If you happened to be a fish just minding your own business, cruising through various currents, and you came across a few interesting objects (AKA bait) bobbing around in front of you, a choice would have to be made. That choice would come down to a few key questions:
- What is your frame of mind at that moment?
- What is most interesting to you?
- What meets your needs right now?
Once answered, a decision would be made.
If you don’t happen to be a fish, rather just a regular human being surfing online, cruising through various web pages, and you came across a few things that looked interesting, you too would have to make a choice. The questions would be really similar to our fish story above – what are you interested in and from what source can you find it? Or, should the source of your interest find you?
There is nothing fishy about outbound marketing and a solid program. Both of the scenarios above highlight what inbound marketing is all about. The Point of inbound marketing is to draw people in with helpful, interesting content or related approaches – much like fishing. Once drawn in, these folks will begin the buyer’s journey that ultimately and hopefully ends in a sale or reaching another marketing goal. This is different than previous marketing approaches that relied on reaching out to people with content that they aren’t necessarily ready for or interested in.
The key here is exactly that difference as it represents a key shift brands must make to be part of a modern marketing and communications approach – the conversation – and reduce the risk of being tuned out as a result of heavy-handed, older school approaches. It does require, however, a bit of a mindset shift. Successful inbound marketing requires brands to focus on the needs of their buyers rather than their own desires. This means that not every approach or piece of content, no matter how beloved, can be deployed. It also means that they need to stop talking about themselves. Rather, truly consumable content, such as educational pieces that appeal to people at the front end of the buyer’s journey, will both appeal to a broader audience and, ultimately, serve as the foundation to earn their trust and extend the conversation.
It took us a while to get to this point in the communications conversation. The fact is that traditional marketing tactics were abused and people began tuning out. Who among us actually pays attention to cold calls, direct mailers, newspaper ads and heavy-handed commercials any longer? Social and mobile channels were supposed to provide people with control of what and when they would consume content. To a certain extent they do, but we now live in a world of content overload. Marketers and communicators now understand that content marketing can be a good idea, but this too has been abused. As a result, people have begun to tune out context-free marketing and focus on third-party recommendations and interesting content that is specific to their place in the buyer’s journey. Brands need to digest and embrace this shift or become irrelevant.
Enter inbound marketing, an approach that embraces the shift in communications and empowers people to make their own decisions through content specific to their needs. Here are is an example of how this works in the real world: Don’t pick up the phone and call a buyer to discuss how your product can help them. It interrupts their day, especially when they weren’t looking for a solution at the time. Create a video that addresses a need your buyer has, and don’t mention your product. Or write a blog post on challenges they might face. Again, leave product-talk out. Why? People want to feel empowered to do their own research and make their own decisions on their own time. The fish will get scared off if an object comes at it head-on. It wants to evaluate its options and choose the best bait.
Inbound marketing is all about letting people make their own decisions in their own time on their own terms. Working this approach will not only help transform your communications program, it will help eliminate turning marketing into an unfulfilled fishing expedition. Want to learn more, contact us!