Hubspot founder Brian Halligan kicked off What’s Next DC* with a terrific presentation on inbound marketing (aka, how to get found by your clients, customers, and prospects). In it, he identified six steps to viral growth and looked at the skill sets needed to market to the way that people today shop, learn, and buy.

Halligan said the six steps to viral growth include:

  • Content Creation. He advises creating as much content as possible, and suggests that each piece can act as “a mini-magnet” to attract customers.
  • Optimizing for Social Media. Halligan talked about creating “remarkable” content. Halligan said that some of the best-read posts on Hubspot’s blog promise (in the headlines) insights, analysis, or marketing tips.
  • Be Original. The more your content is unique (or you’re first with breaking news), the more likely it will have legs (and spread via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks).
  • Include Strong Calls to Action. Halligan recommends that these be “valuable, easy, prominent, and action-oriented.”
  • Nurture Your Leads. This is obviously a big deal, because if you’re not nurturing leads you’re losing them.
  • Study Your Analytics. If you’re not looking at your statistics and measuring your success, then how do you know what’s working and what’s not? Halligan talked about the need to “measure often and evolve fast.”

Don’t be Cocktail Party Compliant

Halligan said that many marketers are “cocktail party compliant,” a great phrase to describe going through the motions but not really being invested in the process. Does your marketing team have the right skills for 2011’s business environment?

Halligan suggested that every marketing organization needs to identify people with four key skills. (If you’re an independent consultant or a small business without a big marketing staff, think of these as skills you need to either own or borrow.)

  • Digital Native. Halligan suggests this is genetic. I’m not convinced it’s a gene thing, but I am convinced it’s not demographic. I’ve seen 70-somethings who “get it” and 20-somethings who are Web-phobic.
  • Analytic Capacity. We all know I’m a big proponent of data-based decision making, so I was happy to see Halligan highlight the importance of having at least one person on your team who’s happy crunching data.
  • Reach. “Reach is the new Rolodex,” says Halligan. This speaks to the need, even more today, to value the skills that networkers and connectors bring to the table.
  • Content Creator. Clearly being a good writer helps. But content is broader (e.g., video, photography).

Other conference speakers also talked about the need to rethink how you’re doing marketing and PR in the digital age. Bryan Eisenberg touched on a theme that I believe is critical to business success: being  nimble, authentic, and continuously improving. Rand Fishkin pointed out that companies are very under-invested in SEO (so there’s a huge opportunity to make the long tail work for you). And Shonali Burke offered case studies of two companies that are building relationships with their customers. Echoing the day’s “content” theme, she talked about the need to tell your story “really well” and pointed out that everyone in your organization today is (by default) involved in customer service.

*Disclosure: Comped admission; but choice to blog and what to write about are all me.

Photo by Matthew Rakola Photography.