Today, people are becoming increasingly frustrated with commercials popping up in the middle of their much-loved TV shows, or waking up to an inbox full of promotional emails. Traditional marketing techniques are becoming less receptive among audiences, and businesses need to keep up with changing marketing strategies and truly embrace the strategies on the rise: inbound marketing. In Episode 27 of the B2B podcast, Pit Stops to Podium, Max Cohen talks more about the value of inbound marketing, starting from content creation to buyer personas, to his “back, front, middle” approach. Hear more on the physics of inbound marketing and the inside scoop on what really works from a marketing standpoint.
Max Cohen currently works as a Solutions Engineer at Hubspot, working alongside the sales team and using his extensive technical knowledge to sell software solutions to clients. Previously, Max worked as a Product Trainer and Senior Implementation specialist, assisting Hubspot Marketing and Sales customers implement the Hubspot Growth Stack of Marketing and Sales Products into their environment. In his free time, Max enjoys playing and coaching competitive paintball and spending time with his family and dogs.
Take 20 minutes to listen and then head back to the races! 🏁🏆
Good Content = Good Substance
“If a piece of content, regardless of its format, doesn’t get someone closer to achieving a goal or a challenge after they consume it, there’s no transfer of value there.”
Good content either solves a goal or challenge or gets the consumer closer to achieving it. Content shouldn’t revolve around its format, but instead, on the substance, it’s delivering to the audience. Think about when you use a search engine. You had a goal you were trying to achieve or a challenge you wanted to overcome. You turn towards Google to find a way to get a quick solution to either of those problems, whether macro or micro. If marketers don’t create content that people are looking for, they have no incentive to find the company in the first place. Consumers are always searching for ways to solve their goals and challenges!
Creation > Optimization
While it's important to make sure content is optimized, don’t let it be a barrier for you in terms of creating valuable content. If you’re planning on using SEO, it’s important you have content to optimize it.
Max’s recommendation: Get really good at creating content first, before you start optimizing it. There will always be opportunities to optimize content down the line.
Using the Back, Front, Middle Approach in Creating Content
Max suggests using the back, front, and middle approach for when you first begin making content.
The back: The decision stage. Essentially, your bottom-funnel content helping to persuade prospective customers to purchase from your company.
The front: The awareness stage. In this stage, Max recommends starting thinking about the goals and challenges that people have. Ask yourself, “What does success look like for my ideal customer?” The content you create in this stage should be relevant to the ideal customer.
The middle: The consideration stage. In this stage, you’re continuing to add value to your customers, not just trying to persuade prospective customers to buy your products. When you do this, you’ll begin to capture leads at the top of the funnel from your awareness stage content.
Connect with Max:
- Connect with Max on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxjacobcohen/
- Check out fellow Hubspot Influencers:
- George B. Thomas: https://www.linkedin.com/in/georgebthomas/
- Chris Van Praag: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisvanpraag/
- Engage with Hubspot: http://www.hubspot.com
Matt: What up, it is, a special edition of the Pit Stops the Podium RevOps podcast, with so many people heard about before. If you haven't, you should. Max Cohen.
Matt: And the background noise. I wish to say that was not me. That was him. OK, just background. About the superstar- You were at Apple. You switched, and now you've been at HubSpot for like, how long? Five years?
Max: Yeah, five years. It'll be six in December, which is insane.
Matt: And is now a solution engineer owl, in the notes here. Up to like why you should know him, he puts lots of content out. On Linkedin. Using Tik Tok. It's Tik Tok Using only Linkedin about funny things that people do when experiencing flywheel/Hubspot. So excited to have you here. Excited to get your perspective on the big idea today, the physics of inbound, and then talk more about that. But before we get started, we have a tradition where we do the three fun facts about our guests.
Matt: We've done no practice on this, so I have no clue what he's about to give us. What are three fun facts about Max?
Max: OK, yeah, I'll tell you a little bit about me, like outside of like the whole world of inbound. So I've played competitive paintball my entire life. It kind of like stopped during the pandemic, but like more recently I was, I was poaching teams for a while. So travel around playing like paintball tournaments, mostly like regional stuff. But I've gone on to like a bunch of like national stuff too. You know, when I have the time to, it's harder with kids. So that's like the big thing you kind of outside of work. I also run a very, very unsuccessful Facebook Live gaming stream where I just play Call of Duty with my buddies. So if anyone's into that, that's another place you can find me.
Matt: On Twitch?
Max: No, not on Twitch. Facebook. Just because I don't want people to be able to talk trash about me anonymously. I want to see your full name if you're going to. You know what I mean?
Matt: Oh no, the cap is here.
Max: Yeah, it's just like it's hard to it's hard to grow on tWitch these days. Facebook, it's easier. And then what third thing about me? I have two wonderful daughters, Eliza and Audrey, so hashtag girl, dad energy all the way. They're my life. And my oldest one just started preschool this week, so I'm a wreck. It's crazy.
Matt: Did you cry when she left?
Max: Oh, oh, did I cry? I was sobbing. I can't hold myself together.
Matt: Well, OK. She didn't cry at all, which is insane. Super excited about it. She was all about it.
Matt: OK. Oh gosh. OK those are things I didn't know you were. You're a paint ball all-star.
Max: I play, I won't call myself an all-star.
Matt: You're a gaming streamer. Not on twitch, on Facebook Live. That's new. And you have two wonderful daughters. That's awesome. So as we transition into what the big idea here, the physics of inbound. Talk to me, what does that even mean?
Max: Yeah, yeah, Yeah. OK, so a little context here. So when I joined Hubspot, I was not any sort of inbound marketing scholar, if you will, right? And for me, a lot of understanding how inbound work I had to like, take a lot of stuff in really just kind of put it into like how I understood about the way people think and how like, I understood the way that I interacted with the marketing and how I perceive messaging and things like that, you know, so it's always kind of been my way of just like understanding why certain things work and why certain things don't, right? So whenever I'm trying to, like, simplify the concepts or best practices or strategies around inbound marketing or inbound sales or anything in between or, you know, even service at that matter, like I always like to break it down behind the physics of what's actually happening when your business makes certain choices or you deploy strategies in different ways, right? So I always described it as physics, probably not physics, but like to me, that's the best way of being able to wrap my head around it. OK, so I can give you an example.
Matt: Help me. I'm a yeah, I'm a new, I'm a new company. I'm like, man, I need inbound. And you're like, well, hey, let me teach you about the physics of inbound.
Max: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So like, I love thinking about the physics of inbound when it comes to the whole, you know, thing about content, right? So whenever people talk about creating content, it's always like the or sorry, whenever anyone talks about, like doing all the stuff we do is inbound marketers. Creating content seems to be the thing that is like 10,000 pound elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about how hard it actually is, right, or why you need to do it. You know, we all talk about, well, create content. So people will fill out landing pages and they'll give you their contact information. Or it's like create good content to like, tell the story about your brand or like any of these other things. But like, we don't really break down like by creating good content is important, right? So when I think of good content. And this is where we start to get into the physics, like what is good content? Good content isn't the format in which you deliver it right? It's not like a really well-done, high production video. It's not like a very well-written blog post. It's not an e-book with the perfect color scheme and the great images and like, you know, really, really great formatting. It's all about the substance, right? If a piece of content. Regardless of its value or sorry, regardless of its format, doesn't get someone closer to achieving a goal or a challenge right after they consume it, whether it's watching it, reading it, listening to it, whatever it is, if it doesn't help them get closer to achieving a goal or a challenge, there's no transfer of value in there. All you've done is create click bait and click bait and waste that person's time, right? So that's kind of where I think about the physics. That's where it starts, right? Good content helps you do. One of those things either solves a goal or challenge or gets you closer to achieving it, whatever right now. When we think about that even more upstream, right? Why do we want to focus on goals and challenges? Well, if we think about the physics of why someone uses a search engine, think about any time you've ever used a search engine in your entire life. You had some sort of goal you were trying to achieve or some sort of challenge that was in the way. Right? so you use the search engine to find a quick way to get an answer to either of those problems or to progress down that path, whatever it is. And goals and challenges can be macro. They can be micro, right? Like a smaller example of a goal is I want to get pizza. That's still a goal, right? I want to see cute puppies. That's still a goal, right? So you always have a goal or a challenge when you're using a search engine. Of course, it gets more complicated than that. But the reason it's so important. And when we think about the physics piece of it is if you don't create what people are looking for, they have no reason to find you in the first place. Right that's sort of like the physics of the way I understand it. If all you talk about is your product on your website, the only people that are going to find that are people looking for your product. So you have to think about the other stuff that people are searching for, and they're searching for ways to solve their goals and challenges, right? So that's kind of like the way I try to take the whole complex thing about content and make it like a little bit simpler. It's like focus on goals and challenge, because that's where the physics of how all this kind of works out is kind of like buried.
Matt: So I hear this idea of physics. So there's this whole science of SEO. And so I would if you're talking to someone and say, hey, well, you need to be able to identify the keywords to have the most value. And then we need to do a keyword mapping to make sure you have the architecture done correctly. And then we need we need to start a back linking campaign, ensure we have the proper domain authority and then we need to write this content. So I guess I hear what you're saying and what would your response be?
Max: Yeah, absolutely. So does a pro skateboarder need to know how to do a kick flip? Yes before they do a kick flip, do they need to know how to pump on a skateboard? Yes, right. I'm not saying don't do the SEO stuff, because you should do the SEO stuff. Absolutely what I'm saying is don't let that be a barrier to you in terms of creating content. I've worked with so many people who are just haven't created content before. They have no blog. Their whole website is just about their product or service, right? And what they do is they're getting analysis paralysis over just starting to blog about, oh, what keywords should I go after? What sort of topics should I do? What sort of this? What sort of that? Because the fact of the matter is, is if you're going to do search engine optimization, what are you going to optimize if you don't have any content, right? So for me, the whole idea is get really good at creating content first before you go crazy about optimizing it. You can always optimize it down the line. Right but if you're not a business that has built it into your repertoire about creating content or build creating content as part of like your natural marketing mix, and it's just something that you do that is a much bigger quantum shift in a change you have to make in your business. Then being one that like goes and optimize stuff and does the work you need to do for seo, right? Again, you have to have the content to optimize in order to really have it make sense to focus on it. So the physics of inbound good content is important.
Matt: Good content helps someone get closer to a goal or overcome a challenge. Is there anything else that would help someone create good content and to in today's world? It's also needs to be relative to like the people reading it today in the audience you have. And the question is like here, sometimes like buyer's journey persona as like it's not as important. They're important, but-
Max: But they're dead. So I've heard people say buyer personas are dead. So like, I'm going to address this real quick. The hill that I'm going to die on is buyer personas are not dead, but I think what happens is many different people have different ideas of what buyer personas are. Right so for me, I have a much simpler definition of what a buyer persona is, right? Because for me, whenever I had to ask or tell customers like, oh, you should create a buyer persona. Their question was always why, and I had to have a compelling reason behind it, right? So it all starts with again, the argument we were just making. Creating content is hard, right? Because you have to know what you're going to write about. Well, how do you know what you're going to write about? Well, you've got to think about what your customers goals and challenges are, right? A lot of times when I had customers go and build a persona for me, what they came back with is saying, all right, our persona is the decision maker. They went to this type of college. They make this type of income. Here are some other demographic information for them, and their goals is they're looking to buy a solution to fit their needs. And I'm like, OK, so this is a list of demographic information. And then you're telling me their goal is that they need to buy your product right or their challenges are things that you said that's hard to sell to them, right? How does this document you've created with that information actually help you create content? He doesn't. Maybe that demographic information helps you place some ads in the right place, and that's fine. But marketers who are struggling to create content need a large wealth of ideas and inspiration, right? So when I think of building buyer personas or when I tell customers or clients or whoever to start by building a buyer persona, it's because I want them to have a document to act as their North star that answers the question, what content do we create next? Especially if you're a business who's not used to creating content and hasn't built that end again, everything that I'm saying here is not for the pro content creators out there that have figured this out, right? This is really down for the folks who are really struggling to get started and wondering what the whole content thing is because again, not a lot of people simplify it, right? But a buyer persona should simply just be a list of goals and challenges, because that's what helps you figure out what people are searching for online. So you can create that content and you always have a North Star to go back to.
Matt: Yeah, I would, I would- I'm going to add on to this. I have a specific opinion on this, too. So buyer personas aren't dead. I would rename. I would like almost rename this. I call them when we do this, as we call them plays and you have a like, there are situations people encounter when they need it. So there's a like, we have a play document and it's like, here is the play. Hey, this situation is situation is someone just got hired. There are chiaro and they're looking to implement a CRM and then they're looking to hire a salesperson. So their goal and challenges can be very explicit with it. So you're the play, is what you write and how you answer. It's going to be different. The length you write, how they're going to look at it is all different. So I think it's extremely helpful to go through those and create like five or five place. You can create content.
Max: Yeah and hey, y'all can call it whatever you want, as long as you have something that you can go back to and say, this is what I'm writing about next, and you know, it's going to be relevant content. That's that's the whole point. That's all you need for, thats all it is.
Matt: So we talked about what makes good content or what is like. The physics of inbound is like, you break it down, get good content. And if you're answering the goals and challenges SEO like you get that you'll start to implement it, it will start to occur. Talked about how to select what you're going to write about. Well, I just wanna do like, OK, I have this, but what do I write about first and how do you help people overcome? How do you think about what's the most important to think about right? And how do you how do you navigate that decision?
Max: Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, I think the buyer's journey helps us a lot with this right? And actually, I'm going to say something here that may seem intuitive to what I'm going to say. You should honestly make sure all of your bottom of your funnel content on your site is like good to go right before you really dive into your awareness. Because here's the thing people are going to find your site and you want to make sure you have compelling bottom of the funnel offers to catch those folks who get on your site, see enough and want to talk to someone, right? You don't want to forget about those folks, right? So like, get that done. But that should be pretty easy, right? That's information about your product. That's like something more compelling than saying talk to sales, right? Maybe book a consultation or whatever, right? But once you have that in place, you have now this end zone that you can get people to. All right, then the question is, how do we talk to the bigger audience that's not ready to buy our product or has no idea our product exists? Or has no clue that they even have a problem that our product potentially solves for. OK, so the big thing for me, I used to call it the back front middle approach right where the back is. The sorry is the decision stage. That's your bottom of funnel content. Get that all set. You shouldn't have to spend too much time doing that right. Then the front, which is the awareness stage. What you want to do is start thinking about the goals and challenges that people have, and this is stuff that has nothing to do with your product, right? You're just thinking about what does success look like for my ideal customer, my buyer persona? What are some things they'd be googling to get there? This is all based on goals and challenges, and when the awareness stage people are typically trying to figure out why they're having certain problems that they're having. OK the other thing you need to know about this, too, is like, don't let your product or service pigeonhole you into what content you can create. All right. If you think way back before HubSpot had a integration with Instagram before our product had anything to do with Instagram, we knew that we were trying to attract and build trust with marketers. So we created content in guides and blog posts about how to market your business on Instagram. Even though our business, our product didn't have an integration, right? What your product or service does should not stop you from creating content that is relevant to your ideal customers. All right. So don't feel limited by anything, which is the big thing people get hung up on, right? But what I would say is focus on your top of the funnel traffic first. So you can really start to get a larger amount of folks that have a broader set of goals and challenges on your site. Let them let them consume your content again, whether it's a video or blogs or whatever you at all, OK, and start to build trust with them. Just the act of that happening. More people on your site means more people are probably going to maybe accidentally find their way to the bottom of your funnel, right, because they get on your site. Maybe they see some of the other stuff that you do kind of connect a problem that they had and you built a little trust with them because they read some of your content or consume some of your content that was actually about a goal or challenge that they had. Maybe they'll, you know, be ready to talk to you, and that's great. But the reason I tell you to really spend a lot of time on the top of the funnel first is because when you think about the middle of funnel content, so your consideration stage content where you're trying to say, hey, we've helped you figure out what sort of problem you have. Here are a couple of different ways to solve it, right? A lot of the times you're doing this through nurturing, right? So like workflows, email continued engagement on social like all this other stuff can continuing to add value to your content instead of just saying buy my stuff right. When you do that, that's where you're going to be like capturing leads at the top of your funnel or at, you know, from your awareness stage content and thinking about how you're actually nurturing them towards that decision stage or towards making like a buying decision. OK the reason you want to have a lot more traffic before you really, really dig into that, at least in my opinion. And again, this is a physics thing, is because you're going to be able to experiment faster with what works in terms of nurturing people because you have a higher sample size of top of the funnel contacts to do that with, instead of trying to build a whole bunch of like workflows and nurturing paths and all these other things that you would do in the middle of funnel, but you don't have any top of the funnel traffic to put it through, right? Because I know you're not going out there and buying contacts, that's a waste of time. All right. And I know it's a hot take. I know some people may be pissed at me for that. But like honestly, those people don't know they're getting reached out to you by you. So like, of course, they're not going to convert whatever. That's a different topic.
Matt: Man, just bashing around. We have for 4 minutes.
Matt: Let's bring us down. What is this, and what does this look like?
Max: Lets calm down for a sec.
Matt: Bring it up. But let's like, yeah, let's bring this down practically. And I think you had a good example that you mentioned to me earlier when we were prepping for the show was, OK, this is what this looks like. So like, it can seem conceptual and it's theoretical and hypothetical, and it that can lead to more paralysis. But like, what does this look like? You talked about your HubSpot onboarding experience. Yeah, talk to me about that.
Max: So I love using this as an example. And when I was on the learning and development team, I was always used this as an example, when I was like, you know, of course, ranting and raving about how important content is. So, you know, when I started at Hubspot, we had this thing called the New hire project, where we had to build a fictitious business, right? And then use HubSpot to, like, get it off the ground and tell a story about how our business grew with HubSpot. It was super fun, right? One of the things we had to do in there, though, is write blog posts and optimize web pages. Because this is back when we were still, like, really focused on being like a marketing product before we kind of evolved the newest CRM and where the awesome product that we are today. So my example that I always use is like when I was writing content for this project again, my previous life, I worked at Apple and I helped businesses deploy technology like ipads, iphones, you know, Mac computers at scale, right? So my fictitious business was a company called. Mobility, bro. And essentially, I was just an Apple consultant that helps businesses, you know, deploy technology. I knew who my ideal customers were. They were a customer that I called it director Dave. Right now, I didn't do a whole bunch of research on Dave. I just knew questions that Dave was trying to solve for. All right. So what I did is I wrote a blog post about Apple Configurator.
Matt: You said you didn't think about Dave much. It's like, so this is fake. You just knew Dave. And how long do you think about the questions, dave? I mean, like, just like it was like 10 minutes.
Max: So here here is the so I know Dave very well because I talked to Dave a whole bunch selling to Dave as a sales rep. So the little Nugget of advice here is that if you're looking to understand the goals and goals and challenges and questions of your buyer personas, go talk to your salespeople because they understand their challenges like pretty well, right? And you can pull a lot from them. But all I did is I wrote a couple of blog articles, one specifically on this thing called Apple Configurator versus the device enrollment program, which I knew my buyer persona had confusion over when to use either one and what they actually were. I wrote this one blog post. I think the biggest thing I did to promote it was I went on to Reddit and I like shared it in the IT like Director community or something like that. And since then, six years later, I still this page like this blog post ranks higher. If you Google Apple Configurator versus dep-, it ranks higher than Apple's own support community on the same subject, right? I don't do this to flex on anyone. All I do is I use this as an example to say it's possible to rank in Google. If you create the right content for people, you don't have to be an SEO expert because I wasn't. Now is it that simple? No but it proves that you can succeed with good content, and I didn't have to do anything crazy for it either, right? Again, I'm not diminishing the importance of SEO at all. But what I'm doing is I'm using an example that creating good content is beneficial. I still get traffic to this day. This was six years ago.
Matt: So your fake website that you wrote a blog for as a fun project is ranking in SEO higher than apple? That's a good example.
Max: For this particular thing.
Matt: Yeah so man, this has been good. I want to say is if as some takeaways, I have not heard nothing back front middle play creating the end zone first and then focusing on awareness going into consideration. I think that's an extremely helpful. And then I think like understanding conceptually inbound and the physics we talked about, that is helpful. But that practical experience is just write about Dave and a goal he. And just do it know it gets done.
Max: It's not rocket science. If you're asking yourself, should I write this blog post? The answer is probably yes, unless it's inappropriate.
Matt: Like if you say if it pops into your head, should I write this? Yes, you should.
Max: That's how my TikToks work. I just go, I have an idea, wait a minute. And then I just my wife yells at me.
Matt: So OK, we didn't get into some interesting topics. Maybe we will one day. But your tik tok origin story and how you did it and how you and/or the great gate debate or even influenced the follower. So as we and I would like to ask this, what are other HubSpot influencers that you would recommend to follow if you were in that spot?
Max: Yeah so obviously, you guys are creating some amazing content. So like obviously give these guys to follow another one to like. If you haven't seen George Thomas's videos, he is a HubSpot content machine, right? Yeah you know, me and him are kindred spirits. I love that guy. Another one, too, is going to be Kris Van Praag from Babel Quest. His tiktoks are literally killing me every single day, and he is just a fantastic content creator. He does a lot of stuff on sales video too, but he's over at babbel quest. He's, he's awesome. So yeah, there's a ton of really great creators out there. Also, check out sales feed. It's something that the folks over at Vimeo, I think started or I think it was who was my brain blanking on me right now? Sales feed. It's a whole bunch of content for like, it's like really funny sales content. So like, go check that out to as well. If you're in sales, you'll definitely get a kick out of it. And Tyler from Tyler from vidyard did it.
Matt: Never forget about Kyle Jepson. Oh yeah, Kyle is fun.
Matt: Well, Max, I really appreciate the time. Yeah, this is awesome.
Max: Let, let me just make sure Tyler Lazard marketing at VidYard. I feel so bad. Just make sure like him and the stuff that they're doing, sales speed is really cool. So Yeah.
Matt: Really appreciate the time, as always. Stay awesome, keep doing it big.
Max: Thanks for having me. Later.