I don’t just like inbound marketing. I believe in it. I’m a raving fan of it. An ambassador.
When I started Never Mind Marketing, the now-pillars of inbound were only loosely connected. We knew web design and layout were important, we knew search engine optimization was important, and we knew that social media was important. Beyond that, there was no formal name for what we were doing, it was just called “internet marketing”, which many people thought was scammy affiliate marketing garbage.
I’m pretty sure my mom thought I worked for Google.
In The Beginning
I started in the wild wild west in internet marketing at the age of 13. I was designing websites in my bedroom and selling them to friends, family members, and local business owners. Business was good — for a 13 year old.
Soon after, a little company called Google moved into the search engine world and revolutionized how we find stuff on the internet. Before Google, you had to know exactly how to find what you were looking for to find what you were looking for. Sites like Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, and Alta Vista were simple indexes of information, made up of categories, topics, sub-topics, and links to directories.
Google said, “Nope. There was a better way.”
Suddenly, how you made a website mattered. Little details like meta tags, description, keyword density, and link structure mattered.
Life was simple. But, like usual, marketers ruin everything. * grin *
Keen marketers were quick to exploit the known factors that caused a site to rank in the search results. Business was good. Clients were happy. Money was flowing.
Soon sites like MySpace, Friendster, and AOL were connecting people “socially” and Facebook was making its way through college dorm rooms (don’t worry, marketers will ruin that, too.)
Internet marketing suddenly evolved to a very complex connection between websites, search engines, and social media. Now brands were trying to figure out how to use these platforms to sell their goods, products, and services.
Traditional Marketing vs Inbound Marketing
There is nothing wrong with marketing on the web, per se. Obviously I like it enough to make a profession out of it. The rub comes when traditional methods are applied to new approaches.
Inbound marketing is relational. By in large, traditional marketing is not.
Inbound marketing is trust-based. By in large, traditional marketing is not (there is an appearance of trust, but there is not true trust)
Inbound marketing is two-way communication. By in large, traditional marketing is not.
In fact, marketing has never been a two-way street. Think of billboards, radio broadcasts, television, newspapers, and post. They are one-way communication. A brand with money creates a message and shot-gun blasts the material to every ear hole, eyeball, or heartbeat it can find.
The process is highly ineffective, expensive, and erodes the trust of the buyer.
Social media ushered in a new era of intimate, personalized marketing. Not surprisingly, consumers have grown less receptive to traditional “spray and pray” mass marketing approaches. (Case in point: When 61,000 people were surveyed earlier this year by Forrester, fewer than a quarter said they trust email from companies.)
Think of your own diversion to mass-advertising.
- Do you own a DVR to fast-forward television commercials?
- Do you use Caller-ID to avoid solicitors (even better, you signed up for “Do Not Call”)?
- Do you look at all of your mail?
- Do you look at road-side billboards? (No, because we are all too busy texting with people we want to talk to)
- Do you subscribe to Pandora or Spotify to avoid radio ads?
- Do you channel surf when content you don’t want comes on the radio or TV?
The point is, we are actively trying to avoid untimely and irrelevant marketing messages.
Understanding the Individual Buying Process
Each prospective consumer is in their own personal bubble. Each has their unique makeup of bias, likes, dislikes, habits, and opinions. Each person is in their own place in life, they have different needs, different priorities, and different triggers.
Because of this, the fundamental idea of saying the same thing the same way in advertising is flawed.
Case in point, yesterday I had lunch with a business partner of mine. Based on traditional media demographics, we are the same:
- We are both in our early thirties
- We are both male
- We are both white
- We are both upper-income
- We both reside in the same geographical area
- We both have similar career backgrounds.
The problem is a wife and kids.
He has a wife and 3 kids. I do not.
This instantly throws a wrench in the assumptions made by marketers looking at broad, impersonal demographic data. My friend and I have similar, yet vastly different needs.
When he is shopping for a house, for example, he needs more bedrooms; nearby schools and parks are important; social nightlife matters less.
Why Inbound Makes Sense
To me, inbound marketing makes sense because it is personalized. It is a scalable sales and marketing process that delivers the necessary one-to-one marketing that consumers demand.
Knowing that each potential customer is in their own world with their own goals, values, objections, and push-backs, the first step of an inbound marketing process is to define an ideal customer persona. That makes sense to me. Articulate who you are trying to reach, what problems are they facing today, why are they making the choices they are making, and what do they need now?
Inbound says: “I understand the questions you are asking and the problems you are facing.”
The second step of inbound is to publish original and thoughtful content. This makes sense to me, stemming from my knowledge of how search engines respond to websites, I know that the more original, consistent, and relevant content I put on my website, the more search engines like Google reward me and place my website higher on the results page. Closer to that #1 spot means more traffic. More traffic means more eyeballs on my content and a higher likelihood of converting into a customer.
Inbound says: “Here is the answer to your question.”
The third step of inbound marketing is lead nurturing. Much of this can be done in an automated way that provides consistency and accountability within an organization. Further, it is extremely customer-oriented, meaning the customer is not being forced to participate in a one-way advertising, but rather an education process about a product or service.
Inbound says: “The answer to your question is complex, I am an expert and provided the simple answer. If you want more, I am happy to exchange my knowledge to learn more about you.”
The fourth and final step of inbound is measurement and analytics. Data is plentiful in the online world, quite frankly, we can track everything. Further, if we can track if, can ultimately improve it. This is as distinct advantage that today’s marketing departments have over those of yesteryear. How many eyeballs really saw the billboard? How many listeners really heard the radio ad? How many subscribers really read the press release in the paper? Analytics make sense to me. I like seeing the data to find opportunities for improvement. I believe knowing your weakness is actually a strength. Knowing where your sales process is failing provides the opportunity to fix it.
Inbound says: “Measuring our processes closes the sales loop and provides maximum efficiency.”
We Have Bet The House
Our entire marketing campaign is one of an inbound mentality. We make an effort to practice everything that we preach.
Not only do we employ inbound marketing techniques for our own use, but we oversee and monitor inbound marketing for our clients and help design marketing strategies and blueprints for others to grow their business using what we know to be true.
We have bet the house. My whole business runs on inbound.
If you would like help designing an inbound marketing strategy for your business, I would love to help. I will personally talk with you about how you can reach your sales goals using the practices I study and preach on a daily basis. One of our services is a literal blueprint for how to use content, social media, and inbound philosophies for your business.
I’d love to schedule a call with you to see if we are a good fit for you.