Marketing has changed more in the last decade than in any time since the 1950s. The digital revolution has quickly modernized nearly every medium used to reach a target audience and the changes won’t stop any time soon.
One of the biggest changes is the concept of inbound marketing. Inbound or content marketing is different in a number of ways from traditional brand marketing or direct sales because it focuses on building a relationship with prospects and creating a path they can follow of their own accord to purchase services or products.
For those preparing to start a career in the marketing field or for those interested in moving up in their current position, this is the future of most digital campaigns, even for large companies that would otherwise throw money at channels with the largest audience like TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.
What Inbound Changes in Marketing
Nothing about inbound or the tactics it entails is new to marketing. The same psychological pressures are present to drive action from a prospect and the same channels can be used, but the methodology is different, and it’s all because of what digital channels allows us to do.
In the past, it was either incredibly hard or incredibly expensive to reach a target audience where they were most likely to be. You could define a demographic and match the magazines they read or the TV shows they watched, but if you wanted to only show your ads to 28 year old women in Nebraska, it wasn’t quite so simple. So you had to broadcast as much as possible about your brand as loudly as possible to make an impact. People needed to remember that brand when they hit the grocery story or picked up the phone to call a plumber.
Today, people proactively get information on the Internet. In fact, nearly 57% of the sales process is complete by the time someone enters a funnel, almost entirely because of the Internet. People research products, determine what they need, and then start looking for the specific product that will fit their needs, based on the research they completed.
Inbound marketing does two things.
- It provides that information when someone is researching a problem they have.
- It builds trust with YOUR brand so that when they are finished researching, they will think of you first.
But instead of selling your product or service proactively, pushing them to choose you over XYZ Co., you build a relationship. This requires a keen understanding of the individual you will market your product to, but also the problems they have and the solutions they are seeking.
How Inbound Is Changing Marketing Online
There is still a place for traditional marketing strategies. Businesses still spend millions on Super Bowl ads, billboards, magazine placements, and radio spots. But they also create Facebook Pages, produce YouTube videos, and run company blogs loaded with useful articles about problems they KNOW their audience has.
They do research about their target audience, identify key demographics, and create solutions that will fit the specific needs of those individuals where they are most likely to need them.
And they do it with less investment upfront, and a greater payoff down the line. HubSpot reported in their 2012 State of Inbound Marketing that more than 70% of companies with a blog that is updated weekly make a sale through that blog. This is the kind of payoff you couldn’t see in the past strictly with content like a company newsletter.
Using Inbound Methods in the Future
The importance of this methodology cannot be overstated, even as it just starts to make its way into the curriculum of most major marketing programs. Because the Internet is near instant and because we can interact with our prospects through so many channels at so many points during their day, it’s possible to build a real relationship with someone.
As a marketing professional, it will increasingly become your job to recognize how to create these relationships for your employer and use them to leverage into buying intent. If you can do this with blog posts, videos, white papers, eBooks, emails, and the occasional tweet, your skills will become that much more relevant in a 21st century marketing landscape.
About the Author
Featured on websites in more than a dozen countries, Anthony Chatfield has consulted with business leaders, Fortune 500 companies, and entrepreneurs for much of the last decade.
Anthony currently lives in Staten Island, NY and produces marketing and content development training on numerous websites.
For more information, visit his Google+ Page.