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What Marcus Sheridan Taught Me at the Alaska Inbound Marketing Summit

Here are nine lessons I learned from Marcus Sheridan (aka The Sales Lion) at the Alaska Inbound Marketing Conference. Discover what it takes to make inbound marketing truly successful for your organization.

I had the pleasure and the honor to be a presenter at the first Alaska Inbound Marketing Summit in Anchorage, Alaska. This was Alaska’s first ever inbound marketing conference and it featured  Marcus Sheridan, the Sales Lion, Andrea Vahl ,(aka Grandma Mary) author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies,  Viveka Von Rosken of Linked Into Business, and Corrisa St. Laurent from Constsant Contact.

I can tell you that Marcus is an extremely passionate and energetic speaker. I couldn’t believe that he flew in the night before from Sweeden to present in Anchorage. He definitely knows his stuff about inbound marketing.

Being a Pinterest marketer myself, I truly believe that the foundation of a great Pinterest account is the ability to create great blog posts and articles that draw people into your business. While pretty pictures and visual headlines are good, it’s helpful and useful content that get people to stay on your site.

Nine Lessons About Inbound Marketing from Marcus Sheridan

Here are the 9 lessons I learned from Marcus Sheridan about inbound and content at the Alaska Inbound Marketing Summit.

Why companies fail at inbound. Right on @marcussheridan1! #alaskainbound

A photo posted by Corissa St. Laurent (@corissastl) on


1) Inbound Marketing is About Being the Most Helpful and Best Teacher

It’s inspiring to hear that Marcus would go on the road for 12 hours trying to sell pools and still have the energy to write blog posts at the end of the day for Riverside Pools and Spa. I’m personally not that type of road warrior and don’t always have that type of energy.

When you are creating content, you have to have a passion to be the most helpful to your customers and to be the best teacher possible. Without that passion, I don’t know if it is possible to continue to produce great content.

You have to be willing to provide answers that no one else wants to answer, and you need to create content that is in the best interest of your customers.

2) Start with “Why?”

This is a great question to ask on so many levels. But it’s important to understand why what you write is important to your customers, why your WHOLE organization needs to be behind inbound marketing. If people don’t understand why something is happening, it can be hard for them to jump on board.

You have to get people to buy into the process that creating content is important to an organization and its bottom line.

3) Host an Inbound Workshop and Ongoing Training

Marcus says that in order for an organization to have a truly successful content and inbound marketing strategy, everybody needs to understand what inbound marketing is, the benefits of using inbound marketing, and how everybody has to be on the same page.

If you can’t get everybody at the company at your first inbound marketing workshop to understand what is going on, then you’re not going to get effective results. Everybody should be there, and point number 5 is going to explain why this is vital.

I don’t think this just applies to inbound marketing and content creation, but I truly believe that ongoing training also needs to be provided in the social media sphere. Your company needs to know what type of social media messages can help drive company profit and positive public relations, and the type of social messages that could be extremely costly.

4) Who is THE content manager?

Marcus says you’ve got to have someone in charge of content. Who in your company is going to be the Content Manager? This should be, ideally, someone who is dedicated to this role full time.

You can’t three different people managing content as this can spread people to thin and at the end of the day it can be hard to move in one direction.

5) Insource (Engage Employees)

This is something that I wish more companies would do with their content marketing. It’s leveraging your employees to help you produce wonderful content. Inbound content can come in many forms including e-books, video, audio and webinars.

The goal is not just to have you and your content marketing team produce content for your customers, but to get the whole company involved. Marcus says that there are four types of people in your company right now that can help you produce great inbound content.

1) Writers

2) Actors

3) Talkers (these may be technical people who are extremely good at explaining details).

4) Questioners (usually people who do customer service and answer questions all day)

Let’s be honest, not everybody is born a writer. Some people HATE writing, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t passionate about what they do, or are shy in front of the camera. There are tons of people, within your company right now, who can jabber on like a monkey about a product or service with hot burning passion in a camera or audio interview.

And by the way if you have a small team and you don’t feel you have enough time or resources to produce great content, Marcus suggests that you suck it up and get it done anyway.

6) It’s about Sales Tools Not Marketing Tools

The way you word things is so important, and Marcus stressed this a lot during his presentation. If you want to get sales people to jump aboard the inbound marketing train you have to impress upon them that inbound marketing is a tool that helps drives sales, not marketing.

Tools such as Hubspot or Marketo are not marketing tools, they are sales tools.

When you position that inbound marketing is about sales, and that it helps contribute to sales, then this makes it easier for the organization as a whole to stand behind inbound marketing.

(Disclosure: I’m currently a investor in Hubspot.)

7) Make it Required For Marketing and Sales to Meet

Marketing and sales departments often work independently of each other creating silos of silence. Marcus suggests that it should be mandatory for sales and marketing departments to meet up at least once a month for an hour.

70% of the buying decision is already made before a person talks to a sales person face to face. By working together with sales, inbound marketers and content creators can create content that deals with everyday objections that salespeople receive, and make it easier for salespeople to close the sale.

Marcus shares one example of how one couple read over 800 pages content about swimming pools on the River Pools and Spas site! The articles were doing so much of the education and selling for Marcus, that by the time he went to the couple’s house, the deal was pretty much done. All he needed was their signature.

8) Master the Tool

Doing content marketing is great, but having a tool that allows you to show you ROI is important. This is where Marcus suggests that you receive some inbound certification that allows you to measure the results of your inbound marketing, not just in clicks, but in money and data intelligence.

For example, Marcus found out through his data analytics, that people who read at least 30 pages from Riverside Pool and Spas would have a sales closing rate of 80%, compared to those who read less than 30 pages which had an average closing of 20%.

Using inbound marketing, and data, you can use that information to help close more sales, reduce the amount of time that the sales team needs to be on the phone or in person.

9) The CEO Really Needs to Care about Inbound Marketing

I think this was probably the most interesting tidbit of all, which is the CEO has to really care about inbound marketing and needs to understand and be on board of the whole process. Marcus says that no truly successful inbound marketing and sales occurs without 100% support from the CEO.

He says it simply does not work. And that it won’t be effective.

Behind the Scenes at Alaska Inbound Marketing:

I had a blast being a presenter at the Alaska Inbound Marketing Summit, and wanted to share some great tweets and photos that were taken by people at the event. Enjoy!

Ariane Aramburo in the middle was one of our emcees throughout the event. She’s the morning anchor at NBC Channel 2. I couldn’t believe she had been up since 2:30 am that morning AND was 8 months pregnant. Big thanks also to Jason Martin who is on the left for his gracious hospitality and amazing emcee skills.

Love talking with #Pinterest expert @vincentkcng at #alaskainbound!

A photo posted by Corissa St. Laurent (@corissastl) on

Getting ready to kick it off at 1:15 in the Yukon Room! Come learn all about inbound email. #alaskainbound

A photo posted by Corissa St. Laurent (@corissastl) on

My bosses, Jen and Adrienne, rocking the stage at the #alaskainbound event! Go Beacon!

A photo posted by Courtney Moses (@907g.courtney) on

And a big thank you to Jennifer Christensen and Adrienne Wilkerson from Beacon Media and Marketing for hosting Alaska’s first ever inbound marketing conference! You two are serious visionaries. Keep rocking on!

Rock on, AIMS #attitude #badass #eventdesign #rocks #toastofthetown #alaskainbound #afterparty @hrcanchorage

A photo posted by Toast of the Town Events (@toastofthetownak) on

And big thank you to Toast of the Town’s team, Carrie Shepphard and Cyrstal Swartzlander

Carrie from Toast of the Town and Grandma Mary, Facebook Expert selfiying

And the best picture for the entire conference goes to Viveka Von Rosen and Corissa St. Laurent. Those ladies know how to rock it!

We brought the house down at the #alaskainbound after party! #reallynotreally

A photo posted by Corissa St. Laurent (@corissastl) on

Most awesome picture definitely goes to Corissa St.Laurent from Constant Contact and Viveka Von Rosen the @LinkedinExpert.  Seriously, these gals know how to mingle and have fun.

Also if you happen to be looking for an alternative to a taxi while in Anchorage, Alaska and you’re planning to do some activities in advance, you can contact Beth who operates, Allow Me to Pick You Up, you can call her up at 208 631 1952. She was my driver to and from the airport and was extremely pleasant to chat with.

For more great marketing content and Pinterest tips, make sure you sign up for my newsletter.

If it Doesn’t Sell, it’s Not Marketing

One my favourite quotes about marketing comes from legendary creative advertiser David Ogilvy.
This is his quote:
DavidOgilvy.Ifit doesnt sellits not creative quote. #Advertising

Creative and Strategy Need to Work Together

A common aspect of marketing and advertising you’ll see is having the creative people come up with these interesting ideas, and then having the strategic people (the people responsible for driving the sales and business development) work together to see if it’s a smart way of doing business. It’s very easy to come up with these wonderful ideas that are fun and interactive. Especially in the age of social media, where more and more businesses are about creating fun and happy experiences and capturing them on video. There are many great examples of combining creative with strategy.

VA VA VOOM by Renault UK Attracts Millions of Viewers

Here’s a good example by Renault U.K. that combines creativity and strategy. They invited people to test drive their cars. Usually when people test drive a car, they just drive around the block while the sales person discusses some of the features and benefits of the car.

But Renault did something different, they wanted to create an experience for the person that’s potentially buying the car. Not just any experience, but the experience of what can be possible. A fantasy like state that made me smile and laugh a little when I watched the commercial. The beauty of it all? It was the fact that they made one for both men and women. Take a look.

Often it’s great to come up with creative ideas, but like Ogilvy says, you have to think about how it’s going to make the sale. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that it has to make the sale right away, though that’s always a great goal to aim and is possible (this is what sampling in supermarkets does, may not be the most creative, but I’ve seen it sell products right on the spot).

Your marketing and advertising efforts should at the very least encourage your potential buying customers to take action to find out more information on Google, or to increase their purchase intent. If you can create advertising that makes them join your Facebook page, sign up for a newsletter, or make them visit a store because of a sale, then your creative is now designed with strategy in mind.

Many Pinterert business accounts suffer from this mentality, they post pictures, known as pins, about recipes and fashion that are beautiful and very intriguing, but the company is a real estate company. What do all those creative and beautiful pins have to do with the real estate industry?

Even in social media, there is a lot of talk about engagement and people are asking for a ROI. But learning to engage people the right way, being able to provide them with valuable information that hits them with a bang is what will keep them loyal to you. Being able to treat each customer that has a concern to the best of your ability will ensure that those customers will remain loyal. You don’t want to create social media marketing just to get new customers, you have to create one that allows your loyal customers to remain loyal to you, though both types of customers are important.

This is why it’s important to always ask you and your marketing and advertising team what the end goal in mind is for their potential buyers or clients? Every advertisement and marketing that’s done at the end of the day should focus on how it will increase sales, this will always be essential. Don’t focus on the cool factor, focus on both the creative and the strategic.

Ever Feel Like You’re in Last Place?

I’m a big fan of this year’s Olympics in London. I feel that there are so many heroes and great role models, not just for athletes, but for business leaders as well. The Olympics teaches us a lot about winning, but it also teaches a lot about losing, and how expectations play a role in how we perform.

There are times when I’m sure you have felt that people underestimated your ability to accomplish your dream or business goal, and you surpassed it. And then there are times when you’ve probably felt a sense of inflated ego (I know I have) and then fell flat on what you could actually deliver. But for those that are in business, and those that keep pursuing the dreams, there are times when you feel like you’re in last place.

Fail Faster. Fail Stronger. Fail Higher.But Forgive Yourself.

I probably would have never in a million years write about a blog post about being in last place if it wasn’t for an exceptional story that took place at the London Olympics. Paula Findlay, a Canadian Olympian, finished in last place in the women’s triathlon, at 52nd place (there were 55 participants and three did not finish). As she finished the race, she cried and apologized to Canada for what she perceived as a poor performance. You can read more about her touching story and the support that Canadians have showed her since her event here.

Here’s one of the world’s top athletes, and she felt absolutely terrible for being in last place, and she felt that she let so many people down and her country.

If you’ve ever properly run a business, you know it’s not a smooth ride. You know there are times when you feel absolutely dead last, and that everybody seems to be ahead of you in terms of having more clients, or having more financial success. You feel that you’ve let down the people who trusted you most, the friends and families who helped fund your business venture, and the people that work with you.

True Determination comes from Never Giving Up

Here’s the thing that I admire about Paula, she wanted to quit, and she could have. And media would have said she pulled something and she would have been another anecdote in the history of Canadian Olympics. But under the advice of her coach, she continued on. And that meant being one minute behind the second last person to finish.

Doesn’t it just seem so much easier to quit? Doesn’t it seem so much easier for you to throw in the in towel when marketing doesn’t seem to go right? Or that you aren’t meeting up to the expectations that you had set out for yourself and for your business? It’s just so much easier to give in and be another anecdote in your life. Another great example role model for leadership is former Olympican Daneil Igali.

I’m here to tell you, to keep going. That even when there are times when you don’t believe in yourself, others see greatness in you that they know exists. They see things in you that you will never see in yourself. Whether it’s your mentor, your business partner, or it’s your significant other.

Keep going, stretch to the finish line, because you know you can do it. Even if you feel like you’re coming in last, keep pushing till you get to that finish line that you know is there. You may not always be first in what you want to achieve, but you can always finish what you’ve started.

What I’ve Learned from Canadian Gold Medalist Daniel Igali

As the 2012 London Olympics are on their way, I wanted to honour one of Canada’s greatest athletes and heroes, Daniel Igali. Daniel was the recipient of the gold medal for freestyle wrestling in the 69KG category in the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney.

Raised in Eniwari, Nigeria, one of the poorest village in Nigeria, Daniel had to share food and space with 20 other siblings. He literally wrestled for his food where he discovered his talent and became a national champion at the early age of 16 years old.

The stories that we read about our heroes, or what we know about a person’s life isn’t always straight forward. We may look at their success and think of how talented they are, and how lucky they are to be born with it, only to give a glimmer of thought of their struggles to reach their success.

I personally can’t imagine what Daniel’s life was like and all the hard decisions and sacrifices that he made to get to where he is today. But the one thing I learned from him is this, there are no easy routes to success. It requires hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of passion, and at times some very deep introspection of who we are.

Here are 3 Lessons that I’ve learned from him.

1) Make Smart Sacrifices

Many athletes from other countries dream of participating in sports in Canada. This is because this gives them the opportunity to file for refugee status and escape the political turmoil that occurs in their country. Daniel was from Nigeria, and was competing in the 1994 Commonwealth Games. Not knowing when another opportunity would present itself to escape the country’s turmoil at the time, he applied for refugee status and was in 1998 became a citizen of Canada.

Leaving one’s homeland can offer mixed blessings, and can bring a lot of heartache. I can’t say for sure, but I have feeling that Daniel felt that sacrifice was necessary and that even with all the challenges that would come from being in a new country, he knew he could be a success in Canada.

Lesson I learned:

In order to succeed, you will have to make hard decisions. You have to decide how badly you want to achieve certain goals in your life. Most people often complain about their jobs and how much they hate them, but do nothing about it. And yet there is so much ample opportunity out there waiting for all of us if we’re willing to make smart sacrifices.

I like living life, and I like being able to go out with my friends whenever I can. But at the beginning of every business, smart sacrifices need to be made. That means giving up on going out on certain Friday nights, and being able to challenge yourself in mental spaces that make you uncomfortable. The most important part is to know what your vision is of what you want and why it’s important to you. Daniel knew his vision, and what he wanted. That’s why I said he made smart sacrifices, not sacrifices.

2) Don’t Forget about the People that Helped You

When Daniel first came to Canada, he said that his surrogate mom, Maureen Matheny, was his spiritual guide while he adjusted to life in Canada. As your life gets busier and more clients come to you, it can be very easy to focus so much on the business, and forget about the people who mean the most to us. While business empires will be built, and the public may remember you for great things, you will need to remember all the people who got you there.

Lesson I learned:

There are definitely so many people who have helped me so much in growing this business. I owe a lot my wonderful team, my clients, and to my parents. Whom have truly supported me in this journey and constantly worry about me running my own business. My father used to run his own seafood shop years ago and knows how much trouble it can be. He constantly worries, calls me to ask if I need anything, and most of all they always ask me to come up for dinner.

There’s also the wonderful business mentors I’ve met a long the way, and the wonderful people that inspire me to be more. Without them, MCNG wouldn’t exist.

3) Don’t Forget About Your Community

Daniel started the Daniel Igali foundation in 2002 and established the Maureen Matheny Academy in Eniwari, Nigeria, Daniel’s hometown. The school has over 11 classrooms and other facilities where over 60 students are enrolled in the school and athletic activities. Daniel is now the coach and technical advisor for the Nigerian wrestling team for the 2012 London Olympics.

Lesson I learned:

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it’s very easy to forget our role as a business and our obligations to our local and global communities and to find ways to improve the quality of life for another person out there.

I think people look at changing the world as a big task. But I personally believe that to be part of your community means helping out your community in a way that you feel passionate about. And though you may not have the time nor the resources to start your own foundation, think about the different ways that you can help. For me, it’s about participating in speaking events where people cherish your knowledge and wisdom. It’s about giving others valuable lessons so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Daniel will always be one my greatest heroes. I have so much to learn from his courage, his strength, and his ability to always improve himself in the face of adversity. I wish him, and the Nigerian team he coaches all the best in London.