow-starting, somewhat confusing plot, feel flustered over a few character combinations (in Olivia's case, this was a talent mash-up of the always adorable Elijah Wood and the increasingly weird Macaulay Culkin).
You waste two hours on a terrible film, and secretly curse the human who recommended it to you.
It was a well-intentioned suggestion gone awry.
My goal today is to provide you with a few worthwhile inbound marketing resource recommendations you won't be disappointed in. In a world wide web full of crappy content, spam bots, and irrelevant pop-ups, I hope you find a few gems and tips––all worth your time to help you sort through the useless and subscribe to the inspiring:
1. To begin, unsubscribe from or delete any resources you don't actually read or need. Clear the clutter. I've been on a minimalist path for the last year––sorting closets, donating duplicates, moving to a capsule wardrobe, and minimizing my communications. As a part of this, I spent one week unsubscribing to every email list, newsletter, and Facebook friend who I don't need to follow, and it's incredible how much more intention and focus it will give you moving forward. This will get you in the right mindset for finding helpful marketing resources that you actually love and look forward to.
2. Just as important as #1, promptly unsubscribe moving forward to any resources that you start but don't end up finding useful. Actively prevent future clutter, and accept that some websites will seem to be chock-full of great advice, but you find yourself zoning out after a few newsletters. Identify what you really love, and ditch the rest.
3. Only use mediums you actually enjoy. I know it's crazy––but you know what I actually read? Emails. You know what I hate? Twitter. That means I loyally follow newsletters like the Hustle, Fast Co. Exist, and Curbed (for the future homeowner in me), and I don't follow feeds or hashtags. But my co-workers love following leaders like Gary Vaynerchuck and Rand Fishkin on Twitter. Use the resource avenues you enjoy and will stick to.
4. #TBT books. We recently started a book club here at SparkReaction, and as hesitant as I was, I have to eat my words. I'm a recovering English major who was force fed high-brow literature and fringe '80s science fiction by professors––but I'm starting to see the value in marketing books like They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan (our first read). This is a format any of us forget in lieu of clogged social feeds and hundreds of emails.
5. Turn to other industries for concept ideas. Some resources don't seem like straight-up inbound marketing resources. Maybe you'll find inspiration in awesome brands creating innovative content in industries like real estate or magazine publishing. You can then learn from their brand stories and what they are trying to do, and bring this to your own marketing campaigns and ideas. My favorite example of this, as I mentioned in #3, is The Hustle. The newsletter focuses on startup and entrepreneurship news, which is not exactly in line with marketing. But their email design and format always gives me new ideas for how to bring energy to our own products: in things like quotes, tone of voice, sponsored content, and catchy headlines. See: screenshot below for a killer headline that I actually read.
6. Inbound.org forums. I've always loved this website for their interesting conversations and threads. I absolutely recommend creating an account and joining in existing topics, but also asking your own questions when you feel stuck. There have been many times small businesses have thrown out marketing questions and essentially gotten the consultations of inbound's top minds––for free.
7. Speaking of debates... Take a resource you do like, and spin it into a heated in-house debate. Office talk is one of my favorite ways to pick the brains of the people around me and turn an internet-instigated idea into something that's actually applicable to my everyday role. Sometimes a resource is just a new idea or a cool thought, and the real worth comes when you start batting around that idea in your own space. You know your company and goals best. Bring the article in-house to a team meeting, and create the worth out of a concept that some marketing guru brought up.
8. Local inbound marketing meet-ups (HUGs). If you dig the previous idea, you'll also probably find value in one of the 150 worldwide HubSpot User Groups. I spoke at the last first 2017 Des Moines meet up, and they are the best place to connect with other software users in your area to bounce ideas off each other, plus see a few HubSpot team faces as they travel around the country to local events.
9. Collaborative Whiteboard Fridays in the office. There's nothing like wrapping up the end of the week with a little Rand Fishkin mustach-io and actionable SEO trends. Or maybe you prefer to kick off your Monday by watching last week's episode! Either way, Whiteboard Friday videos are short, engaging, visual, and thought-provoking. We often watch them as a team, then spend 5-10 minutes discussing how we could apply the concept to a few key clients.
10. CoSchedule for consistently helpful content. I'm usually skeptical of a lot of marketing blogs. I don't always find them helpful, and there seem to be a lot of companies who publish 200-word pieces paired with 4 sponsored ads and call it quits. But I've always found CoSchedule to be an outlier that typically always produces great content I want to share with my co-workers and clients. From social media best practices to templates and optimization help, it's one resource I definitely recommend you bookmark.
11. Create a team Slack channel for sharing interesting reads. Your co-workers know what content out there is and is not relevant to your marketing efforts. That's why we created an internal Slack channel where we just share inbound marketing resources that we've personally enjoyed and want to share with the team. Think of it as curated content––by those people who know you the best! But I do have a few rules you should consider implementing:
- Be transparent in your expectations. Set the description for the channel to keep the threads focused just on marketing resources.
- Make a #nofakenews rule: ask that team members share only resources they actually read themselves and have screened. No passing on headlines just to make it look like you're a go-getter.
12. Ask your customers for suggestions. One of my favorite ways to narrow in on what we should or shouldn't be focused on as a content team are to just have casual conversation with my existing clients. I like to ask what resources they follow, and what part of our marketing hooked them in. Do they enjoy humor and snark? Or are they partial to professional tone? Which other industry leaders do they follow? Do they still read anything on our blog or eBook content even after they start working with us? Sometimes we just chat about the latest conferences they've been to or their favorite industry resources so I can subscribe to them, myself––and put myself even more in their marketing shoes.
13. Use "case studies" when you search. I like resources that show me how to replicate success rather than tell me. This is why case studies are a great resource if you've nailed down the what you want to achieve as a marketing goal, but don't yet know the how. If you're curious about LSI (latent semantic indexing), Google "LSI case studies" instead of just "what is LSI." Or if you want to test CTA formats, use "CTA a/b testing case studies" instead of just "making better CTAs."
Which of these tips do you think you'll try? I'd love to hear where else you find helpful strategies and crap-free content!