Become An Inbound Marketer Without Creating Content

Inbound MarketingInbound marketing is all about your content, right? If you use the components of inbound marketing I have shared or the common definition centered on content, social and search, content is at the core.

Content is definitely one path, and the path most companies traditionally take. However, it isn’t the only viable approach. During Marketo’s Social Rockstar Tour presentation, they presented two alternatives to content in inbound marketing.

With more content competing for attention every day, is it time to add these alternatives to your inbound marketing plan?


Do you offer something useful for free? If you have a freemium product model, if you offer referral bonuses or if you have a collection of free tools, then you have probably realized that inbound marketing does not have to center on your own content.

Example 1: Buffer
Leo Widrich does frequent guest posts about social media tools, social sharing, creating an audience and similar topics. Yet before I ever saw one of Leo’s guest posts, myself and many others had already heard about Buffer as a better way to share on Twitter and Facebook. The fact that Buffer has a very functional free option made it worth sharing for many people.

Are you interested in trying Buffer as a way to share what you are reading, but spread that sharing throughout the day? I use the free version, including the Android app and Chrome plugin, and I definitely recommend it. Sign up here.

Example 2: Pingdom
Pingdom offers a number of free tools, including a simple free monitoring service and a useful tool that breaks down load times for your site by each component.

I’m not in Pingdom’s target audience and have never seen content from them yet I have found their tools through search and through the recommendation of other bloggers. You can check out their tools here: Pingdom Tools.

Content is often broadly defined to include various tools, however offering a free limited functionality version of your product goes well beyond things like ROI tools.


Is there a strong community around your product? Are there people that are actively promoting or evangelizing your product for you? Do your supporters feel like they have a stake in what you are doing and a desire to see it succeed? If so, people are finding you through the recommendations of this community.

Example 3: Linux
Open source software has developed its own community. Every contributor to Linux has a personal stake in the Linux OS. They are believers and evangelists, freely recommending Linux every time it is appropriate (and often even when it isn’t!).

In each example, content is still an element, however the content is the recommendations or references from others. By creating functional utility or an engaged community, these organizations have given up control of their content and given up much of the associated burden.

Your Turn

Will you expand your inbound marketing efforts by creating and nurturing an affinity group or developing useful functionality for your audience? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Image Credit: (CC) Gavin Llewellyn on Flickr

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  • Doug Kessler

    Great reminder that inbound is more than just content.  I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Another example might be turning customer service interactions into marketing opportunities (sensitively, of course).

    • Nice addition, thanks! Yes, creating satisfied customers always helps.

  • Noël Ponthieux

    Now I’m waiting for your definition of ‘content.’ Coming up next?

    • Hmm, good point. Possibly a topic for a future post. For now, suffice it to say that I do not consider the free version of HootSuite to be content, yet it can give a similar boost to inbound marketing that great content can give.

  • Thanks for including us. We just wanted to ask what you meant by you “have never seen content from them yet”?

    • Thanks for the comment. What I meant is that I do not see content from Pingdom. I’m not in your target audience and don’t frequently visit your site. What pulled me in was the free version of your monitoring service.

      When marketers talk about content being at the heart of inbound marketing, my experience with Pingdom is actually a great example of the alternative. You delivered something valuable and functional, instead of informational, and in doing so had the same effect on me that a more traditional inbound marketing program using content could have.

      • Thanks for the clarification 🙂

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