Is marketing a ‘nice to have’ or is it business ‘critical’? Does it mean playing around on Twitter and LinkedIn all day or building a communications strategy for success? I guess the real question should be … ’is Marketing all fluff?’
Marketing has changed significantly in recent times, there’s been a significant shift from outbound marketing towards inbound marketing. So what’s the difference?
Inbound marketing is a strategy where businesses implement a number of tactics to "get found" by customers. It involves creating and providing valuable, targeted content (knowledge, insight, commentary etc.) promoting this content, building customer relationships, and generally "pulling" the customer toward and (ideally) into conversation with your brand. Inbound Marketing strategies aim to promote brand awareness, improve Search Engine Optimization, create thought leadership, develop and encourage valuable customer relationships, establish credibility, and build trustworthy reputations.
In contrast, outbound marketing, or traditional marketing, is the marketing strategy where businesses try to find customers through building their brand awareness, buying into advertising and promotion, and interrupting the consumer.
Working in tandem
I believe that both have their place within a good marketing strategy. Although inbound marketing can be easier on your budget, and can produce warm leads, outbound marketing is still great for building brand awareness. Inbound and outbound are amiss without each other. They’re like peas in a pod and ideally they need to work in tandem toward a common goal.
These days, inbound marketing is nigh on critical to achieve marketing success in the digital era but don’t undervalue the continued importance of outbound marketing to build brand awareness and reach a mass audience quickly and effectively. A combination of inbound and outbound marketing is necessary for success. Responsible marketers dropped the “tv is dead” mantra a long time ago, and know that it’s not a case of either/or; it’s a case of “now we need to do both, and how best to find the right balance” – traditionally, the inbound campaign has often been informed by the outbound creative campaigns, but that’s now also changing - you’ll now find far more outbound campaigns supporting the inbound campaigns.
Marketing is sometimes seen as expensive and unaccountable. Admittedly there are some forms of marketing that fall into these categories; advertising is expensive, and it is often difficult to measure the effectiveness of PR. However, most forms of marketing are measurable providing that you ensure that you have the tools in place when planning your campaign, then it’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t. And sometimes things won’t work, but you quickly learn from that, and move on.
Know your Audience
There are many long-winded definitions, but marketing, in its most raw form, is about finding out what people want and selling them a product or a service. Sadly, the research, business modelling and strategy side of marketing is often overlooked in favour of jumping straight to the promotion of the business, product or service. Very often it is just too tempting to get wrapped up in the excitement of a new idea that the customer’s opinion is overlooked. Now, I’m not saying that promotion isn’t important. It is. It’s very important - and a lot of fun – but how can you possibly know the best way to promote something without knowing whom to promote it to, how and when?
Analysis and research
In order to make sure you’re not wasting time, money and effort on promotional activity that won’t work, you need a plan. You need to know and understand the habits of your target market like you know your friends and family. Analysis and research are crucial. They will help you to understand the best way to communicate with your audience and the messages they will respond to. It can even tell you the best methods and times to contact them with offers or invitations and how much they’re willing to spend on your products or services.
A key business function
Not only will research and analysis help you to determine your strategy and tactical activity, it will also help you to define your brand – your promise to your customers and the visual identity that makes you unique and recognisable. Create an informed plan and stick to it.
So in summary, marketing should be seen as a key business function. Without marketing your business will struggle to stand out from your competitors and in the current economic climate why would you not want your business to be seen and heard? It’s important that the current focus for inbound marketing isn’t your only marketing strategy – inbound and outbound marketing are equally important to the health of your business. Embrace both forms and see your business flourish. So is “Marketing Fluff”? Absolutely not, it’s fundamental to your business.