What is This Thing: Inbound Marketing
A dramatic shift has taken place in the way people make buying decisions. To say the internet is responsible would not be telling the whole story as people have been tuning out of traditional forms of advertising and marketing for decades. Those methods of pushing a message out at possible targets have been losing effectiveness and consequently the cost of acquiring a customer in this way has risen accordingly.
This thing called inbound marketing is really driven by consumers who get to decide what they want and need. It’s entirely possible their desire is motivated by outbound advertising but today’s consumer wants more depth than is possible in outbound messaging. They’d like to be informed so they go to the internet seeking clarification and more than likely the best value.
Who is going to meet them when they get online?
Two ingredients are absolutely necessary for a company to have any chance with this consumer:
You must be visible and you must be presentable.
This is about local so I should point out that mom and pop operators and other traditional local businesses do not typically view marketing the same way that say a franchise or a big box do. For them marketing is more often a burden rather than an opportunity. I’m not minimizing the talents of self-sufficient local operators, I’ve been one for many years, but there is a good reason why bigger players have consistently displaced local merchants and service providers.
Using an assortment of data analysis tools and armies of specialists medium and larger companies can drill down to the core. Their cost containment and efficiency measures change the competitive dynamic so mom and pop go down that road too. They try to keep up by replicating ever more streamlining initiatives and signing up for a slew of marketing and advertising schemes. Ultimately though they’re using an entirely different business model so for them it often becomes a race to the bottom.
It’s not a fair fight. The data revolution has enabled companies of size to dive deep into the numbers. A large sample size and an array of tools unlock a magic formula. They use the data to determine, among other things, the lifetime value of a customer and how much that customer cost to begin with. From there it’s just a matter of figuring out how to consistently hit those numbers. To them metrics have all the answers. Local business people have the advantage of agility and goodwill but over time it’s often not enough.
Level Playing Field
Inbound marketing is about engagement which is right in the wheelhouse of the local business operator, but only if they choose to participate. The same tools are available to every business large or small so it truly is a level playing field. Once the consumer elects to go online for a solution they won’t be turning the bus around. Some local company will be there offering content which may or may not be the total package the visitor is looking for. The game is young so the opportunities are plentiful for any local provider who wishes to make an impact on the bottom line.
The internet is a bit of a paradox. Search engines want to deliver the most satisfying result for any query. They don’t know what they don’t know however and they’re not guessing. Just because a company is listed as a firm of doctors doesn’t mean they know anything about medicine. The same is true in every other category. Content concerning an electrician has to indicate he has some credibility in lighting in order to show up for that keyword.
It’s not Google’s responsibility to monitor your data for accuracy or to make sure you are listed in the proper categories.
This means that the best possible options available to the local consumer may not appear in search results. It’s up to each local company to take control of core data and content so that Google has confidence in their association with various keywords.
Conventional Models Come and Go
Now we have cell phones instead of land lines and electronic banking instead of standing in line. It’s ludicrous to think that any bank or phone company would refuse to adapt to the new normal. People usually vote with their wallets and overwhelming evidence shows them turning to the internet in droves for local products and services. Providers who wish to be found cannot expect it to happen by magic, action is usually required.