Can you use inbound marketing to get a startup job?

Inbound marketing is something startups have been talking about for a few years now, but it isn’t only effective for startups - it’s an effective way to get a job at a startup. 

At Estately, we have hired quite a few of people for positions we either didn’t advertise or positions we advertised, collected applications and then pushed all the resumes aside when we found the person we knew was perfect for the job the moment we saw them. These people have uniformly performed well.


Search interest in “Inbound Marketing” over time.

Most people doing inbound marketing don’t call it that, but what they do works. They earning attention and draw people to their work by educating the about their area of expertise. The best inbound job seekers de-risk hiring by talking through exactly how they do their job, showing examples of their work and creating new work.

So what does that look like in practice?

For programmers startups love people who are scratching their itch and writing scripts that solve problems. One of our engineers ported an online game to Android in order to get his feet wet and worked on his own Rails-based site to solve a problem. A developer with a few good pieces of work in Github or a side-project is someone who has the ability to build and create. Weekend projects that make Hacker News are inbound marketing gold for programmers.

For designers inbound marketing is almost easier. Designers create their own websites - it’s a showing and doing at once thing - but a few designers I’ve noticed in the last year actually went out and redsigned the homepage of a promising startup. There was a great Windows 8 redesign blog post I can’t find now (there are a lot of Google results for “designer redesign Windows 8”) and a series of ”if I redesigned X” posts where X was a prominent startup. Going meta and redesigning design or startup sites like Hacker News and Reddit is varsity-league inbound marketing (here’s one). 

Inbound marketing for work isn’t exclusively the domain of designers and developers. Here are some off-the-cuff ideas for non technical startup-type jobs.

For SEOs, the “if I did it” strategy works well. A simple weekly blog post titled “If I Ran SEO for X” is a great approach (Hat tip to Anthony Nelson for this one). One-trick pony SEOs need not apply. Other strategies include getting a site to rank for an interesting keyword (note: good startups can see past the “I rank for some obscure three word combination no one else cares about” pitch). 

For Business Development, there are at least three angles you could blog about: 

  1. Talk about how you’d do it for a popular startup (sense a theme here?)
  2. Dissect how a startup is becoming wildly successful as a result of good business development
  3. Actually do it for startup events or a nonprofit where you’ll reach out to people who are in startups. I have invited more than one Startup Weekender to interview for a position we had open.

For Marketing people it’s a bit tough - yes, you could do marketing on yourself, but that’s tacky and it isn’t the same as marketing a product or company. But great marketing people are content creators and who needs a real product when a fake one will do? Create a funny website or a fake product and get the world buzzing about it. All you need is a $10 URL and a LaunchRock page. Need some ideas? Try DogVacay for children or $1,000 hamster cages or create a Twitter account that finds and retweets the best #yolo tweets on the web. The possibilities are endless. 

Lawyers have it easy: put a privacy policy on Github for others to fork and pull it apart in a blog post. Give the world a Terms of Service and walk us through certain clauses that businesses need. Tell us, in English, about the technology cases we care about. Basically borrow liberally from Venkat Balasubramani.

Inbound marketing is a lot of work, but it’s far more effective than sending out a bunch of resumes to companies and it opens up positions that a) are out of your league and b) positions that get filled before they get posted.

Notes

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