For years, we have shielded ourselves from advertising. Who doesn’t love caller ID, and how many of you have installed an ad blocker on your browser (as of last year, more than a quarter)?
As the online environment evolves, we are gaining more and more control of the content we consume. We’re recording and streaming and time-shifting content to avoid ads, and we have highly curated online platforms for news and social media.
Today, it feels like the only time we are “open” to ads is when we are searching for content. And even then, it turns out that our brains are very good at blocking ads when we are looking for something.
Marketing for Digital Foragers
We’re wired to subconsciously filter content to cause “attentional blindness to nonrelevant factors.” It’s a skill we honed early on to stay alive, i.e., finding food. Sounds silly? Think about how good you are at scanning search results, headlines, and images. Fast, right?
So how does a marketer succeed in this environment? It’s simply harder to break through with outbound vs. inbound marketing. In 2017, Samsung spent $11.2 billion on advertising, so perhaps you can spend your way there. The alternative for the rest of us is more inbound marketing, meaning hyperrelevant content that your target audience finds when and where they want to find it.
Effective marketing today means getting inside your audience’s head by paying close attention to their behavior, understanding what they’re searching for at each step of the purchase cycle, and delivering the result they’re looking for — when and where they’re looking for it.
Human Interactions, Redefined
According to a recent Omnicom Media Group study, almost half of adults 22 to 45 years old are watching absolutely no content on traditional TV platforms. In today’s consumer landscape, traditional marketing is not what it once was.
Content marketing, on the other hand, continues to thrive; according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 global report, 74% of marketers worldwide cite inbound marketing as their primary marketing focus.
From social networks to blogging to social-commerce platforms, the online landscape and the players within this landscape are evolving to enhance consumer engagement. And the type of marketing being utilized is redefining the way we do business.
Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing, or content marketing, lets consumers come to you, on their own terms. This strengthens relationships, builds trust, and demonstrates respect between consumers and marketers.
Today’s inbound marketing applies a social mechanism to marketing so that content gets reoriented around people, with information explicitly personal in nature, reworked for each individual’s preferences, and offers them the platform to share these preferences with others.
Inbound marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without overt selling.
How to Be Relevant
Of course, the social connectivity and personal loyalty that stems from inbound marketing can result in a much deeper emotional investment in a product or corporate brand, but also one that can be difficult for companies to control. What’s more, social media platforms change in real time, which means a company’s social loyalty may also change quickly and without much notice.
Thanks in part to the technology that most consumers hold in the palm of their hand, the rules of engagement between marketers and customers have changed. Now a two-way dialogue, winning the loyalty of consumers requires that marketers are listening and using that intelligence to create relevant products. Today’s consumers demand personalized and real-time content and want companies to deliver a personalized, real-time, thoughtful experience.
Marketers therefore must know and understand their consumers’ needs, concerns, and goals, and deliver tailored messages that engage their audiences with the right content at the right time. Companies need to go beyond merely restating their value proposition; inbound marketing content needs to address a specific need.
6 Secrets of Successful Inbound Marketing
For effective inbound marketing, companies need to know their customers and target segments.
Once a business knows whom it is targeting — and perhaps creating target-segment personas — creating and providing content specific to target-segment needs becomes relatively easy.
- Be transparent. When a friend asks you a question, they expect you to answer the question directly and to tell the truth. Guess what? They expect the same from brands, and when you deliver on this, you set your brand apart from the competition. Transparency is a huge differentiator if you can get your company’s culture to embrace it.
- Invest in mobile. Consumers and small businesses are buying, selling, connecting, and transacting through their phones more and more every year. Having a mobile-friendly approach for digital content is crucial.
- Drive engagement and interactivity. Ensure that your content provides a meaningful, engaging experience for the user. Give your audience something to do — click, view, listen, answer, ask, “like,” and comment.
- Get personal. Your content must be personalized for customers, and this doesn’t mean just putting a customer’s name at the top of an email. To get truly personal means ensuring that the content meets the unique needs, timing, and goals of your customer.
- Educate. In addition to relevance, inbound marketing should offer real value. Often, this value comes in the form of education. Teaching your audience can be as simple as sharing your expertise through a blog or white paper or as sophisticated as leveraging more interactive ways: through a webinar, a video, or an online or mobile learning application.
- Make good content. Strong content marketing can help you market relevant products to willing customers. But it’s vital to create good, solid, informative content that reveals not only what consumers are interested in but can also help them interact with your products or services in a more sophisticated, educated way.
The key is to win on value and transparency. It’s not the consumer who is changing; it’s we who should be: As marketers, the onus is on us to give the customer well-written, SEO-powered content that’s relevant to them, and in a way that’s relevant to them. When we can do that, everyone will be happy.
Looking to learn more about outbound vs. inbound marketing? We can help.