Inbound marketing by @dharmesh and @bhalligan – a book review

Inbound marketing – get found using Google, social media and blogs is a great book. It’s not the book I expected, but it’s a great book nonetheless. Dharmesh Shah, Brian Halligan and their company, Hubspot, are creating the digital wave. They’re throwing giant twitter and facebook rocks into the sea of traditional marketing. This book isn’t, of course, targeted at the impossibly thin market of people who, like Dharmesh and Brian, are creating this wave. But neither is it targeted at people like myself; those of us who are surfing the wave with differing levels of skill and success.

Instead, this book is aimed at everybody else. It’s aimed at the 99% of the business world who are faintly befuddled by the strange world of youtube and delicious that they find themselves living in. It’s aimed at plumbers, hairdressers, lawyers and oil company executives who, if by some fluke they ever find this blog post, are still wondering what the @ signs in the title mean. It’s aimed at people in large corporations and small businesses alike who are dimly aware that their working lives are about to change – indeed, have already started to change in disconcerting ways – and who don’t know what to do. It’s aimed at the people standing at the shore, too scared to dip their toes into the water. “Inbound marketing” takes them gently by the hand, leads them to the water, reassures them that everything is going to be OK, and teaches them how swim.

The premise of the book is that the old marketing is dead or dying. Gone are the days where simply throwing money at print or radio advertising guaranteed succees. Instead, you need to engage your customers. Give them reasons to come to visit your web site, and once they are there give them reasons to come back again and again. Turn your web site into a hub, stuffed with remarkable blog posts, videos and interviews. As the authors put it (they have a pleasing way with words) “ten years ago, your marketing effectiveness was a function of the width of your wallet. Today, your marketing effectiveness is a function of the width of your brain.”

“Inbound marketing” is clearly – and explicitly – inspired by authors such as Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott. But where this book differs is in its emphasis on hands-on advice. Not only is it inspirational, but it’s also brimming with practical wisdom. Sure, it talks about the power of Twitter. But then it gives you advice on how to choose a twitter handle. Sure, it talks about the rise of the superstar blogger and the death of the press release. But then it talks about how to decide whether you need a PR agency and, if you do, then how you should hire one. Sure, it stresses that your employees will need to learn new skills if they are to survive in this new world. But then it talks about what those skills are, what steps your employees need to take to get them and how you can track how they’re doing. Each chapter contains a checklist of things you should do, right now, to start improving your inbound marketing.

This is no dry textbook. It’s full of anecdotes, some from the usual suspects (Whole Foods, Zappos and Barack Obama) but from others too: accounting software, a shutter manufacturer and a PR firm among others. It’s well written, and there are cartoons too.

Inbound marketing – get found using Google, social media and blogs is an excellent, mainstream introduction to new marketing. If you want to dip your toes into the cold water of social media then buy a copy. If you’re already surfing the waves, you almost certainly know people who are standing dazed on the shore. Buy them a copy from Amazon. They’ll love you for it. This book deserves enormous success – keep an eye out for it at an airport near you.

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