Guest Post: 5 Lessons Trick-or-Treaters Can Teach Us About Inbound Marketing

Original post featured on the HubSpot blog – October 31, 2011

5 Lessons Trick-or-Treaters Can Teach Us About Inbound Marketing:

Each Halloween the ghouls, goblins, and princesses come out and parade their costumes en masse across towns and cities everywhere. With hundreds of houses and apartments to pick from, what makes some places a raging success, while others can’t get a ‘treater to save their lives? It turns out all of those little super heroes and skeletons can actually teach us a thing or two about our own inbound marketing efforts.

Lesson 1: Make Sure They Know You’re Home

Remember those houses with the lights off, no cars in the driveway, and no decorations adorning the walkway? Not only were they spooky, but you had no idea whether anyone was home to give you candy! Although the occasional trick-or-treater might be brave enough to run up and ring the bell, these houses are generally overlooked even if they have great goodies inside.

Marketing Takeaway: Make sure people know you’re open for business. For marketers, this means always keeping your website up-to-date and providing fresh content through your various online channels such — posting often to your blog and social media accounts, making sure your landing pages are optimized and filled with valuable offers and content, etc. No matter where your visitors stop by, they should always feel like “someone’s home” to help them out.

Lesson 2: Tell a Great Tale

Whether it’s like a haunted mansion, a spooky graveyard, or a zombie apocalypse – what makes your house stand out from the rest? Pull in the candy-grubbers with a great, consistent tale about your home and goodies. Parents and kids alike always remember the places that surprise, enchant, and entertain them, so slap those bolts to your neck, get out the green face paint and lab supplies, and get your Frankenstein on!

Marketing Takeaway: Telling compelling stories is a major part of getting your new audience’s attention. Captivate them by telling the tales you know best. While for trick-or-treaters, this might mean tales of ghosts and gore, for your business, this means sharing riveting case studies, addressing industry problems on your blog, orcreating a valuable ebook to attract and generate leads at the top of the funnel.

Lesson 3: Give Out the Good Stuff (But Don’t Just Give it Away!)

If telling great stories is a major part of getting new ‘treaters to your door, then another big piece of the pie is: what kinds of goodies do you have? The best houses don’t hand out lollipops and hard candies. Instead, they give out the chocolatiest chocolate bars, the chewiest gummies, and the sourest sour candies! Make sure you’re offering the best of the best, and never just leave your goodies on the doorstep unattended. The smart candy-givers know it’s a two-way street: trick-or-treaters request their loot, and candy-givers get a chance to enjoy their goofy little costumes and squeaky thank you’s!

Marketing Takeaway: Give away valuable content freely, and always interact with the folks who stop by! Find your customers’ pain-points, have the conversations they want to hear about most, and talk about the technologies you see revolutionizing your industry in the next few years. Then create ebooks, webinars, podcasts, and other content around these great topics. Just like you require a “trick-or-treat” in exchange for candy from the kids who knock on your door on Halloween, make sure you’re distributing your marketing content in exchange for lead information; use landing pages with lead-capture forms and plan to follow up on visitors’ clicks, form submissions, and downloads with a phone call or a timely lead nurturing campaign.

Lesson 4: Be Prepared. Don’t Run Out.

When you decide to open up your doors to the candy-frenzied masses, don’t get caught off guard when your house is a wild success. Be prepared to bring out more goodies, as the zombies, witches, and dinosaurs keep asking for them. Remember those houses that *gasp* ran out of candy when you were little? Definitely don’t make that same mistake.

Marketing Takeaway: There’s nothing worse than disappointing potential new customers with false hopes of content. Letting potential enthusiasts down on their first visit can almost guarantee they won’t make a second. For marketers, this means having a long list of ideas and content lined up as users come to your site looking for more great resources. Create content calendars, crowdsource new ideas from your employees and customers, and collaborate with like-minded businesses to make sure you can keep delivering those “delicious” goodies that feed your visitors as well as your inbound marketing programs.

Lesson 5: Reward Your Biggest Fans

Remember that pirate who’s been coming to your haunted house for years and bringing new friends every time? Don’t forget to say thank-you and give him the candy bar you know he likes best. Or maybe even an extra one for good measure.

Marketing Takeaway: When it comes to your business’ top fans who absolutely love what you’re doing – send the appreciation right back their way! For Halloween, this might mean a King Size candy bar for your loyal ‘treaters, but for your business, this likely means sending the retweeting love, celebrating your Facebook fanswith “insider” perks, or running a special contest for your biggest advocates. No matter how you choose to thank your best fans and customers, just remember to pay it forward. Who knows, down the road they might even help keep those naughty older ‘treaters from egging your house!

What else can trick-or-treaters teach you about inbound marketing?

Image Credit: scott feldstein

Language International: Traveling the World from my Living Room

Language International ImageSeveral months ago I was given an opportunity to travel the world – from the comfort of my own living room! Cambridgebased Language International allows students interested in studying abroad to work with a knowledgeable team of language learning advisors to make their international experience a success.

From comparing programs, cities, and seasons to booking their next language learning adventure, Language International provides guidance all along the way. In order to increase site traffic and improve their SEO, I wrote many keyword-rich articles about the hundreds of cities where Language International places students.

Here are some examples:

Choosing a Country to Learn In

Italian Courses in Italy Description

French Courses in France

Japanese Courses in Tokyo

Not only was this project so much fun to work on, but now I feel I might need to travel to all of the hundreds of cities that I learned about while writing for Language International during this project!

Courting Your Social Media Prospects

Courting Your Social Media ProspectsJust like dating, attracting prospects to your business’ social media campaigns can be a challenge. Though we’re sure you’re quite the real-life Cassanova, here are some suggestions when it comes to courting yourself some fine-looking social media prospects:

1. Don’t be a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (aka – be genuine): Just like you can spot a sleazebag from halfway across a crowded bar, social media users can totally see through a company just trying to play it cool to get fans and followers. Don’t lure them in with witty banter if you plan to BLAST them with marketing messages a week later. Instead, ask questions you generally want to know the answers to, run contests users will actually be interested in, and plan to engage, not broadcast.

2. Be prepared for the good… and the bad: When you put yourself out there, sometimes you get the Prince and sometimes you get the Frog. Some of your users will be smart, funny, and engaging while others might just want to criticize your company or product. Make sure you’ve got a plan to react to both types, and no… deleting unflattering comments doesn’t count as a solid plan (unless they’re flinging 4 letter words at you). Always think through your strategy before you put yourself/your brand out there.

3. Go to the right places: If your favorite Friday night activity is building model airplanes while listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony, you might not want to go out clubbing to meet your next soul mate. Seems simple, right? Well, the same thing is true about social media: as tough as it is to swallow, some businesses might not fit well on Facebook, for example, because they are just not that social. The takeaway is: know your audience and go where they are. If they don’t have a central meeting place, maybe creating a blog or forum will give them one!

4. Tell them how pretty they are: Ok, maybe that’s a little too creepy – but thank your fans, followers, and brand advocates! Make them feel like they get as much out of this relationship as you do, and make them feel special – with “members only” messaging, discounts, and “in the know” opportunities.

And if these suggestions don’t get you the hook-up, maybe lose the suspenders.

Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

*Originally written for and posted on the ListEngage blog*