Often, inbound marketing is defined as a combination of marketing strategies that focus on “being found” by people in the online space. According to a definition on Wikipedia inbound marketing is, I quote: “a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by customers.”
Wikipedia also refers to David Meerman Scott’s book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly” in which David would have recommended (quote from Wikipedia again) “that marketers earn their way in (via publishing helpful information on a blog, etc.) in contrast to outbound marketing where they used to have to buy, beg, or bug their way in (via paid advertisements, issuing press releases in the hope they get picked up by the trade press, or paying commissioned sales people, respectively)”.
Inbound marketing is not about being passive
I must admit I haven’t read David’s book. Just as I find the whole contraposition of inbound and outbound marketing artificial in a multi-channel world, I think our views on inbound marketing are very passive in many ways.
Take blog marketing, for example. Although I’m fond of all forms of what we call inbound marketing and social, blogging for marketing purposes is utterly stupid if you just write, optimize, sit and wait until someone “finds you”. Sure, the whole earned and owned media thing is important and businesses have to shout less than they used to. But outbound marketing, besides being another label, is not only about buying or begging. That’s complete nonsense. And I’ll tell you why.
The online world is a big one in case you haven’t noticed. I remember the times when every digital marketer was obsessed with data about the number of internet users, web sites and so on. Do we even care about them anymore? Every day people are starting blogs, including businesses, joining social networks, creating content, optimizing SEO and trying “to be found”. Well, I have news for you: by now, “cyberspace” is so large that you can’t almost find interesting content from a new blog if the “producer” of that blog and its’ content was just sitting and waiting. The online world is getting like our galaxy: always expanding, with a few big stars but most of all with a lot of space where you can get lost in the freezing cold outside.
So, here is my advice: if you start blogging for personal or business purposes, if you start using social, content marketing or inbound, don’t stare at the “being found” alone. Unfortunately, many people and businesses have believed they should do so: inbound has a better ROI, remember?
Integrate: communication is not a passive thing
Combine inbound and outbound. Buy, beg or bug your way in now and then. People really didn’t stop being interested in good email marketing or “old school” marketing all of the sudden. And what’s wrong with a good press release, saying what you’re up to? Yes, people want what you do to be relevant for them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t shoot your messages and content out now and then. Communication is not a passive thing. Just because we stopped shouting, we shouldn’t stop speaking! As long as permission is respected, email marketing is just fine. And billboards will exist tomorrow as well.
Obviously, it’s better to refrain from irrelevant outbound communications. However, bad email marketing is no different than focusing so much on SEO (write shorter posts than mine by the way to score well) that in the end our content has no personality and meaning at all anymore, killed by sacred keyword density, bullet points and infographics.
Outbound marketing and presenting your content to people, instead of simply sitting and waiting, is no sin! It’s even the logic thing to do in a world where people are multi-channel.
The ripple effect: throwing stones is more fun when doing it together
While thinking about all this yesterday, I came up with this image of a little stone being thrown in water. Imagine the water is tranquil, there is no wind and not a single ripple can be seen. Compare that with what you do in “cyberspace”. Your message is like throwing a stone in the water. Ripples appear: people retweet your tweets, forward your emails and whatnot. After a while, the ripples seem to disappear, but they have a longer effect than you can see. At the same time, a lot happens under the water surface and even above it. There is a splash and drops fall back in the water where they create new ripples.
You should have ripples. To be found. But also to tell you exist. Throw in those stones now and then. The fact that everything is so connected, even should motivate you to do so (and, again, I’m not talking about shouting or irrelevant broadcasting). Identify the people that really love the stones that HELP them FIND your content that they appreciate.
And you know when the real fun starts? When others start throwing stones for you too. That’s ‘social’ as well, certainly when all these little ripples and waves start reinforcing, influencing and even changing each other.
Produce content and exist. And be proud of it. No one will notice what you do if you just do a great job in blogging, existing and waiting.
Yes, we need ears and eyes in marketing, even more than ever. But the last time I checked we needed a voice too.