Rand Fishkin on “Interruption Marketing” and Being Stabbed by it’s Pins and Needles

Daniel Faggella

Daniel Faggella is Head of Research at Emerj. Called upon by the United Nations, World Bank, INTERPOL, and leading enterprises, Daniel is a globally sought-after expert on the competitive strategy implications of AI for business and government leaders.

Rand Fishkin on "Interruption Marketing" and Being Stabbed by it's Pins and Needles 1

I love me a good book, don’t get me wrong – but I still think that the best way to learn startup marketing is by modeling successful people and successful businesses. Rand Fishkin is CEO and found of MOZ (formerly “seoMOZ”), and he’s one of a number of enthusiastic startup founders who seems to “let it all out” in interviews and presentations about growth. In this presentation for “Hackers and Founders,” Rand dives into the dynamic of “interruption marketing” versus “inbound marketing.”


angry-birds-ad“Interruption marketing,” as Rand sees it – is taking a user or visitor away from what they were originally looking for. He initially mentions searching for a lightweight laptop on Google and seeing paid ad for a 10-pound behemoth, and also mentions the notoriously obnoxious ad banners inside the “Angry Birds” video game – which blatantly make gameplay worse for the sake of advertising exposure.

“I don’t see the world that way,” explains Rand, who notes that in 2010, approximately 35 billion dollars were spent on paid advertising within search engines, with only a tiny fraction of that expense – around 2 billion (he refers to Forrester Research in the talk) – is spent on what might properly be called search engine optimization. Though Rand sees the potential value of paid ads, he believes that the disparity between the two types of marketing efforts (“growth,” he mentions, is a term often used by those who are afraid to say “marketing”) – and it’s hard to blame him.

“Interruption marketing is you paying money to stop me from doing something I want to do – so that you can sell me something I don’t need,” says Rand. “I hate being STABBED by the ADS” – and his slide turns to a gummy bear stuck through with a dozen pins.

In contrast, inbound marketing aims to attract leads via their own desires or their own process of discovery. Rand pounds the idea home that content is the foundation of a solid inbound marketing strategy, but that content can come in myriad forms, not just the “sharable blog post” or infographic. If you’re a startup, you don’t have to necessarily create the coolest blog on the block, or pay for really inspiring or humorous photos and images to get “shares” to say that you’re “content marketing.” Other kinds of “content” might include:

  • Community – Rand talks about Etsy’s content strategy as not being about it’s own content, but about the shared and posted content and products of passionate users “They just build a platform… and each one of their users has a massive incentive to share / spread…”
  • Product – This might not work for everything (industrial plumbing supplies might be a good example here), but there are some products that are content enough in and of themselves – like this USB Doomsday Device on ThinkGeek (you might also like their screaming kitchen knife).
  • Distribution – The way your app or program is distributed might be referred to as part of it’s “content” – such as in the example of Walk Score – which Rand mentions happens to integrate with Zillow, Urban Spoon, and others.

For Rand, the strategy for startups involves putting your content out to your customers or user where they are – and in the form of content that they’d like best. How do you find out where they are? How to you find out how they want content served up? …How do you even know… WHO they are in the first place?

The experience of being a startup – poses Rand – is in valuing the constant process of iteration – and in consistently experimenting, finding what works and building on it – and learning the hard way what doesn’t work. We signed up for this when we left the cubicle, remember?

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