The startling statistics — or others just like them — often make the rounds in marketing circles: In 1970, the average consumer was exposed to 500 advertisements a day. In the early 1990s, that number had grown to 5,000. By some estimates, it now approaches 30,000 messages a day. Just as troubling, where consumers a half-century ago recalled 34 percent of commercials they'd seen, today they barely remember any.
That's a serious problem for traditional marketers. The challenge for them, however, isn't figuring out what's behind this modern-day cacophony. That part is easy to explain: we're in the middle of an irreversible shift from the Information Age to the Social Age — and, with it, the decreased reliance on outbound marketing and the rise of data-driven inbound marketing.
What's the difference between outbound and inbound marketing? Outbound marketing is the 30-second radio spots, print magazine ads and roadside billboards that dominated consumer advertising for decades. Outbound marketing is very inefficient: it’s a spray-and-pray technique — putting messages in front of as many people as possible hoping somebody somewhere will bite. That doesn't work so well now that consumers have the power to tune out from these disruptions by, say, fast-forwarding through commercials.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is about giving customers control of the marketing conversation. Customers, in their profile preferences, get to dictate the messages they receive and how, whether it's by email or text. Inbound marketing is about creating an experience that customers welcome, on their terms. Today, inbound marketing comprises content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, conversion rate optimization and marketing automation.
How inbound marketing delivers context
The real power of inbound marketing is its ability to add context to marketing — and empower marketers to solve business problems in a granular, scalable and personalized way. This is accomplished by delivering the right content to the correct person at the best time on the ideal channel — mobile, web, social or email.
In order to do this, marketers need to understand the digital pattern of their website visitors. By tracking and scoring individual online behavior like click-throughs, conversions and open rates, marketers can track an individual’s propensity to engage, his interests and even his path in the sales funnel. This helps ensure that the content created and delivered to the consumer actually has context, unlike the batch-and-blast technique a lot of marketers still use.
Traditional marketers who wish to transition into inbound marketing will need to leverage some type of email, marketing automation and demand generation software to attract consumers, track their behavior and deliver relevant content.
The power of consumer loyalty
Customers welcome inbound marketing — and will become more loyal to brands that do it right. This loyalty not only drive sales but also builds a bustling online community filled with brand fanatics. The value of this community cannot be understated: it will defend a brand, spread its gospel, deliver new business and help contribute valuable content.
Brands like Coca-Cola recognize the power of this love and are looking to capitalize on it by launching its Content 2020. Through its content, Coca-Cola hopes to earn a disproportionate share of popular culture. That’s a lofty goal, but the power of inbound marketing makes it possible.
It’s time to accept that the Social Age is here to stay and that inbound marketing is the framework for planting, cultivating and harvesting big data and true brand-love.
To read more about the transition from the Information Age to the Social Age, view a limited-time only preview to Chad Pollitt's book, here.