The Pull of Inbound Marketing

Is traditional marketing going away, and inbound marketing here to stay? According to Hubspot’s 175-page annual 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Annual Report:

Over the past five years, marketers have witnessed a tectonic shift in strategy, from campaign-based interruption marketing, to a consistently measured, closed-loop inbound marketing strategy – one that pulls interested customers to your company and creates lasting relationships.

As marketers of course, we already know this, as this shift is best evidenced by such things as the explosion of content on the web and the mass migration of brands now present and operating in the social media space. However, 1) understanding why this shift is important, 2) re-aligning a company’s approach to messaging to fit the needs of its customers, 3) understanding how to best implement such a strategy, and 4) determining ways to measure progress isn’t always so simple.

What Inbound Marketing Is

Inbound marketing is simply about attracting strangers, converting visitors into leads, closing sales, delighting customers in the process, and then converting those customers into promoters (as can be deduced from the below infographic courtesy of HubSpot):

2013_StateofInboundMarketing_FullReport

Inbound marketing is often referred to as “pull” messaging, as opposed to traditional marketing that has become known as “push” marketing, perhaps best exemplified here:

push pull-resized-600

Some of my favorite takeaways and key highlights from HubSpot’s inbound marketing report include the following points:

  • Traditional marketing is fading: While traditional marketing models have not completely dried up, we found they are dramatically devalued by all marketers in 2013 … Traditional advertising and PPC will deliver the least amount of leads for marketers this year, with just 6% originating from each of these categories.
  • As a holistic approach, inbound helps target a fragmented digital audience and make marketing more profitable: Marketers who have embraced inbound recognize that success depends on shifting overall marketing’s focus – and weaving inbound’s content rich, customer-focused strategy through your business practices. The inbound paradigm gets your company working together, rather than looking at a lead as a baton to hand off from one functional group to another.
  • Inbound marketing is not a channel or a technology, it’s a strategy: It’s not enough to “do” inbound. To see real results, you need to deeply commit to the model and optimize continually. Marketers that succeed with inbound marketing dedicate a high level of time, commitment, and resources to getting it right. Inbound marketing is not a quick-fix, nor will your company succeed at inbound by hiring an “inbound expert” and sitting them next to your email, trade show, and website staff member.

As one might expect, the report also points out that there is currently a large divide between marketing and sales teams/leadership. For example, while marketers generally embrace the goal of integrating inbound strategies with larger marketing goals (81% of companies reporting some level of this integration), executives and sales teams still don’t quite buy in to inbound marketing. Specifically, when it comes to allocating resources to support inbound efforts, only 11% of company executives and 17% of sales teams lend their full support.

This lines up nicely with an Ad Age article I read this week highlighting some of the top struggles that CMOs are facing, which cited that CMOs are being squeezed by the need to support major corporate objectives — profitable growth and operational efficiency — while maintaining a loyal customer base and increasing sales amidst stiffer competition and higher customer expectations. In short, CMOs have become tasked with the complex undertaking of balancing the needs of the company with the needs of the customer in the midst of a quickly shifting landscape. At the heart of the issue is the need to re-orient the company’s concept of marketing to fit the needs of the new marketplace. The best way this can be achieved is by framing the issue from a holistic perspective, which begins with understanding the changes taking place in the larger picture and then working backwards into the company to arrive at the best way to best adapt.

In summary, the 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Annual Report was a fascinating read that includes data analysis from over 3,300 participants in 128 different countries, including CEOs, agencies, and marketers. The report makes a strong business case for adopting inbound marketing and also offers keys to building a successful inbound team. You can visit the interactive site by clicking here.

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