Fighting a Poverty of Attention – Inbound Insights From Dharmesh Shah4 min read

dharmesh shah, HubSpot CTO brings inbound marketing insightsLast week I was thrilled to attend the 2014 Go Inbound Marketing Conference from Element Three. Tiffany Sauder and her team do a fantastic job of evangelizing inbound marketing and there is no greater indicator of that than the large, engaged audience that joined for this year’s conference.

The opening keynote was from the CTO and Co-Founder of HubSpot, Dharmesh Shah. As one of the founding fathers of inbound marketing, Dharmesh has a wealth of knowledge to share with marketers in any industry, but it wasn’t his knowledge that impressed me. I was most impressed with what PERQ Co-Founder Scott Hill calls “an ability to see around corners.” It was evident in listening to Dharmesh that he wasn’t skating to where the puck is, he’s skating to where the puck is going. So where is the puck of inbound marketing going? Here are three takeaways about where this world is heading and what you can do as a marketer to prepare.

1. You Can Rent Attention, But Rent Goes Up Over Time

This is the fundamental principle of inbound marketing and it is so often overlooked by marketers that opt for outbound, interruption-based marketing. Renting attention in the form of advertisements can bring a boost to your brand, but just like an apartment or office building, your landlord isn’t going to keep rent flat forever. Over time, rent will go up as the property you’re sitting on becomes more valuable. The real question is would you rather be the landlord or the tenant?

There’s nothing wrong with renting attention; but, as many marketers are beginning to discover, this doesn’t produce long-term results unless it’s paired with a very strong inbound approach. More importantly, it doesn’t matter how big your budget is, you can’t outspend your competition.

Action Items For Marketers

  • If you haven’t already, find your internet territory (i.e. Topic of expertise) and start building on it
  • Leverage the power of tools like HubSpot to make lead capture on your territory easy
  • Look for ways to rent attention strategically and deliberately that will build your audience in the long-run

2. Patience Isn’t Just a Virtue, It’s a Competitive Advantage

This idea of “renting attention” is attractive to many marketers because of the instant gratification it provides. As Dharmesh pointed out, however, inbound marketing is a patient man’s game. In inbound marketing, patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s a competitive advantage. If you want to get ahead in today’s marketing landscape, it is essential to focus on showcasing a quality, long term vision of your culture and your brand.

When people talk about inbound marketing being a shift in culture, not a shift in tactics, this is what they’re referring to. You need to become comfortable in knowing that you will spend months creating content that will get few results in the short term. Most of the things that get created in the early stages of inbound marketing seem underwhelming in a world of instant gratification, but inbound is about working smarter and planning for the long-haul, not burning through short-term solutions that will generate quick results.

Action Items For Marketers

  • Make sure you have executive buy-in when building an inbound strategy. Not everyone in the organization will understand it, but if you have executive buy-in, it makes it much easier to be patient.
  • Take a deep breath. Remember, inbound marketing isn’t built on home runs, it’s built on grand slams, and you have to load the bases first. Start by hitting singles.
  • When in doubt, answer customer questions. This is the most immediate results-generating blogging tactic and can provide that quick hit when you need a spike in traffic.

3. We Have Created a Poverty of Attention That Can Only Be Fought With Great Content

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” – Herbert Simon

So how can we fight this poverty of attention? The only way is through great content. This sounds easy enough, the problem is that many marketers don’t know what great content looks like. Many marketers believe that a keyword-rich blog post is great content.

This works in today’s world, but if you want to be like Dharmesh and skate where the puck is going, you need to think much bigger than that. If you’re trying to get ahead with inbound marketing by creating informative content with no entertainment value, you’re not doing your job. If you’re building out content that tells facts but doesn’t tell a story, you’re not doing your job. Most importantly, if you’re creating “content for target personas” instead of writing for real people, you’re not doing your job.

Action Items For Marketers

  • Stop thinking of your customers as “targets,” start asking yourself who you’re most passionate about helping and write to that audience.
  • Incorporate the creative process into your content creation. If you don’t have an artistic mind on your team, contract one to come in and coach your writing staff on writing creatively.
  • Quit reading books about marketing and read some books about writing and creating. To improve your writing, try On Writing Well by William Zinsser. To learn how to tell better stories, I’d recommend Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern. Pay attention to the Herald format.

For many more key takeaways from this year’s Go Inbound Marketing Conference, make sure to sign up for our recap here.