Inbound Marketing - Two Short Stories

I was asked to explain inbound marketing to an elementary student. Thought two examples they could relate to might be helpful. How did I do


Bill Arnold

2/9/20245 min read

Inbound Marketing
Inbound Marketing

Marketing exists in ever day life in all of our activities. I was called out on this so I decided to share two examples. Tell me how I did.

Marketing is Like a Farmers' Market

One of the last places I expected to see the inbound market put into effect was at a community farmers market. I recall a nice sunny Saturday morning watching all the vendors entice and interact with their customers. Since my wife was volunteering there to promote Kent State University’s Campus Kitchen Project, I had plenty of time to stroll around and watch how each vendor plied their trade:

JUST SHOWING UP - The vast majority of the vendors did nothing but sit, wait, and hope somebody noticed them, much like the companies who create a website and wait for the masses to find them. In both cases, the results are dismal. The vendors who did nothing to entice people to their table just sat there and grumbled that the farmers market was simply not a good venue.

How many times have you heard a business complain the Internet is not a good way to market themselves? After all, they created a nice website, and nobody came.

INTERRUPTION MARKETING - There were a number of vendors who employed outbound or interruption marketing practices that did more to accost their prospects than reel them in. The best example was the practices of a special interest group that wanted those passing by to sign a petition. They would literally jump in front of any semi-conscious person and begin expounding on the virtues of their cause.

A lot of Internet marketing is centered on finding ways to simply get in front of people, whether it is in the form of unwanted emails or pop-up ads that disturb your Internet experience. The companies that use those techniques are trying to get their message to anyone, regardless of how many people they irritate in the process. 

The vast majority of those who were stopped by the aggressive special interest group provided the first excuse that came to mind and ran away as quickly as possible. The more alert attendees would look in the opposite direction as they walked by and pretended to be deaf to the calls to stop. Think of the number of emails you receive on a daily basis. Many end up in our spam folders, and that is akin to those smart enough to avoid eye contact.

The special interest group might have had a great story to tell, but few were willing to listen. I am not saying they did not have much success, but they alienated far more than the handful who signed their petition.

CONTENT MARKETING - There were a number of vendors who understood the benefits of creating value to lure their prospects to them. The vendors that offered free samples had a swarm of visitors to their tables. Once there, they were able to engage them in a conversation about the benefits of what they were selling.

While not everyone made a purchase, those vendors did report greater success and felt they had built relationships with those they spoke with. The mere act of giving the prospects a free sample invoked the “Law of Reciprocity” which made them more apt to listen to the vendor.

Content marketing online is similar: We do not give out free samples, but if we create great compelling content, our website visitors will exchange their contact information for it. If we continue to provide great content, we find website visitors will engage us when they have the need for our services or finally have the budget to proceed.

Marketing Is Like a Formula One Race

In many ways, inbound marketing is like Formula One Racing which fastest road course race in the world. The stakes are high and the equipment and people are challenged to take risks and try new things, but above all, they must win.

Their high-performance cars travel over very demanding winding courses and travel upwards of 240 mph. One mistake, one misstep, and the consequences can be tragic.

While Inbound Marketing does not involve the risk of losing life and limb, a misstep or a mistake can lead to tragic consequences for your business.

For inbound marketing, the driver is the lead strategist ultimately responsible for navigating the course and avoiding the obstacles that may arise.

The fuel that propels your inbound marketing program forward is your content. Like fuel, not all content is created equal. You can put gasoline in your Formula One car and it will not run properly. Put in a high-performance racing fuel like methanol and it will roar like a lion.

Content is much the same. Every piece of content must have a purpose. It must resonate with a particular buyer persona at a particular place in the buyer’s journey. It must compel them to want to learn more and take that next step. Creating that high-performance content does not happen easily. You can’t accomplish this with copywriters or a blogging mill. You need a trained Brand Journalist who bases the content on a well-defined Discovery and Assessment Process. There is an art and a science to accomplish this, but get it right and you will have a marketing fuel that will be the envy of your competitors.

Like any Formula One Race, it takes a team to win. The inbound marketing pit crew comprises that team. They are the designers, developers, brand journalists, technologists, UX experts, and SEO and demand generation specialists. All of which are critical to the success of the race. If any one of them is not the best, the results will suffer and you may not achieve the victory you desire.

In Formula One Racing probably the most critical element is having a Formula One Race Car that is unmatched in its performance. While all cars are meant to perform the same, any Formula One Driver will tell you that each car’s performance is different.

For inbound marketing, your high-performance car is your marketing automation platform. How important is making the right choice?

If you’re a business looking to implement an inbound marketing program, you need to have a marketing automation platform that ensures all the moving parts are not only working together seamlessly but are more than the sum of its parts.

So, before you write a single piece of content, before you start developing your first buyer personas, and even before you create your website you need to consider and select the right marketing automation platform.

There are lots of “choices” when it comes to marketing automation tools. Of course, they all claim to be the best so how do you decide? Just like any racing engine, if you miss an important component, nothing works the way it is supposed to work.

Our next blog will be a comparison, analysis, and recommendation on what marketing automation is really the best. What are the elements to consider and make sure the marketing automation platform you choose will not only fit your needs but will allow your technology team to tweak the performance of your marketing engine?

If you are going to run the race, you do so to win. If you are going to implement an inbound marketing program you are doing so to acquire customers. In both cases, you can make success more probable by assembling the right driver, fuel, team, and racecar.

Here’s to being ahead at the checkered flag!