Inbound marketing is one of the hottest terms in marketing now, up there with content and closed-loop marketing. Most marketers have heard of the terms, but many fail to incorporate these marketing activities into their everyday activities.

Recently, I went to the San Jose area for my good friend’s bachelor party and wedding. We ended up doing the bachelor party in downtown San Francisco and enjoyed drinks at a bunch of different bars and restaurants. One of my buddy’s friends from grad school had heard about a semi-secretive speakeasy with little to no signage and a password required for entry. Since we’re always down for an adventure, we decided to find it and try it out.

While at the speakeasy, I took in the surroundings: the decor, drink menu, people, location, and the lack of overall promotion strategy. As I’m enjoying a Downtown Brown ale, the marketer inside me began reviewing the notes on my surroundings and my brain started churning. I quickly came to the realization that this speakeasy was excelling at inbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing 101

Inbound marketing is a rather new buzzword within the marketing industry, although the term has been around since the mid 2000’s. Below is a diagram from HubSpot (Full disclosure: My company uses HubSpot and is a HubSpot Certified Partner) describing the inbound marketing process:

HubSpot Inbound Marketing Chart

Courtesy of HubSpot.com

As you can see, the underlying idea behind inbound marketing is to attract new visitors to your website with valuable content, convert them to leads with more valuable content using forms, calls-to-action, and landing pages, and then close them as customers with lead nurturing activities.

Summarized:

How Could a Speakeasy Excel at Inbound Marketing?

Bare with me here. I’m talking about a speakeasy, which has roots in the Prohibition era of the 1920’s. Obviously, the internet wasn’t around back then and so it’s not really possible for a speakeasy to excel in “inbound marketing” in a digital-sense. But, and this might be a big but, a speakeasy in 2014 definitely could partake in inbound marketing, both offline and online.

Let me explain: Their “content” is a bit different from your traditional inbound marketing content. However, I would still argue it is organic content used in an inbound way. They do not have to spend money on their content to “shout” at people about their awesome speakeasy. They don’t do any type of outbound marketing like advertising or promotions. They barely have a sign! In fact, the sign is so subtle that my friends and I couldn’t find it for 10 minutes (even with the address).

Tip: The homeless of San Francisco are more than willing to help with directions, but they will expect a payment in return. So there’s that.

The content the speakeasy creates:

  • Unique drinks and visitor experience
  • Content on their website
  • Beverage Academy (think HubSpot Academy but for cocktail-making)
  • Reviews from newspapers, magazines, and customers

So What Lessons Did I learn Exactly?

With inbound marketing being such a hot buzzword these days, marketers are quick to dismiss many marketing activities that wouldn’t fit under the HubSpot definition of “inbound marketing”. However, there are ways to attract unknown people to your company using the inbound method.

Lesson: The concept of inbound marketing can be used in a somewhat non-inbound marketing way. Meaning, you don’t have to create your own digital or offline content to attract new customers. A great experience at a speakeasy can cause others to create that content for you by way of reviews, articles, word-of-mouth marketing, and ultimately, brand ambassadors.

Your company or organization, just like the speakeasy, can create an awesome experience. That awesome experience can drive others to create inbound content for you. The content will certainly differ from the typical inbound marketing content of white papers, videos, checklists, research studies, etc. But, it will act similarly regardless.

Conclusion

I’ve described how an experience at a San Francisco speakeasy changed the way I think about inbound marketing. Inbound marketing, at a high level, is a strategy used to attract new people to your company (or touchpoint) by creating valuable content. Just because the speakeasy isn’t creating the content themselves doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t partaking in inbound activities. They let their drinks and experience create the content for them.

What do you think? Some valuable insights or are you wondering if I forgot to take my medicine? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Just to let you know, should you ever visit San Francisco, the speakeasy is on Jones Street. Enter the side door and use the password “books” to enter the library. Good luck 🙂

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