To better acquaint myself with the concept of inbound marketing this week I read a white paper published by Marketo, a firm that designs digital marketing software, and a Harvard Business Review case study on Hubspot, the marketing firm that coined the term Inbound Marketing. Generally, both sources define inbound marketing as the creation of interesting, engaging content that leads potential customers to contact a business. Hubspot contrasts this content generation to traditional outbound marketing channels such as advertisements or direct mail by referring to such marketing methods as interruptive marketing. Inbound marketing can include the creation of videos, social media interactions, writing blogs, publishing white papers or participating in case studies. Do these last two inbound marketing tactics sound familiar? The sources I was engaging with to learn about inbound marketing were forms of inbound marketing themselves, inbound marketing within inbound marketing… Marketing Inception!
Unlike the typically eery nature of Inception that just might have one questioning his own existence and the validity of the reality he functions in, the presence of this marketing inception is actually quite comforting; a large part of Hubspot’s success story is their ability to build their business through inbound marketing. Hubspot attracted customers through a website filled with white papers, weekly podcasts and entertaining videos like Dude, Cold Calling Is For Losers, which has over 80,000 views.
As phrasing such as interruptive marketing and the content of the cold calling video suggest, Hubspot takes an anti outbound marketing stance. This is where Marketo differs. In Marketo’s white paper they address the importance of inbound marketing mixing with outbound marketing. Marketo explains the concept of the inbound marketing multiplier, their idea that inbound marketing serves to enhance, or multiply, the benefits of a traditional marketing campaign. Marketo explains that the typical benefits of outbound marketing, such as the ability to control the language used to describe your brand that comes with advertising, are still present if not as profound and that inbound marketing provides channels for the customers reached through outbound marketing to identify themselves a leads. This difference in approach makes sense as Hubspot incorporates no outbound marketing management in their software offering while Marketo does.
The two firms are similar though in their description of the necessity of lead qualification. Not everybody who downloads a white paper is a potential lead. For example, a couple months back I downloaded a white paper from OpenTempo, a healthcare scheduling software. I downloaded this paper as research I was doing for a competitor, I have no interest in engaging them as a customer. To download this paper I had to provide certain information about myself and later received an email contact from OpenTempo. Within this email I had the option to further engage, bringing myself into the more narrow area of their funnel. As I did not engage, I have been filtered out and am no longer a potential lead for them. Hubspot employed a very similar tactic in growing their business, analyzing which leads would be most likely to develop into profitable customers and weeding out all who did not match this profile. At one point, Hubspot was weeding out roughly 50% of leads.
To close post out, I’ll provide a fun example of inbound marketing I found in a Kuno Creative Blog. A small beef jerky company was able to sell far beyond their daily averages simply by engaging potential customers on reddit. This company, Bridgford, entered what Marketo describes as a virtuous cycle, they not only gained sales through this interaction, but received additional publicity through people sharing this interaction and blogging about it. All of this increases their likelihood of being found by customers who have never come in contact with any paid media.