6 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving

6 Ways to Explain Inbound Marketing to Your Family This Thanksgiving


There’s one question that we’re all not looking forward to getting on Thanksgiving this year. It’s not “When are you going to settle down?,” “Why didn’t you come visit me more this year?,” or “Are you sure you’re getting enough sleep? The bags under your eyes tell otherwise.”Nope, those questions don’t even come close to the complexity of simply explaining what your job, as an inbound marketer, actually is. And if you’re new to inbound marketing, prepare yourself, because it’s only a matter of time before a family member sidles up and asks you: What is inbound marketing?

It’s not difficult to answer because it’s complex — it can be described in 140 characters, after all. It’s difficult because it requires some baseline knowledge of how technology, marketing, and the internet work.

But it’s really not that hard to explain inbound marketing if you know the right storytelling strategies. Since every family and Thanksgiving audience is different, you may have to use different techniques to teach your folks and siblings all about your day job.

So, check out the following six ways you can explain inbound marketing to your family. Some of these are useful and some are just sarcastic advice, but hey, your family’s family … right? They’ll love you even if you decide to whip out #4 instead of your family’s traditional after-dinner entertainment.

P.S. If you’re jonesin’ for more, Chad from Digital Relevance whipped up five more awesome explanations for inbound marketers to throw down on Thanksgiving. Check them out!

1) The Food Analogy

Most people know how to make a Thanksgiving dinner — or, at the very least, most at your dinner table have witnessed the meal preparation for their dinner that day. They most likely know how to make turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, or any other traditional Thanksgiving meal, so use that knowledge to your advantage.

Try using the food preparation as an analogy for different aspects of inbound marketing. For an analogy to explain lead nurturing, you can use a pumpkin pie.

For example, you could talk about how sending leads who haven’t been nurtured yet to sales is like giving an unbaked pumpkin pie to your guests. Sure, the pumpkin pie can be eaten raw, but how gross is that? It’s unappealing (if not down-right disgusting) and makes for a messy, messy way to eat pie. In the same way, sending un-nurtured leads to sales will result in frustration and inefficiency in your sales cycle.

Instead, you should cook the pumpkin pie. As it cooks and warms in your oven, the taste becomes richer and more palatable — just like leads look to sales people if they have more qualifying lead information.

In short, lead nurturing is like making sure your pies are cooked thoroughly before serving so it’s more delicious and solidified for your guests — “warm” leads who are already familiar with your business will close at a much higher rate than those “cold” leads.

Use whatever analogy you like to describe inbound — it’s just a great storytelling tactic to use with your family because it can help clarify tangible, confusing issues through a comparison to something everyone’s familiar with.

2) The Real-Life Scenario

This is the one I usually use when I get the dreaded question. I like to take examples of interruptive marketing from my family’s real life that they all know and recognize, and then explain how inbound marketing plays into that. I usually tell the story like this:

“So when you’re on an article on The Wall Street Journal, you often will get an ad pop up that says ‘Please wait 10 seconds to arrive at your content.’ Or you’ll see those dang popup ads before watching a YouTube video. Those are examples of interruptive marketing — they literally interrupt what you want to read or watch. So annoying, right?

“In my job, I do the opposite of that. I create marketing content that doesn’t interrupt people’s days — I create content people actively seek out. Whether it’s useful, helpful, and/or entertaining, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I create things like blog posts, emails, tweets, Facebook posts, and ebooks to help educate and entertain people who might be interested in our company. By providing them with actual value on behalf of my company, I can get more people interested in what my company sells.”

The key here is to 1) identify which interruptive media they are familiar with, and 2) play into their pain points when dealing with that media. Inbound marketing is much more logical when you explain it that way — even if your family doesn’t work marketing or communications, they’ll understand what it is.

3) The Skit

If you want to get super creative and you have at least one Thanksgiving guest who is willing to participate, you can set up a roleplay. There are lots of scenarios you can act out, but a classic one would be the telemarketer/dinner guest scenario. Here’s how it plays out:

You can be the telemarketer and your dinner guest can be, well, the dinner guest. Put his or her phone’s ringer on loud. As soon as the dreaded question is asked, excuse yourself and duck out to the bathroom with your phone. Then, call the dinner guest, have him or her put you on speaker, and pretend to be a telemarketer selling something you definitely won’t need when you’ve sat down to Thanksgiving dinner: those turkey thermometers!

Be sure your dinner guest says key phrases like “You’re interrupting me in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with these irrelevant marketing messages!” or “Did you guys even realize that I’m getting the wrong message at the wrong time here?” or “I wish you could have sent me a targeted, personalized email a few days ago about those turkey thermometers — I would have bought them!”

Then, have them slam down the phone on the table. You can return from your “bathroom break” and say “See — telemarketing, or any type of marketing like that, is super annoying. In my job, I create marketing that helps people — not annoy them.” End scene.

Depending on the talent of your guest, you might be able to improv the whole script. Otherwise, you might want to type a script out and email it to the guest beforehand. And if you really want to go overboard, stay in character the entire dinner. Then, there’s no way that your family will forget what inbound marketing is ever again. The sight of you dressed up as a skeezy telemarketer with a headset will be just too intense to forget.

4) The History of Inbound Marketing

Don’t let your weird Uncle Freddie dominate the post-Thanksgiving dinner conversation with his tales of living purely off lizards in the desert — you’ve heard that story and seen all of his pictures a thousand times. So when your Aunt Gene starts asking you (again) what the heck you do for a living, you’re prepared to let inbound marketing shine!

Whip out a custom PowerPoint that you may or may not have spent the better part of the week before Thanksgiving preparing to make sure it’s extra engaging for your family. Delight them with the whole launch of the internet — and how it fueled the inbound marketing wave. Since you do inbound marketing for a living, this should be no problem, but if you want some inspiration for your deck, check out this SlideShare we have on inbound marketing.

Delivering a presentation post-dessert will be not only enthralling content-wise, but also a great way for you to earn some brownie points for excellently designed slides. Get extra bonus points if you have a wireless slide clicker/laser pointer.

5) The Puzzle Pieces

This technique boils down to an age-old philosophical question: Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? Aristotle thought yes … but when you’re describing what inbound marketing is to your family, it’s most likely okay for you to just explain each tool that goes into inbound. While inbound is more than just the tools that help you accomplish it, your family is really trying to get an understanding of what you do day-to-day.

So break up inbound into the tools that help you accomplish it — you know, like blogging, email marketing, social media, closed-loop analytics, call-to-action buttons, etc. Most family members who haven’t done marketing probably won’t know what these are either — that’s okay. Try using some the analogy technique from #1 to explain. Even though family members aren’t getting the whole enchilada, they’re getting a taste of your day-to-day job — which is a great thing in and of itself.

6) The “I Tweet for a Living”

If the previous five have all failed, you can always say “I tweet for a living.” It’s accurate — you drive real business results with inbound marketing, you don’t just spew out 140-character snippets of your thoughts to get paid — but it can get your family off your back if you’re not sure they’d be interested in hearing the whole shebang, even if they ask. If you choose this path, be prepared to hear how easy tweeting, blogging, designing, writing, etc. is to do and that family members wish they could get paid to do that.

Then, try to switch the subject quickly to something everyone can relate to — “Hey Uncle Joe, I’d love to get the recipe for those mashed potatoes you make so well.” Trust me, it’ll work like a charm. 😉

So good luck tomorrow! Get your teaching, presenting, or dramatic self together, and get explaining! There are lots of people who want to know what you do.


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