Along with content marketing I have been reading a lot of information on the explosion of inbound marketing. Marketers are quick to embrace the higher conversion rates and ROI that comes along with having an effective strategy. I think it makes total sense that someone who is already looking for your product is going to have a higher conversion than someone who isn’t. Having an optimized strategy to reach these customers makes complete sense and I am not disagreeing with an emphasis on inbound marketing. However, two words come to mind when I hear marketers talking exclusively about exploding investment in their inbound marketing budgets:
Do you fully understand what is driving customers to you in the first place? If I sell accounting software, are people coming to me because I simply have accounting software or is it because they want MY software. Are customers in my target market aware of the unique benefits of my product and the issues it can solve? If you have a very unique product or service many potential customers may not even know you exist and thus are not actively searching for you. Marketers, especially new ones, sometimes forget about this important question in the marketing cycle and when developing new marketing strategy.
Quick questions to ask yourself:
- Is my product high involvement or low involvement?
- Is my brand or product well-known or more obscure?
- How do my customers search for information about my product?
Asking yourself these questions will give you a better picture of how much emphasis to put on inbound versus outbound marketing activities. The definition of a high involvement product is one where a consumer generally spends much more time to make a purchase decision meaning an optimized inbound marketing strategy is essential.
Having a less well-known brand can be somewhat problematic when it comes to determine inbound versus outbound marketing. There are a lot of variables that can shift your thinking between the two. If your product solves a common problem then focusing on making sure you are right up front is extremely important. What if the benefit of your product is less known in the marketplace such as you are solving a problem that may not have had a solution before? I think a recent advertisement from Ford has done a great job priming potential customers by highlighting a problem that may have been unrecognized by many. It is the ad highlighting the new hands free liftgate. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. Ford has done a great job highlighting a common problem that many people may not have known they had. With buying cycles being fairly long in the car industry it may be years before these types of advertisements pay off.
The last is how your target customers are searching for information. Are they going to trade websites to find your product and read your customer reviews? Or are they asking all of their business connections to provide recommendations? Is there a national organization that has a listing of the products or services that is recommended to your target customers? Trade shows are extremely expensive but can be effective in industries where face to face interaction and high involvement of purchase decisions are required. Understanding how purchasers are influenced in their buying behavior is extremely important to understand. It may make sense for you to abandon some of your traditional marketing tactics but just make sure you really understand customer behaviors first
Remember that customers will come in two forms; those who have no idea that they have a problem (or will have) and that there is a solution, and those who know they have a problem and are actively looking for a solution. Every customer starts out in the first situation, with inbound marketing capturing them when they move into the second situation. Traditional marketing tees up the problem and the solution early in the buyer’s mind and inbound marketing makes sure that when these consumers are ready to buy they can find you. Inbound marketing is extremely important to any organization and provides many valuable benefits; however I think we need to slow down a bit and not abandon outbound marketing just yet.