It has been a challenging, exhilarating, and highly educational year at The Blue Cube, but we have finally done it: we are now a “Silver Tier” HubSpot Partner.
If you’re not sure what that means, it means we’ve taken another exciting step forwards in our inbound marketing journey.
And if you’re still not sure what “inbound marketing” is - you definitely need to read this blog.
Following many months of hard work, The Blue Cube’s award this week is the clearest indication that our inbound marketing efforts are paying off. That’s why we thought that it was timely to present this interview with our director Phill Burrows.
In the following conversation, Phill answers some of the burning questions that every B2B company with ambitious growth plans needs answered:
- What is inbound marketing?
- Why is it so important?
- What is the first thing that a company should do to start inbound?
Find out these answers, and more, below…
JB: Tell me about how The Blue Cube started, and the initial direction of the business.
PB: I started The Blue Cube when I was living and working in London. As the internet was taking off through the late 90s, I was working for a design agency, where I was a key part of the digital team and managed the production side of things.
After the 9/11 atrocities, one of our biggest clients, British Airways, cut back on a lot of their marketing budget. There were several redundancies, so I took one and left to set up The Blue Cube. I continued to maintain my contacts in London and essentially operated as a contractor working on digital projects spanning design, development, production, consultation, and so on.
That was the initial direction of The Blue Cube - just to remain super-connected with all my contacts and stay busy. It was the early days of the internet so a lot of this stuff was new and quite exciting, and companies were still thinking about how they were going to use digital. They didn’t even have websites. My agency experience was in corporate communications, and large brands were thinking about how to implement communication online through the internet.
JB: What was different about the digital market back then?
PB: It was new and in its infancy. There wasn’t really a digital marketing market. It was growing and it grew very quickly, but the technology wasn’t very sophisticated yet. Whereas there are now different workflows and processes that designers and developers will work through, these didn’t exist then. We were just starting to form those processes and understand how to start building websites using very basic technology. Search engines were simplistic. Google had only just launched.
JB: You continued to build websites from scratch for many years. Fast forward to 2017: what made you change your focus to inbound marketing?
PB: My main area of interest has always been around optimising and making a website usable, findable and search engine-friendly. The Blue Cube specialised in SEO for quite a number of years and it was only recently that we stopped doing it because it wasn’t giving our customers the kind of returns that they were expecting. SEO was getting harder as search engines were getting more sophisticated. Through that period of time I started researching inbound and HubSpot, and it just made more logical sense to me that there was a whole methodology that underpinned the process. It enabled us to build campaigns and deliver proper value for money and show where the money was being spent, which we couldn’t do with straightforward SEO.
JB: What does inbound marketing mean to you?
PB: It just means a common-sense approach to how you find and attract the right kinds of visitors to your website, and once you’ve attracted them, how to develop a relationship with them and help them understand the information they need to get them through their buyer journey to becoming a customer.
JB: Why is it so important? What advantages/disadvantages does it have over traditional marketing?
PB: You can track marketing returns, see where your money is being spent, what leads and customers it has brought into your business. The process is repeatable and measurable. It’s not stabbing in the dark and guessing what might work and what doesn’t - you can see what works and therefore repeat it on a campaign-by-campaign basis.
One challenge for inbound is that for it to work properly, the whole company has to buy into it or it won’t work. It has to be deeply embedded into the culture of the company that we are providing that service to.
JB: Is there one aspect of inbound marketing that you would call the “most significant”? If so, what is it and why?
PB: That has got to be the ability to pull together avery aspect of digital marketing into one system. This brings the whole team together so that they can speak the same language, focus on the same goals, and more effectively work alongside each other.
JB: What were the first steps you had to make when changing from traditional marketing to inbound?
PB: There was a big learning curve that we all went through at different rates. We each focused on our own area of specialisation. We learnt that we needed to leave behind a lot of things that we were comfortable with. Website development was slow and quite a heavy process, and we’ve had to become much more lean and agile in the way we think about digital marketing.
JB: What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered since starting inbound?
PB: Once we went through the early learning curve, things became much easier. I like to be progressive and open to adopting new practices in the way we work, and I think that the challenges we are facing now are that customers aren’t on the same page as we are yet. This is pretty cutting-edge stuff; it’s modern thinking and a long way ahead of most of our competitors and a lot of our customers. The tough part is trying to show them that there’s no trickery, no smoke-and-mirrors, and that it's just a common-sense approach which allows us to measure and successfully implement all our marketing efforts.
JB: What is the reaction of most potential clients when you start speaking about inbound marketing? Do they already know about it?
PB: I don’t think they know about it. They’ve heard of elements of it: they’ve heard of SEO, they might have heard of Calls to Action, but they haven’t looked at inbound as a whole offering. It’s not imbedded into the way they handle their marketing. When I start educating them about it, it’s quite clear that they haven’t heard of it and are a long way off it at the moment.
JB: Tell me about one particularly satisfying moment during your inbound journey.
PB: That definitely has to be achieving our silver award this week. The HubSpot website says that their Partner Tier programme acknowledges the agency partners, such as The Blue Cube, who bring the inbound message to the highest number of clients, and who execute their inbound marketing services to the highest standards. To have achieved so much in just a few months is a real credit to the whole team. We’ve worked really hard and it’s definitely a big moment for us.
JB: What is HubSpot, and how does it tie into the inbound methodology?
PB: It’s the software behind the inbound marketing process, which can be delivered through various different systems. HubSpot is the big player, and it’s the best and most user-friendly system that we’ve looked at so far. They are basically owning the inbound marketing space at the moment and they are helping us deliver success to our customers.
JB: What advice would you give to companies who have heard of inbound marketing but haven’t yet started doing it?
PB: Just come and have an open conversation with us, and learn a little bit more about what it is. We try and talk in plain, straightforward terms and show people where they can really benefit from inbound marketing. They may already be doing some aspects of it already, and if that is the case we can look at where they can improve or extend their efforts into a full inbound marketing programme. Don’t be put off by the fact that it's a new way of thinking, because while it is new, it’s already proven to work. It’s the present and the future of marketing.
JB: What is the next step for The Blue Cube?
PB: To power forwards and achieve our gold and then our platinum status, and keep building upon our successes. We understand so much more now than when we started our inbound journey, so I think it’s just a case of moving on, getting deeper into HubSpot, and delivering more successful campaigns for our clients.
If you would like to learn more about inbound marketing, we are always ready for an informal conversation about inbound and to find out how you could be improving your marketing efforts.