We’re inside of a revolution. The communication revolution started with the internet, and has been super-fueled by the mobile phone – or cell phone. We have the power of a ridiculous computer at our fingertips that puts us in touch with information never before so easily found.
This communication revolution has even prompted villages to abandon the strategy of being close to water for commerce and more, and focus on better phone reception. David Meerman Scott cites the village of Cangandi as one such village. They moved about a kilometer up a hill, away from a river, to get better reception. The move has made a huge difference in commerce, which affects everything else (like education for the entire village). It’s a new world.
So if a village in a developing country can see the future, it’s time for the rest of us to get on board. Whether you run a business and want to find someone to head up your marketing efforts (specifically inbound marketing) or you’re someone who wants to get into this new marketing world, there are a few things to consider.
A successful inbound marketer must have some basic qualifications. We’ll call this ideal D-CAR. The acronym stands for Digital, Creative, Analytical and Reach*. Time to explore what this means, and how vital each component is to your inbound marketer.
The person you’re looking for must be a digital citizen. What does this mean? Think about doing business in another country. Would you want to have someone on your team who’s a citizen of that country? Or would you rely on a tourist to get what you need done? It’s the same concept when it comes to doing business on the Internet. It’s a different world, and you want a digital citizen there.
Let’s look at it another way. It may be a generational thing, but it’s not just about age. However for argument’s sake, let’s take a look at it from an age point of view. I’m 37 years old. I grew up with computer class and some minor programming education. Remember Apple IIe? I do. Then in high school we got the Internet. Well, we got America Online. AOL changed my life. I could chat with my cousin in California at the same time I chatted with my friend down the street. I could look up these web page things and see the world from my house. For about $2 a minute. But the point is I grew up on the Internet.
Now, I personally avoided the Myspace craze. But as soon as Facebook became a bit popular I grabbed a profile and owned my vanity URL. When Twitter was still young I signed up. My first tweet (May of 2008) was something like “Trying to figure out another social network.” But I was a fairly early adopter of these things. I get my news first from Twitter (which sends me to the standard news sites typically). I listen to music on Pandora, Slacker Radio and my iTunes & Google Music account. Google is my everything when it comes to finding out answers. I don’t need a map in my hand even though I can read one, I have my phone with GPS. Generation X and Gen Y would be digital natives.
On the other hand, my parents are in their 50’s (I’ll be nice and omit the exact age) so they didn’t grow up on the Internet. To them, the phone book still exists and they miss the days of having a cup of coffee and the newspaper. My dad goes for the atlas before Google Maps. He still buys CD’s. They now partake in the Facebook and have an email, but their generation is one of digital tourists. They’re familiar with the general idea, but they did not grow up online.
Now you know the distinction between a digital native and a digital tourist. Now let’s look at the hybrid: a digital citizen. This person is someone who has made the transition into thinking “online.” Back to my dad: he edits videos from photos now, and can post it on YouTube. Mom has her music on her mp3 player and is making ringtones for her smart phone. They use Google as a verb. My parents are becoming digital citizens.
So your inbound marketer needs to be fluent in digital, and understand all of the jargon that goes with it. To a digital citizen, the cloud is more than something that covers the sun on a summer day. The cloud is a way to share information and do business. A digital citizen will understand that sometimes early adoption of the latest Internet tool can help catapult a business forward – like Twitter. But they will also know when to cut losses when that next shiny object begins to falter and doesn’t pan out – like Google+.
Find yourself a digital citizen. This person doesn’t need to be a 20-something college dropout digital native who doesn’t know anything about the real world. But this person needs to be digitally fluent. You wouldn’t do business in France without having someone fluent in the French language and customs.
A vital skill to an inbound marketer is creativity. A creative person is more than someone who just writes poetry or paints pretty pictures. A creative person is someone who can create consistent creative content, constantly. Yes that’s a lot of c words, but you get the picture. One of the driving forces of inbound marketing is content. Blog articles, videos, eBooks, guides, whitepapers, status updates…all of these content pieces must be created. The person doing all of this creating must be equipped to write well so others can read it – and want to read it. They must be able to organize a campaign so that content is continuous and consistent. Your marketer must be creative. Creativity isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. This skill is essential to the inbound marketer, and should be something you look for in the person you’re going to hire. Make sure creativity is an inherent skill in the candidates.
I hate numbers. I’m a creative writer after all. But I love analytics. This is a skill that can be learned, but it’s important to have a person who understands the importance of analytics in inbound marketing.
Click through rates, visits, view to lead conversion rate and other metrics must be measured in order for your business to succeed at inbound marketing.
Finding a person who is creative and analytical may be tricky. Creativity may have a slight edge, but don’t disregard analytics.
Reach refers to the size of the audience at your disposal. A person with great reach may have thousands of Twitter followers, a couple hundred blog subscribers and several hundred Facebook friends. However, reach can be difficult to find when it comes to inbound marketers, especially if they’re new to the field. But the important thing here is that the marketer understands how to build reach.
As an example, let’s look at my story.
I was in a TV newsroom for almost 10 years creating hours of content every day. I knew I wanted to “do marketing” as my next career path. I just didn’t realize it was a marketing revolution into which I’d eventually land. What I did know was that I didn’t watch TV commercials. I didn’t pay attention to radio ads – when I even listened to local radio. I didn’t pick up a newspaper.
I consumed most of my media from my computer (I didn’t have a smartphone at this time). Twitter was my news source as a consumer. Even though I wrote the news – and was therefore a recipient of news releases and wire stories and news tips – as a consumer I went to Twitter for my daily news. Yes, it was mostly through traditional news companies, but it was not through the 6:00 news each night or the newspaper in the morning.
Because of how I operated, and how many of my friends and peers operated, I knew that marketing was changing. Blogs, social media, podcasts and video were all becoming the way of the world. As a news guy I began to gather Twitter followers because of what I shared from behind the scenes. I could tell that engaging content was becoming important. My tweeting even got me into trouble – too much tweeting before anyone understood the value of social media in my newsroom. Now it seems all of the reporters and producers have to use it! It’s become a vital way of communication with an audience.
Social media is also a great way to connect with people. My favorite story about Twitter is how one wintry night a friend on leave from Afghanistan ended up stranded in Chicago – 2 hours from his wife and kids. Time was ticking away. His leave was short, and wouldn’t be pushed back just because he was stranded. I tweeted a request to see if anyone could help me get this pilot serving his country back to Kalamazoo. Within 5 minutes I had more than a dozen offers to drive and pick him up, an offer to pay for a car to drive him here and other people offering ideas and support. Twitter is more than a broadcast medium – it’s a place to solve problems and build community.
So as a digital native, I knew my way around this new world of marketing before I’d even heard the term “inbound marketing.” The problem: no degree. I applied at several major companies in the area for communications and marketing jobs, only to be completely ignored. Apparently the job search criteria in their algorithms exclude anyone with “Associate’s Degree” or anything less than a Bachelor’s Degree. It was frustrating. After almost a decade in media, no one saw value in my experience nor my ideas of new marketing.
It was at this time I gave up looking and considered going back to school. Instead, fate intervened. I got an email from my ex-wife (who knows my boss, the woman who hired me) telling me about this new position at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage.
Here’s the actual posting:
Marketing/Communications Specialist – Local mortgage lender seeks someone to prepare content for our website and they must be proficient in all forms of social media & networking, including Facebook & Twitter, you tube channels, video & written blogging. Excellent writing skills required. Previous real-time marketing, public relations, newspaper, TV or media experience helpful. Send resume, salary requirements and samples of your work…
The bells and whistles went off for me. “This is perfect!” So I sent in my resume, scored an interview and ended up with the job. The lesson here: don’t burn bridges, even if it is your ex-wife!
Actually the lesson here is that when you’re looking for a marketer in this new world, look for someone with content creating experience. As the producer of a morning news hour, I wrote and edited tons of scripts, all written for an easy read on a teleprompter. News scripts are supposed to be conversational and easy to understand. Viewers are busy and barely half-listening. Easy to hear and understand is vital. It’s the same when it comes to blogging for business. Unless you’re writing for brain surgeons, it’s not supposed to super-technical. Clean and correct, but conversational and engaging.
It helped that my skills also included shooting and editing video, as well as a limited experience behind a microphone. I ended up as the face of AmeriFirst and our 60 Second Mortgage Tips among other videos. A varied skill set is helpful.
So that’s my story. I found work in this new world of marketing through my experience as a content creator. That’s the kind of person you want. Content is king, context is god. You want to find someone who can write, and has a multimedia way about them. Producers, reporters, photojournalists and other journalism professionals are a great place to start.
So while you may not find the next Laura Fitton – an author and entrepreneur HubSpot inherited when it bought her company oneforty – she has thousands of followers and has been featured on TV… You should look for someone with higher than average numbers and an understanding of how to build an audience.
Building an audience involves much more than simply having more friends or followers. That’s a vanity (and useless) metric. You can buy Facebook likes and Twitter followers, but that doesn’t mean your audience is valuable. The key is to build a relevant and powerful audience. Does your audience share your content? Thank them when they do. Does your audience buy what you’re selling? Can you measure the return on investment? These are important questions to ask yourself as well as the inbound marketer you’re looking to hire.
*The acronym D-CAR is inspired by the Halligan/Shah book “Inbound Marketing.” In it, they put the skill set in order of DARC. I believe “creative” goes higher on the list, hence D-CAR. Thank you for the inspiration guys.