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Inbound Marketing is Becoming a Zero-Sum Game; For You to Win, Someone Else Has to Lose.

One of the great things about taking a few days off for travel is that you get to push back from the desk and start thinking about things with some perspective. I was in France for a week with my family and took a day trip to London to visit with a couple of old clients and a colleague from when Austin Lawrence had a U.K. office. The big issue that occurred to me was that some of the foundational truths of Inbound Marketing were likely to change with its rapidly increasing popularity.

What happens when Inbound Marketing is ubiquitous?


When every one of your competitors has defined personas, built compelling content that’s on-message and promoted by engaging blog posts and social media, how will you stand out? For you to win, someone else has to lose, and it’s getting harder to post content marketing wins every week. Don’t think this will happen soon?  Check out LinkedIn groups for your industry; there are bound to be plenty of blog posts and other content and engagement offers posted every week, all vying for a finite amount of attention.

This issue of the potential for declining returns from Inbound Marketing was the subject of a conversation I had last week at dinner with Forrester’s James Ollerenshaw. James runs Forrester's Leadership Board for marketing leadership professionals across EMEA, helping them to plan, market and sell more effectively (careful readers may recall that James ran ALG UK for us).  Two of our discussion points offer differing and synergistic ways to approach this issue: creating “home run” content and recruitment of guest bloggers with followings to drive traffic to your site.

A good argument is made by U.K.-based Velocity Partners that you need home run content items to rise above the cacophony. Their idea is that it pays to invest in high contrast and somewhat controversial creative platforms that achieve outsized attention as measured by traffic, sharing and embeds; that these home runs forever raise the level of attention your “workmanlike” Inbound Marketing content receives. Their deck is at this link and definitely worth a read… you might even want to swipe a few of their ideas. I especially love that they included their speaker’s notes in this post.

And their ideas are good, though some companies by their nature do not want to and cannot be controversial or outrageous. It’s hard to imagine Accenture promoting a presentation to its Fortune 100 clients entitled, “Your IT Procurement Process Stifles Innovation,” though personally I think they’d probably benefit handsomely by doing so. This kind of bravado is, however, well suited to challenger brands and possibly those targeting a younger client persona.

So what’s a “motherhood and apple pie” brand (or one that’s risk-averse) to do?

One possibility is to use guest authors on your blog who have significant followings among your target personas. Importantly, this content must be unique to your site, as Google will swiftly put you in the penalty box if you are using what’s known as “syndicated” or duplicate content (and don’t believe those who will tell you it’s OK as long as you change a few words here and there, a practice known as spinning, as Google has figured out that game, too). 

Researching, negotiating with and compensating guest bloggers is not as simple as it sounds.  Who are the bloggers that have audience with your personas? How much of their following is really your target? What’s a blog post worth (and what will they accept)? Can you negotiate a pay-for-traffic deal, and what’s the going rate?

Turns out you don’t have to re-invent the wheel on guest blogger recruitment, compensation and management. Movable Media has already created a marketplace and compensation model that suits B2B Inbound Marketing quite nicely. They work with you to define your content needs, recruit bloggers and establish compensation on per-piece and per-impression bases, and provide the bloggers with tools to promote the content to their followers, driving traffic to your Website, where you can make calls-to-action to drive lead generation.

We like the predictability and variable costs associated with the Movable Media model, as brands can recruit more than one guest blogger and use a portfolio management approach to optimize this activity’s ROI (and ROI attribution is made pretty easy when you combine HubSpot Inbound Marketing analytics with Movable Media guest blogging).

You can aim for home run content and employ guest bloggers for a synergistic effect.

I bet the guys at Velocity would argue that you could benefit from doing both Home Run content and guest blogging. And if you have the budget and management resources to do so, they’d probably be right.

So, swing for the fences or recruit experts to guest blog, or figure out another way to stand out as Inbound Marketing proliferates beyond the early adopters.  Whatever you do, you’ll need to do something different some day soon, so you might as well start thinking about what your strategy and tactics will be.

Want to learn more about how Inbound Marketing can drive lead generation on your Website? Just click below and you’ll be on your way to generating leads today and setting yourself up for success in the future as well.


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