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INBOUND GOES TO COLLEGE: 4 Ways Inbound Can Leap to the Next Level

Oct 20, 2016
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I had the privilege this month of getting to share with students at Florida Institute of Technology as well as my alma mater The University of North Florida. In both cases, I was amazed at how the students were so driven to learn from me. It also surprised me that most were entirely unaware that Inbound Marketing even existed. Since I spend a majority of my life interfacing with others in my field as well as my clients, I assumed that the world outside my inbound bubble was aware of our existence. Coming out of this experience I have come to realize that we in the world of inbound marketing have not yet crossed the chasm into the mainstream and that our industry is still in the early stages of what we can accomplish. 

Universities are traditionally places which embrace forward thinking and trend setting. Historically, they are places where new ideas are born and nurtured in the heart of society's youth and tested before being launched into the “real world.” While I still believe this to be true, the fast pace of today's technology and innovation has made it hard for even these institutions to keep up. Professors and students are eager to learn about new technologies and business ideologies and the practical application of them in today’s society. As an agency owner, I feel it’s part of my duty to give back and educate where I can to better prepare the next generation of marketers.
Going back to campus brought back many memories. I remember when I arrived in the summer of 2004 fresh out of high school and without a clue about what I wanted to do with my life. This time, I was coming back as a professional and someone students would look to for information about what life after college was like. As I began to converse with the students and other professionals I realized that what I was doing was not the status quo. Most of the professionals were working in traditional agencies. While the internet had changed the medium they used to get their message across, the methodology was left relatively unchanged.
Since 2009 I have spent much of my time in the SEO and web design communities looking for ways to drive more traffic and engage visitors. After transitioning into an inbound agency in 2015, I’ve spent my time learning how to create connections online in a more personalized way. Every day I have been consumed with content and interactions that confirm my world view. After the past few weeks of experiencing the current educational environment and conversing with other professionals in my industry, I see that we as inbound marketers haven’t even begun to reach our full potential. Below are 4 key things that we as inbound professionals need to do to help us “cross the chasm."

1. Tell A Better Story with Data

One of the most powerful aspects of inbound is our ability to track and prove ROI. We can see exactly who visits, converts and closes. Advancements in technology over the past few years even allow us to track user behavior like never before. Tools like HubSpot, BrightInfo, Hotjar, Moz, and ahrefs give today's inbound marketer more data than anyone could ask for. But just throwing out stats does us little good. I am a firm believer that numbers tell stories. As an industry, we need to continue to use the data we collect to tell stories that get to the “why.” When you can show that your method works and prove why it works you create a message few can resist. 

2. Consistently Produce Great Content

The internet is full of crap. Just adding more content doesn’t do anyone any good. In order to have inbound marketing stand out from the rest, we have to produce great content on a consistent basis. Anyone with internet access can post their thoughts and opinions, but posting great content that people want to read and engage with takes work. We must commit to taking the time to doing content marketing the right way.

3. Collaborate with Traditional Firms

It’s common in the inbound world to disregard traditional marketing in all it’s forms. To me, this is very narrow-sighted and can create unnecessary tension. Television ads still works. Billboards still work. Radio still works. Marketing is about using the right medium to attract the right consumer. By teaming up with, working alongside, and collaborating with traditional agencies we can make a real-time case for inbound. Not only that, many of these agencies have ins to larger publications and companies who could help us grow as well. 

4. Educate Educators

Educators have a passion for learning. That’s why they do what they do. They are hungry to learn about new technology and methodology that is being used in the real world. We can help by reaching out, connecting with and sharing what we are learning using our method. From my experience, these professors are more than happy to have someone share another point of view. This partnership can help you become a better presenter, share what’s new in the industry, and even open the door for possible internships. 
While inbound has certainly grown in popularity over the years, traditional marketing is still a dominant presence. For me, this is an exciting time for inbound. We as a community have seen a lot of success and as we continue to push what is possible in our field, our method will continue to grow. The world is looking for businesses that want to connect authentically. The better we do our job, tell great stories, make connections, and educate, the faster our movement will grow. 
Building a Business That Connects 
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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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