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what is inbound marketing

What Inbound Marketing is and where it’s going: Outbound and other disruptors

What is Inbound Marketing? At an operational level, inbound marketing is about creating high-quality content, characterized by keywords and phrases targeted to maximize SEO (search engine optimization) and attract visitors and leads. Inbound marketing populates web pages and blogs with easy-to-navigate, strategic content. Visitors and leads can, in turn, provide contact information useful for promotions (also through sharing on social media), follow-ups and, finally, sales.

There are many tools used in Inbound to capture the interest of and build communications with potential customers. Here’s why each is important:

  • Blog: Should offer high-quality content and effective SEO by using the most appropriate keywords;
  • Keywords: Identify and use the best keywords and key phrases to represent a company’s products or services;
  • SEO: Important with regard to links in a page (merit and positioning), in-page titles, headers, meta-tags, alt tags, images, etc.;
  • Social Media: Essential for sharing content, generating interest through word of mouth, developing relationships with customers and prospects;
  • Web site: Navigable in an intuitive and accessible way; well organized as an effective “hub” for incoming leads.

 

Inbound as a consolidated business methodology and irresistible buzzword

From a theoretical point of view, inbound marketing is a corporate methodology that attracts customers by creating tailored content and experiences that they will find valuable, useful, informative. Inbound marketing creates connections between the brand and people, helping to focus on the needs of target customers and providing solutions for their problems. Within the world of inbound, there are also many buzzwords that surround this concept.

 

Disruption and Customer Experience: the future of inbound marketing

In the keynote for its Inbound 2019, Brian Halligan, co-founder, and CEO of Hubspot, the undisputed guru of Inbound marketing, says: “Disruption is speeding up not slowing down.”

The term disruption, used in relation to the concept of innovation, was used in marketing for the first time by author and Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen in his book, The innovator’s dilemma (1995). We talked about the innovations as a result of digital transformation in a recent post, in which the typical ways of entering the market of disruptors were highlighted: better performance, lower prices, greater potential for personalization, and involvement of a very broad target. Here it is sufficient to remember that an innovation is disruptive if it creates new markets and gives new shape to those that already exist, activating and completing a structural transformation of the dynamics of the entire sector.

 

A new species: Experienced disruptors

Hubspot’s Halligan then distinguishes between two different “species” of disruptors: technology disruptors and experience disruptors, which have emerged over the last few years. His intervention is in many ways enlightening: the great disrupters of the recent past have exploited technology to rewrite the rules of business. Today, in the same way, it is the innovations in Customer Experience that are upsetting those same rules, five genetic adaptations that allow experience disruptors to intercept the trajectories of increasingly elusive customers.

 

The innovations of the Customer Experience: the evolution of Inbound Marketing in five “genetic” adaptations

 

1. Get ‘experience marketing’ fit

While brands typically focus on the product (product marketing fit), experience disruptors work on the customer experience regarding the product (experience marketing fit). These companies are working to build meaningful, engaging, and above all, insightful narratives that actually come from customer experience. The leap forward is twofold: on the one hand, the personalization of the product or service itself, as well as new ways of distribution that meet customers in the places and times most appropriate for their daily lives.

 

2. Remove friction

Experience disruptors eliminate all possibilities of friction that a lead or prospect may encounter during their purchase journey (customer journey). They internalize Inbound Marketing ideals in their business processes and put them into practice. Once people have come into contact with the Brand, for example through a purchase on the website, it’s up to marketing not to lose sight of the potential customer, but to continue to follow and support them, strengthening the relationship established with the purchase.

By keeping all company functions (marketing, sales, customer service) constantly focused on current and future customers, experience disruptors intervene promptly to resolve frictions such as slowdowns, difficulties, and misunderstandings.

 

3. Personalize

The success of experience disruptors has more to do with a rapid and continuous personalization at all touchpoints of the marketing and sales process, starting, for example, from the design of the corporate website, which must be:

  • designed to convince users to return;
  • optimized, each time they return, according to each of those same visitors and their specific browsing experiences.

It has several strategies in place. An example is the one implemented, among others, by Netflix, which is moving away from the personas and instead uses the data in a more prescriptive sense to create clusters. Spotify is instead looking to neutralize the anonymity of its users. The challenge is always the same: to manage the wealth of data now available to obtain a sort of “extreme personalization”, or as Halligan says, “a segment of one,” while using that information responsibly and avoiding the type of excessive personalization that customers may find invasive.
 

4. Sell through your customers

Incumbents are very good at selling to their customers, and experience disruptors have learned to sell through their customers: not only do they produce their own content, but they encourage consumers to create original content based on their experience with the product. These brands have managed to build an interactive relationship with customers, accepting their criticisms and suggestions, developing concrete actions based on their feedback and constantly rewarding their loyalty.

 

5. Attack your business model

Finally, experience disruptors do not passively adapt to an existing business model. Models are there to be challenged. Each company probably has between five and 10 competitors and the already widespread business models usually focus on price, packaging, warranty. Experience disruptors rethink the usual terms and conditions so as to make them much easier to use, and thanks to which, they can add value to the customers’ relationship with the Brand.

Recomposing what is written in a single framework, we can conclude that what makes the Customer Experience disruptive can be summarized in a formula full of suggestions: “How they sell is how they win.” Coined by Halligan himself during his keynote, this phrase, which has already become a slogan, frames the current evolutionary stage of inbound marketing.
 

Inbound marketing at the beginning of the millennium: the concept, the methodology, the winning alternative to Outbound marketing

Looking at the state of the art of inbound marketing, we can look at both current developments and insights for the future.

Hubspot’s Halligan insisted on the difference between inbound and outbound marketing. The point was summarized in a question: how can a brand, in a world that is about to become progressively interconnected thanks to new technologies, continue to be visible and influential for potential customers? The answer could only be: structuring the relationship with customers so as to reflect the fluid, open, and transparent forms with which people relate to each other, to learn, to inform themselves, to do research, to buy; in other words, supporting and exploiting the natural forms of digital communication.

Before founding Hubspot with Dharmesh Shah, his classmate at MIT, Halligan was a venture capitalist who helped small- and medium-sized enterprises in their growth. This was in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s and promotional activities were basically always the same: telemarketing or cold-calling, email marketing, spamming, trade shows. These were, for the most part, typical outbound marketing techniques, such as trade shows, seminars, or marketing lists with phone numbers and/or email addresses. In the case of larger companies, with substantial budgets available, the kit of tools could also include advertising campaigns with ad space in newspapers and magazines, posters, and radio and television ads. Halligan realized that all these techniques seemed to no longer work. More and more tools were developed to block those messages, those annoying telemarketing calls, spam emails, and even television commercials.

 

Inbound marketing: simple, accessible, meaningful

Today, people spend more and more time on Google searches, or in the blogosphere, becoming part of the community via social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Even if virtual, these networks are where people meet, learn, and build relevant relationships (and where brands can also participate).

How, then, can we reach potential customers who are more and more difficult to intercept, and more and more immersed (even lost?) in the web, this new multidimensional world that is suddenly accessible with a simple click? Halligan responds by telling us what was the source of his inspiration at the time, an object that was revolutionary in its own way, inherently disruptive: the iPod. Before it was released, there were many mp3 players on the market, but they were all rather complicated, so much so that most of them were used by people with advanced technical skills. Apple’s iPod wasn’t just another mp3 player, it was a simple device that provided, through its integration with iTunes, the only content really needed: music. Inbound marketing works in the same direction: it includes in a single system for all of the tools that allow companies to create relevant experiences for people, taking into account, thanks to the ever better profiling, their uniqueness as individuals.

And this is also the mission of Doxee’s personalized videos: to allow you to shorten the distance between you and your customers, allowing you to get in touch with them by providing useful experiences, developing solutions that simplify their professional activities (and their lives).

 

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