Inbound Marketing seems to be the latest buzzword in the world of marketing right now. Inbound Marketing however, is not a buzzword. It’s not the new black. It is the way your customers are or will interact with your business, your products and your services, now and into the future, and you need to be ready.
With all things new though, clients are often duped by agencies out to make a quick buck, using scare tactics and ignorance to sell products and services that add little or no value. That is why it’s important to know what it is, and how it can affect your bottom line. Negatively if you don’t do anything about it, and positively if you do it right.
To start off, I could send you to Wikipedia, to read about Inbound Marketing (Yes there’s even a Wikipedia page about it). To make it easier, I copied the main definition on what Inbound Marketing is, vs. what Outbound Marketing is.
Inbound marketing is promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, eNewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to bring customers in closer to the brand. In contrast, buying attention, cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements, sales flyers, spam, telemarketing and traditional advertising are considered “outbound marketing”.
Data is your friend. The more you know, the better you will be prepared.
My main response to people still questioning Inbound Marketing as a way forward is to look at the hard facts. The internet is littered with data, but that data is different for everyone, for B2B, B2C and even for you and your company. Be that as it may, the trend in how customers search for you, your services and your products have changed in the last few years to how it used to be, because consumers behaviour has changed. They have moved online in how they search and do research about companies their services and their products. They also compare you against your competitor online, more often than you think.
The most important idea around Inbound Marketing is being found. To be found online that is. In the same breathe, you can add how consumers do research online before purchasing. Below I’ve just pulled three simple statistics, to cover a broad base of companies.
- 36% of global consumers looking to buy a car, did research online, before purchasing.
- 60% of global purchasers looking to travel, did research online, before purchasing.
- 40% of global consumers looking to buy technology, did research online, before purchasing.
The statistics above, beg a few questions.
- What does your offering look like online, now that you know a percentage of consumers look online first before making a decision to contact you or your competitor?
- How does your online presence compare to that of your competitors?
- Think of your own life. Is your behaviour the same at home, as it is at work or do you think your consumers are different and interact with your company in a different way to how you interact with other companies as a consumer?
The statistics are only getting worse if you’re not visible online, but getting better if your online offering is up and running and working as it should.
This isn’t a scare tactic, these are the facts. If you would like to see for yourself and adapt the data to your business and consumers, then you can visit Consumer Barometer 2013 with TNS, IAB & Google.
Online advertising spend is moving on up
One more way to see how the world is changing is to look at online advertising spend. Online Advertising revenue increased 17,3% from Q4 2012 to Q4 2013 alone. What is strange still, is that a lot of companies still invest a disproportionate amount of advertising spend offline, missing an entire target group, which is growing day by day. I think the biggest reason for this, is that companies do not know what to do with their money online or where to spend that money, which is why knowing the power of Inbound Marketing is so valuable in today’s marketplace. Offline media agencies are, however, much better at showing return on investment, that’s a good reason why you should work with online agencies that can show you the same with your online spend.
The online media spend does not show any signs of slowing down. What is happening however, is that an extra layer of complexity has crept in, because consumers have not only moved online, they use a multitude of different devices to access your online content. See mobile growth for 2013 below. That extra behavioural change has to be reckoned in when working with your online presence.
Follow your consumers’ behaviour and be ready to change when they do.
Having pointed out that consumers have moved online, doesn’t mean you now need to drop what you’re doing offline and do the same. As a start, it simply means you have to follow the trends relevant for your business and follow what your customers are doing and how their behaviour is changing. Not all companies are Apple, who can dictate trends. Most companies fall into the category where consumers dictate terms. That should not be seen such a problem, as long as you listen and pay attention.
Allow me to sketch the scenario. It is a case that I have studied for a while now and have always found intriguing. The first reason is that it happened so fast and secondly that most consumers, to this day, didn’t even pick up the change. In a nutshell, company A (on the left), lost total market share to company B (on the right) nearly overnight. Company A had a vested interest in music, and ignored the screams from their customers for digital music. I can understand the argument from company A. If they gave in to the demands, it would have damaged their music side of the business, which contributed significant revenue. Their consumers didn’t care, and in stepped company B. They were greeted with open arms by an eager consumer wanting to move into the future. What was the biggest single change that occurred? Digital music. Looking at digital music today, with services like Spotify, it’s hard to see what all the fuss was about. But back then, it was a big change that caused a music revolution.
Let’s have a look at what changed in the behaviour of the consumer. On the outside, not much. They wanted to listen to music. That’s why there’s no difference between the picture on the left and the picture on the right. The consumer behaviour is exactly the same. The other part which is also the same is that company A and company B had both a device and a music service. It’s just that the picture on the right allowed users to listen to 1000 songs for 15 hours straight. That was the hook from company B, and was only possible because the music service was digital. Hence the success of iTunes, and the iPod.
Changes in user behaviour can mean the end of your business, but can also breathe new life into your business. You do need though, be in touch with them and know how they live, how they work and how they behave. That’s why it’s important to focus your marketing efforts online as well, because user behaviour has moved and is moving more on more online.
Don’t jump ship, stay calm, just adjust your sail and be ready.
The scenario and statistics above could be seen as a big black hole of despair, but an article from Harvard Business Review might help shed some light on what it is that you could, or should focus on. It’s always the first step that’s the hardest. It is however that first step that is the start to your end goal. The article is about Digital-Physical Mashups. It’s not about choosing online above offline. It’s about making sense of what is happening in the world around you and how the world of online has affected businesses and how it will affect you and how you can prepare.
The article is for subscribers only, so I’ll quote the introduction, because it is very pertinent to the discussion of Inbound Marketing, and agencies saying it is the only way. It’s not the only way. It’s another way, but a very important way. See it as another arrow to add to your arsenal, it’s just bigger and more powerful than the others right now.
In the early days of the digital revolution, many leaders of established companies did their best to ignore the upheaval, convinced that the threat from new technologies wouldn’t ever amount to much. As that premise faltered, many flipped in their thinking, concluding that digital would inexorably destroy their positions. To survive, it seemed, they’d have to stop throwing money at the old businesses, salvage what they could, and launch independent digital ventures. The existing units probably wouldn’t survive, but disruptive digital businesses could replace the zombies in a company’s portfolio.
Both views proved misguided. The failure of the first hardly needs elaboration: No company can safely ignore the changes wrought by digital technologies. The failure of the second may be less obvious but is now well documented. Companies that milked existing businesses while betting on independent digital start-ups that had no competitive advantages usually wound up discarding decades’ worth of physical assets and gambling away millions in real value.