Things change fast in this life, and the rate at which they change is accelerating too. If we don’t keep up, we get left behind, and in business that is a bad thing.
A few years ago inbound marketing, also known as content marketing, didn’t exist. But its fast becoming one of the main tools in the marketing mix – some would argue its already the only game in town. But still many business owners and marketers don’t know what it is, and when they find out their initial reaction is “oh, that’s not relevant to our business.”
Inbound versus outbound
Traditional outbound marketing, also known as interruption marketing, does just that. It interrupts people from what they were doing with an advert, a mailshot, a telephone call, etc. It is a broadcast-to-all model that hits everyone regardless of their interest in the hope it gets noticed by maybe 1% who may take action. Interrupting people is rude and offensive.
The problem is, people are no longer prepared to do business with rude, offensive suppliers – it’s getting less effective. People are getting better at shutting out the marketing noise. Televisions have live record so you can skip the adverts, direct mail generally gets filed under B for bin unopened, people build defences around their phones with caller display and even subscribe to do not call lists – cold calling is likely to do your business more harm than good!
Inbound or content marketing is different. It seeks to make highly relevant, interesting and educational material freely available and easy to find. Nowadays anyone wanting to purchase a new product or service researches it first online. Surveys suggest that over 80% of the buying decision is made before the customer ever talks to a sales person. If you want to be on the short-list it is imperative that you provide a good part of that self-service information, or you’re not even on the radar.
The old sales expression “people buy from people” is still very true. The subtext is people buy from nice people whom they like and trust. Social media in all its forms allows you to build relationships with prospective customers over time, it allows you to earn their trust and that most rare commodity – their attention. It allows you to cultivate them until they are ready to listen to your sales message. The good news is that by the time they are ready to buy, you’ll be selling to a friend and your close rate will be much, much higher.
The other good news is, you don’t have to take my word for it. Unlike outbound, everything about inbound marketing is measurable and therefore provable. The data and statistics from early adopters is available, the conclusions undeniable. The fact is you cannot afford to be left behind – do nothing and your market share will decrease year-on-year as your competitors thrive.
I referred to inbound marketing as a tool, but it is actually more a tool-box. Not every tool in the box is applicable to every business, and some will achieve better results than others… and… the landscape is ever changing. For your free e-book overview of the main components click the link below.
Poor old outbound… what a drubbing! But I’m here to stand up for some outbound, I don’t think it’s as dead as some evangelists would have us believe. If you are lucky enough to work for a huge brand with a marketing budget bigger than a small country’s GDP… sure television advertising works. At worst a bad advert creates brand awareness (although it’ll make me aware that I don’t want your product), but at best can be amusing and highly entertaining (but I still haven’t bought a Honda® car, nor have I insured the car I do drive with a bunch of meerkats!)
There is also document marketing. Expressions of interest, pre-qualification and bidding. This is outbound marketing that will never die; it is the process. And even though this sort of documentation is often put together by people who don’t consider themselves marketers, yes – of course it is marketing!
Having spent many years in the construction sector, where marketing documentation for just one project can amount to a small lorry load, I can speak from (bitter) experience.
Who gives the impression they care?
Imagine you are judging between two applicants on a multi-million pound contract. Suspend disbelief for a moment and assume the bottom-line is close enough to make no difference, and both applicants have the technical capability and current capacity to do the job.
One applicant presents their case in an attractive business document which is well written, consistent, with structure and indexing which make it easy to follow. Supporting information is supplied to make a powerful case for the processes. Case studies are included to illustrate a culture of problem solving and value engineering.
The other presents a document obviously put together by dozens of people from different departments, who all have their favourite font. It has many spelling mistakes and is riddled with grammatical errors and every other word is capitalised. The structure and indexing is confusing and hard to follow. Some program plans have been included on A3 paper scaled down so all the text is about 2pt. Some low-resolution photos have been included, blown up so the pixels are clear as Lego® bricks. I could go on, but you get my drift, feel my pain and know I’ve been there!
Now, tell me these documents aren’t marketing. Of course they are. Good document design doesn’t just happen because you have a computer with Microsoft® Office® on it, yet in today’s busy world the technical engineer is expected to be a writer, typesetter and graphic designer too.
Please recognise that all your client-facing documents are marketing material. Spend time and effort on the look and feel of the documents that win you business (they matter) – even if that is at the expense of the big glamour documents like company brochures (bin fodder) and even annual report and financial statements. Yes, we are passionate about desk-top publishing and outbound marketing too!
If your documents are shabby, please use the link below, get in touch and put some polish on the marketing that matters.