Tales from the floor of #inbound13
If you were one of the dozen or so people I had more than a passing conversation with at this year's Inbound Conference, you likely heard me mention at least once, "This is a blog post." Here is one of those tales.
This is the story of how I met Debra while standing in line for one of the Bold Talks. Despite the fact that a passerby overheard our conversation about content strategy and literally stuck their business card in Debra's face, somehow her and I managed to pick up our conversation after we exchanged cell numbers and arranged to meet for coffee at Club Inbound while texting throughout the day. (How we got from strangers in line to acquaintances over coffee is another blog post entirely. Why stuffing your card in someone's face and wondering why you never get any business from networking events is quite another as well. But one post at a time...)
Debra is already an inbound believer. She had already helped a start-up company grow using inbound. Now she was working as the digital marketing manager for a 158 year old local bank. Her inbound challenge is to get buy-in from the rest of the management and executive team, navigate the restrictions of the compliance department, and reach and expand a new market online when the current customers are local only.
Not a small feat, and one thing I realized from coffee with Debra is that this is probably one of the reasons why the majority of the clients I work with directly are start-ups. There is a lot more risk, and sometimes a lot more work involved with start-ups, but I am addicted to the passion they have for their ideas and look for the willingness and commitment to do anything to make their vision a reality as quickly as possible. If they want to change lives or the world in anyway, I am right there ready to jump with them. Because I work with the top directly, buy-in is there. Because there are few rules, there are fewer restrictions. Inbound for start-ups is a lot easier. (Disagree? Tell me why in the comments.)
But I can also relate to Debra's challenges and I still believe (hope?) that enterprises can adopt inbound if they start taking on some start-up qualities (like making the customer experience the goal, experimenting and learning, making decisions quickly). Having been on the front lines with top executives for 3 mergers/acquisitions and been a partner through 2 others, I know first hand the politics and psychological dynamics involved with the inbound change implementation and management within an organization. Make no mistake, inbound is a new way of doing business. If you are not transitioning to that mindset in all of your business practices, then you are not planning to be in business for long. (Do I exaggerate? Me? nah...)
Debra and I described this reality as it being infinitely easier to build a new house (a start-up) than it is to move an existing house (big brand or enterprise) to a new location. While both have their challenges, they can also learn something from the other in how to overcome those challenges. Here is some of the advice I gave to Debra.
Inbound House Moving Tips for Enterprises Learned from Start-Ups
A start-up's first customers and evangelists are usually local to them. Either in their virtual network or their physical location. In the case of Debra's company, they have their loyal local customers. Much like how a start-up grows through developing their early adopters and evangelists, so can an established local brand grow regionally and beyond by uncovering the true value their customers see in them. My first advice to Debra was to interview current customers, customers who had left, prospects that never came back and find out why- simply by asking.
Another trait of start-ups that could help Debra in her quest was the perspective of newness. When you first start with an organization, the rose colored glasses aren't on quite yet. In that short 3-6 month window is an opportunity for the new employee to bring a fresh perspective. You can still see your organization through the eyes of someone who knows little about them. This vantage point, in combination with her interviews, gives Debra an advantage to getting in tune with the customer.
Start-ups are also keen to create content quickly and as they go. In Debra's case of a 158 year old bank, she started to tell me the story of a bank note for a piece of land that was dated 1886. Think about it. Cape Cod (Plymouth Rock people!), 1886, bank note. Now think about the 2008 financial crash. Would putting your home mortgage with a bank that has been steadfast since the days of the founding fathers have some credibility to it? What a fantastic story to tell about a brand!
You don't have to wait until all your research, interviewing, and buyer persona development is done to start creating content. You just need to be open to the golden nuggets of your customer's perspective and write.
Like an old house with antique glass windows, centuries-old woodworking and the integrity of the history of the house, Debra's new company has a lot of moving parts and things to consider. So I told her to work with her boss to pick one line of business or service that inbound could impact and then use that as their case study to market it to the rest of the organization. Interview those customers and that internal front line specifically, develop those buyer personae, create content related to them. Doing a test drive first will help Debra to see what other challenges she may face and help her develop a strategy to workaround or through them.
Lastly, I reminded Debra that the boss is overseeing how the house is moving, and it is a slow and detail oriented process. Give them the marketing reports that tell them how things are progressing and what they should be aware of.
Are you considering or in the midst of beginning to move your house from one location to a more inbound friendly neighborhood? Download the ingagements strategy worksheets I sent to Debra to help her.