Inbound marketing is defined by Wikipedia as being the, “concept of earning the attention of prospects, making yourself easy to be found, and drawing customers to your website by producing content customers value.” So there it is. It’s the value-first maxim that we come across so often:give and you shall receive. In the words of the Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson, Craig Davis states, “Audiences everywhere are tough. They don’t have time to be bored or brow beaten by orthodox, old-fashioned advertising. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”
A Fundamental Shift
Marketing is no longer about forcing company-centric concepts down the throats of potential customers. With the rise of connectivity, everyone is exposed to everyone. In fact, more than 1/3 of Earth’s population is on the internet, and almost 8 new people come onto the internet every second, all with the same free resources at their fingertips. This creates a Petri dish of transparency. A single mother in the Bronx can market a brand and gain exposure just as effectively as a team of professionals in a fortune 500 company. The lines have been breached. People look to relevant content now and it makes perfect sense why. Before the advancement of the internet, a person’s main exposure to marketing efforts was what they physically encountered. Posters on streets, radio commercials, and catchy cardboard cutouts gained attention- it produced results. As time went on, a person’s range of exposure to marketing efforts shifted. Televisions came along to supplement the entertainment industry. Soon, most people were huddled up to their boob tube daily, and naturally, advertisers followed. Gaining a following meant getting yourself cemented into a person’s field of vision. The same went for marketing to businesses. Where most B2B accounts were gained through the physicality of shaking hands, rubbing shoulders, and wining and dining, today’s landscape is paved very differently. With 79% of B2B marketers using online articles and 74% using social media as their most popular tactics, the case is clear. B2B marketers, decision makers, and intermediate customers are increasingly relying on the power of inbound web-based marketing to gain business.
Relevancy is Key
Nowadays, our eyes are overexposed and our attention spans are shortened (they’re also glued to computer screens). The common reaction is to filter out the irrelevant. Today, both B2B and B2C marketing is all about relevancy. Some obscure report on a special fly-fishing technique is not going to be broadcasted everywhere, but if you search for it, you’ll find it. And hey, you might have even found some relevant product recommendations from a knowledgeable source that gave you those helpful tips on technique. Who are you most likely to trust and follow? The big wall-posters and over-hyped fly-fishing lure commercials, or the sharp, experienced individual who wrote a helpful blog that improved your casting distance? The same goes for B2B interactions. Would you rather use an obscure and unknown distributor with plenty of expensive pay-per-click ads, or one with solid industry knowledge as indicated by their wildly popular blog? Which of the two polarities cost the most in gaining attention? According to HubSpot, inbound marketing leads cost 61% less than traditional outbound marketing. That’s better than Walmart discounts. What’s more, inbound marketing is 10 times better in lead-to-customer closing than its outdated counterpart. In this day and age, companies need to ask themselves these sorts of questions. How much money and effort should go into outbound marketing? What about inbound efforts? If a company isn’t addressing these issues, they may get left behind.
A New Era – Value First
What are the historical implications of interconnectedness, i.e. Web 2.0? Are we reverting back to the tribal days? In the tribal days a medicine woman (or hunter, gatherer, chief, etc.) gained value in her role by bringing value to others first: it was the medicine woman that cured patients effectively that gained attention; it was the successful night-hunter that achieved notoriety. These people were given continued value and recognition for their efforts, but only after they had first proven their merit. It was a society where public and private lives were interwoven; where title was decided on merit and not the other way around. It sounds a lot like the environment we’re seeing now.
Sometime during the era of industrialization, big business formed to make way for a new and unnatural type of marketing. This marketing approach was the forced recognition of products and services through market saturation and visibility. This meant, quite simply, that the more money you pushed toward getting material in front of the faces of consumers, the more successful you’d be. Well, the times they are a-changin’. Keep in mind the fact that I’m speaking progressively here. There are still plenty of examples where blunt and expensive marketing schemes of the industrial era still run the show today. I mean, hell, it is only 86% of the population that skips TV ads, and while 2/3rds of America is on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list, I’m sure the other 1/3 would love to listen to your sales pitch on storage units while they’re eating dinner. As for B2B techniques, today’s cold calling has a notoriously abysmal success rate, and studies show that there has been a 46% decline in tech trade show spending since 2009. What’s more, nowadays a business owner is more likely to Google you than take you out on a golf course. These are indications of a new era.
The Final Word
Lets be serious. B2C marketing has made a fundamental shift with B2B methods following suit. Now, it’s about transparency. Now, it’s all about humanity and relevancy. By chance, we find ourselves up close and personal with the world; and like a crowded hot tub when the lights and bubbles stop – it gets awkward quick.
What we’re seeing is a devolution of power from business to consumer and a similarly effectual shift in the B2B arena. Customers, whether intermediate or ultimate, have to be seduced and intrigued, not herded. A strong word of advice would be to consider your standing in the world of inbound marketing. Where are you putting your resources? How are you getting business? Are you ready for the future?
- HubSpot’s “120 Awesome Marketing Stats, Charts & Graphs”