A drug dealer’s guide to inbound marketing

Drug dealers in the Mission by Javier Velazquez-Muriel

In their book ‘Re-Work‘, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (who set up and run 37 Signals) provide a ton of fantastic advice and guidance for entrepreneurs, aspiring business owners and anyone looking to develop themselves and their careers.

As a blogger and inbound marketer, the book was a real wake-up call for me and one piece of advice that has stuck with me since reading ‘Re-Work’ was the authors’ suggestion to work and think… like a drug dealer!

Let me make it clear that I’m not advocating the consumption, distribution or dealing of narcotic substances! However, I admit that some of the methods drug dealers use to build their customer base is intriguing and that’s what I’d like to discuss.

Get ’em hooked!

Drug dealers get their customers addicted by first giving away either free or very cheap samples. A dealer knows that if the product is any good there’s a chance the recipients will become hooked and come back for more (at which point they can hike their prices whilst maintaining a steady flow of custom).

As marketers we can do something similar. By using blogs, social networks and other digital channels we can reach out to potential customers and draw them in with relevant, quality content around the subjects and issues they’re interested in. Instead of buying people’s attention through paid media, build an audience using earned media and get people to come to you. As you build a dedicated readership you can begin to develop a ready-made market who are switched on and interested in what you have to sell.

Go viral

If the product’s really good then word gets around and a drug dealer may soon find he’s got a huge upsurge in supply for the ‘next big thing’. The dealer’s getting more and more business for no additional cost – his customers are doing the marketing for him by sharing the product and through word-of-mouth.

Although we’re not promoting something chemically addictive (and potentially very dangerous), it’s still possible to create a buzz and get people talking by being creative, thought-provoking and outstanding in everything we do.

I’ve been following the work of Chris Brogan and Mitch Joel for a while now but I first heard of them through the blogosphere. Because they were (consistently) producing great content, people were recommending them to others on their own blogs and through social networks. As a result, they’ve both built up huge followings which have given them the opportunity to consult, sell books and attend high-profile speaking gigs.

Create something special

It’s pretty easy to set up a blog, Twitter handle or Facebook page and create content. But unless you aim to create remarkable work then it may all be for nothing.

With search engines like Google focusing on unique, quality content and the rise in social search, the old adage that ‘Content is King’ is becoming increasingly important. In order to cut through the clutter and engage audiences you really need to create something special.

Be confident in what you’re offering, produce engaging content and get it out there. Establish a genuine following – and deliver.

The next time you’re struggling to create a buzz around your product, think: “What would a drug dealer do?”