Inbound marketing and content marketing are one of the same, put simply they are about telling a story before a subtle sales pitch.
It’s the creation of well prepared, audience-focused content which doesn’t feel like pushy sales talk.
The internet has revolutionised consumer behaviour – they now spend more time online than they do watching television. It’s a much more interactive experience, where consumers possess control over what they view.
Previously, television advertising was something everyone viewed at the same time, there were limited channels and marketers were very much in control. The internet has changed this, users now have the power to fast-forward, skip and avoid. Consumers now expect to access whatever they want as and when they want it. We have all become part of the on-demand culture.
Sales pitch type marketing has never promoted interaction and engagement, after years of being dictated to, consumers now switch off at the first hint of being persuaded into buying something.
Traditional marketing has always had a ‘one size fits all’ approach, never reaching out to anyone person in the audience in any real depth. It’s becoming more and more difficult to connect with audiences in this way. This is why many companies are shifting their marketing tactics away from distraction and towards interaction and engagement.
Inbound and content marketing have both made marketing feel more human. Realising each person is different and tailoring approaches to suit them. With the internet, came the ability to target niches and sub-niches. Making it feasible to create content that resonates as if it’s been specially made for individual audience members.
The Yorkshire Terrier owners, the Volkswagon Beetle enthusiasts, the lorry drivers, the curly-haired girls, the Star Trek fans… and so on. Because the consumer can immediately relate to the content, it feels directly relevant to them.
It’s that headline that speaks directly to the reader, making their ears stand up, believing what they’re about to read has been written just for them. It establishes deep emotional connections which provoke interactions. Building trust and loyalty in your brand.
Smaller companies have a significant advantage over big companies, they are genuinely passionate about what they do and this comes across. Communicating this passion to customers is a great way to engage them. If you’re excited about something it’s easier to get other people enthusiastic about it too. It’s a powerful and effective means of marketing that feels natural for the business and the consumer. Big businesses are using massive budgets trying to replicate this.
Outbound marketing has always been expensive, limiting what smaller businesses could achieve. Where once you needed an extensive budget to reach an audience now it can now be done with a bit of ingenuity.
Inbound takes away the middlemen, you no longer have to pay companies to advertise for you, you can do it all from a blogging platform. Making marketing much more financially viable for small businesses than ever before.
If you put your company forward as approachable and knowledgeable without the irritating pushy sales pitches consumers tend to trust what you have to say and think of you first when there is a need to buy the product you happen to sell.
Inbound marketing is all about storytelling…
For a story to engage it needs to incite emotion. To incite emotion we need real people we can relate to. How many times have you flicked through a newspaper, seen a picture of someone you know and then read the story that accompanies it?
People are nosy by nature, therefore a fantastic way to engage them is by writing about the things that interest them. In journalism, we use criteria known as news values. Whatever that’s been said needs to be worthy of being said – otherwise it’s just not interesting. Brands are getting fantastic at storytelling.
Storytelling is never just about a brand message, that would be boring if not a little narcissistic. There needs to be creativity, engagement, interaction, images and inspirational ideas. Content developed entirely for the audience. This consumer-focused way of marketing connects with audiences in a way that outbound marketing just cannot.
Technology has made storytelling accessible to everyone. If you’re not a natural writer there are podcasts and videos.
With mobile phones and blogging, everyone the ability to create and share a story. There are YouTubers making a comfortable living from videos filmed on a standard mobile phone. We don’t need a television crew and a big budget, we can allow our personality and passion to be communicated in an instant using the equipment we carry around in our pocket.
The major breakthrough with inbound marketing is the realisation that nobody actually actively cares about your products, not really. They are searching for solutions to problems they are facing. There’s always a question that’s standing in the way of a sale. Consumers are always looking to ensure products will meet their requirement (the rise of online reviews is an example of this). Whether it’s a gym water bottle that will hold enough water or a lawnmower can be pushed with ease for someone who suffers from a bad back. Understanding your customers and addressing these concerns is a fantastic way of making your brand more visible to them. When people have a problem, they enlist Google’s help to find a solution. If you have high-quality, useful content which addresses users concerns, Google likes to offer it up to them. Google’s aim is always to be the most useful.
Coca-Cola is the big daddy of content marketing, a lot of time, money and energy goes into their content marketing strategy. They’ve attempted to shift their marketing focus away from interruptive outbound, towards interactive inbound.
They’ve moved away from rigid marketing to a more flexible and fluid approach. Instead of having structured and detailed campaigns they now gauge reactions, going along with the flow of their audience, much more intuitive and interactive.
They stay abreast of popular culture and use creative ideas to adopt inspirational and immersive storytelling, addressing issues they feel their audience would care about which naturally provokes conversations.
It’s all about developing deeper emotional connections, building brand loyalty and relationships with audiences.
They avoid being too passive and use conflict constructively. Standing up for their brand’s values such as caring for the environment. They have attempted to create a clear brand voice that leverages and inspires positive audience behaviours in order to create a brand that is liked and people feel positive about. Coca-Cola now spends more money on content marketing than TV advertising.
Bruce and Lukes Coffee
Bruce and Luke started out as two local lads running a coffee shop in Carlisle. They went on to expand into selling their own brand of roasted coffees. They don’t have degrees in marketing and have never so much as taken a course, despite this, they have been asked to host a number of talks on digital marketing.
The pair are exceptionally passionate about coffee and have a way of making everyone around them feel excited too. They are very original in their approach, with a keen eye for photography and an obvious passion for social media and all things creative.
They genuinely want to make the world a better place and enjoy interacting with customers. Their outgoing and sociable personalities have made them open for collaboration which has helped them further extend their presence and become more noticed.
Their energy and passion come very naturally to them. Whereas large brands use strategies to create that friendly and welcoming brand feeling, they accomplish it by just being themselves.
Business owner, Luke said: “We always try to create conversation and be helpful. We never ask people to buy coffee. For every five times, we’re helpful we’ll maybe ask for feedback on our own stuff.”
They’ve intentionally shied away from traditional ‘sales pitch’ marketing, preferring a more audience-focused, interactive approach. Luke said: “We’ve always been passionate about growing and sharing what we are doing.”
At the moment, their attention is on the Facebook live feed. The most successful piece of social media was on Luke’s personal Facebook account. He tagged each one of his friends (and got told off by Facebook in the process) Despite this his idea worked really well, tottering up a staggering 13,000 views and hundreds of shares and likes.
Luke said: “I thought it might annoy people so I was very upfront about what I was trying to achieve, which was how we can make things better for our customers, not making it all about us.”
“It was very useful in troubleshooting problems and we made lots of changes because of the feedback we received. We offered free shopping bags as a way of a thank you to those taking part. It worked because it reached people on a personal level.”
Whether someone is visiting their coffee shop or buying their products, they’re always made to feel included and part of the conversation. They’ve extended this over to their social media platforms, always engaging and interacting with others.
One way they achieved this is with a television screen in their coffee shop so customers can share images on Instagram. It has encouraged interaction with the brand whilst creating a buzz online,
Their blog is awash with tips and ideas for fellow coffee lovers. They have exceeded at something that comes naturally to them, a perfect example of how small businesses can nail modern marketing.
Innocent smoothies are geniuses at digital marketing. Their stories aren’t just about them, they adopt storytelling at every opportunity, provoking positive change in the world and providing humour and entertainment.
Everything about their digital marketing strategy is brilliant. The brand is introduced as fun, thoughtful, inspiring and caring. They’ve created a following of people who actively listen for their updates.
Their website is simple and the brand oozes positivity, sociability, and understanding. They bring together environmental and humanitarian issues, creating inspiration and educational content which serves to ultimately make the word a better place. Which is obviously popular and resonates with their following. It builds more than a brand, a whole culture instilling trust allowing their personality to shine through.
As Seth Godin commented: “Content really is the only marketing left.” Successful marketing needs to be engaging and interactive, where consumers actively search you out rather than you actively trying to interrupt them, otherwise, they will just simply just block you out.
Marketing has to adjust to the fact that consumers are now in control.
Intrusive marketing is irritating and unhelpful. By 2017 studies predict over a third of internet users will be using ad blockers, which is set to become an increasingly difficult obstacle for marketers to overcome.
Inbound marketing is now all about becoming engaging and interactive, to inform, delight and entertain. To find out more about inbound see our post ‘What is inbound marketing’.