So you’ve read articles, watched webinars, maybe even attended a seminar or two about Inbound Marketing. You’re hooked. You’re ready to get started! The only problem is, you’re not sure you have the budget for a full-on Inbound Marketing campaign.
You have probably heard of Hubspot as well. Inbound and Hubspot typically go hand in hand, and if you are running a serious inbound campaign, Hubspot is by far the best option and in the end, the most cost effective solution. As a result, many people have had their excitement about inbound tempered by sticker shock when they see what agencies typically charge for their monthly fees. We are going to do something though that might fly in the face of what a software partner should do — we’re going to tell you how to attack an inbound marketing campaign WITHOUT Hubspot.
3 Major Components
A good inbound marketing campaign needs a minimum of three major components: Content, Landing Pages & Email Marketing. There are actually a few more – but I have lumped some in together to keep it simple. We all know that using Hubspot as the brain of your Inbound campaign makes these things very easy to do, but what if you simply can’t afford Hubspot right now and want other alternatives? Here are some suggestions.
Content – WordPress
First, all you need to create engaging content is a little time to write, and a blog platform to write on. We recommend WordPress. It is free, and there are a wealth of plugins to make your life easier. Content alone isn’t enough though, it has to be well though-out, well written, and search engine optimized content. Think back to high school composition here! You need an attention grabbing headline, a good intro paragraph, 3-4 supporting paragraphs and a good closer. Dress it up with some photos and illustrations. We also suggest taking advantage of WordPress plugins that give you real-time SEO feedback. These are invaluable in making sure your content is well formed and will be properly indexed by the search engines.
Landing Pages – Unbounce
Next comes landing pages. Why do we need a landing page? Landing pages are critical in getting your readers to leave their contact information. A landing page says “ok, you’ve read the article and you want more, leave your name and email here and you can download a great eBook on the subject”. Landing pages connect you to your audience and allow your audience to give you permission to market to them through email and other automated services. This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do without Hubspot. There are services out there such as Unbounce.com and some others that offer landing page management and hosting, but these have a fee. In it’s simplest form though, a landing page is merely a great headline, some supporting bullet points, an image or two, and a form for your user to fill out. After they fill out this form, they get the item. You could put a link to the item in the form’s thank you page, or auto email response, etc. We recommend a plugin called Contact Form 7 for WordPress, but there are numerous forms plugins out there.
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Email – MailChimp
Now that you have their email and contact information, what’s next? Now you start the marketing process! You need to have some sort of automated email service to do this. On a budget, we highly recommend MailChimp. It is free to start out with and only costs money when your contact list grows past a certain size. You can connect your WordPress form automatically to MailChimp using some other plugins. This will automatically take the users contact info and transfer it to MailChimp and can even put it in the right mailing list. Once in MailChimp, you have the option to manually send emails out to your contacts at regular intervals, or you can automate a series of emails set up as a drip campaign to go out in a sequence after the user signs up. MailChimp has lots of options here. There are also many other services besides MailChimp, feel free to check others out and see which you like best.
If you study the basics of inbound marketing, and you create your own process that includes these three components, you will be able to generate traffic, leads, and enjoy the benefits of inbound on your own, without paying big bucks for Hubspot. However, after a certain point, you will find that the time it takes to maintain these activities can quickly become a burden. This is where Hubspot sells itself very quickly. In the end, this is why we are glad to tell folks how to manage inbound marketing outside of Hubspot – once some success starts rolling in, it becomes easy to show them how Hubspot can save them time and money, while increasing their overall effectiveness!
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I enjoyed your post, it was on target for me. I’m not anti-Hubspot, I’m just starting out and cashflow is everything. In the alternative, I’m using WordPress right now and I’m looking for a way to create widgets for those nifty Hubspot-esque download ads on the sidebars. Do you know of any plugins? If not, I’m anxious for someone to create one. Thanks and again enjoyed your post.
Thanks Deanna! Hubspot is a fantastic product, no doubt about that. Cashflow is an issue though when starting out and having viable alternatives is crucial. Hubspot actually encourages us to tell people how to tackle inbound outside of the Hubspot software. The core fundamentals travel easily to other platforms, however, it takes a good deal more work and effort. Long-term, it makes a great case for investing in Hubspot in the future, once you’ve grown as far as you can without it.
As far as plugins – there are a handful of good plugins out there. One great one is Premise. You can check it out at http://www.getpremise.com. Premise handles the landing page functions and also has tools to manage downloadable files, memberships, content protection and money handling.
As far as creating Calls To Action (CTA’s) for the sidebar, there would be a few ways to handle that. Quite simply, the CTA is just an image with a link to your landing page. Hubspot put out a good article on using Powerpoint to create your CTA graphics. Just create the image and drop it in your sidebar with a text widget. It only gets tricky if you want to track impressions and clicks. My suggestion for that would be to search for a banner ad management plugin and set your CTAs up as ad banners pointing to your own landing pages. If it’s a decent plugin, it should let you run a report showing each ad’s performance and click-through rates.
Hope this helps, and here is the link to the Hubspot article on creating CTAs. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33483/How-to-Easily-Create-Professional-Looking-CTAs-in-PowerPoint-Tutorial.aspx
Thank you!! Super helpful.
Deanna, HubSpot just today put out a new how to buid CTAs in powerpoint post with some good examples. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34034/7-Big-Brand-CTAs-Recreated-in-PowerPoint-27-Free-CTA-Templates.aspx