I’ve been promoting the concept of inbound marketing for about ten years now. I certainly didn’t coin the term “inbound marketing,” but it’s a concept that has been the basis of my teaching and it’s the approach that I’ve used to build my business.
Think about the impact of that – I’ve been able to build a multimillion dollar global business without advertising, without a sales staff, without any outbound efforts at all. Every bit of business I generate comes to me through the consistent creation of educational content, being found by those in search and engaging those who want to know more.
The thing is, my business isn’t really that unique. Tens of thousands of small businesses and independent professionals have been able to accomplish the same and much, much more through the effective use of what we’ve come to call inbound techniques.
Eventually big brands took note and jumped in with both feet. The term content marketing supplanted social media in the buzz wars and the race to create more content was on.
But then a funny thing happened. Brands discovered that creating good content required work, it was expensive, it got in the way of having meetings and it was hard to measure.
Throwing money at content marketing only made the problem worse because more of something lacking value is actually worse than less of something lacking value.
The key difference between organizations that are making inbound marketing work and those that are working at inbound marketing is intimacy and it’s hard to deliver intimacy with a content machine.
Small business owners and others scoring big with content are producing content with an extreme understanding of their customer. They are often intimately involved in the lives, struggles, joys and fears of the people they are writing to and for.
I say this often – my greatest marketing asset is that I am my customer.
The key difference between big brands and small brands – whether either knows it or not – is that small brands practice inbound marketing and inbound selling at the very same time.
Meaning that they are not only able to produce content, but personalize it, turn it into stories, add insights client by client and deliver extreme value along the journey from awareness to referral.
And that is the impact of inbound marketing coupled with inbound selling.
Until big brands marry inbound marketing with inbound selling their content marketing efforts will continue to serve merely as clutter in an already overwhelming sea of content noise.
The rallying cry for content factories everywhere is contained in a CEB study of over 1400 B2B Organizations that revealed 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier.
So, what’s a marketing department to do but create more content to move ahead in the purchase decision chain, right?
That same survey, however, also found that 53% of those surveyed claimed that the sales experience itself was one of the greatest contributing factors in continued loyalty to the brand and that’s the point that inbound marketing driven by a marketing department completely neglects.
Until big brands move sales teams into the business inbound selling – defining ideal customers, listening for market opportunities, building value propositions, creating content platforms and generating individual authority in the marketplace – the content machine will remain more of a treadmill than a key to the open road to success.
The proverbial wall between marketing and sales must come down in dramatic fashion and this must start with completely redefining the role of marketing and sales in most organizations.
For inbound marketing to perform in most markets it must be placed in the hands of those in the organization who can help prospects and clients make sense of it.
Frankly, inbound marketing, and its more client forward brethren, inbound selling, must become the way forward. Neither can really standalone.
No matter what you call it – the organization that gets closest to the customer wins – and you can’t do that with corporate inbound content marketing alone.