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Saturday, 8 May 2010

Online advertising and inbound marketing: it's all about people

In this social media day and age, we increasingly move from outbound to inbound marketing. There are differences between B2B and B2C businesses but B2B companies are catching up very fast in the inbound marketing space and inbound is growing year after year.

What is outbound marketing? In a nutshell: the campaigns and marketing activities are 'pushed' to the people and are often interruptive. What is inbound marketing? Well, the opposite.

Content marketing, SEO, blog marketing and social media marketing are forms of inbound marketing. Events, call center actions, direct mailings and TV ads are forms of outbound marketing.

Email marketing/advertising is difficult to categorize. It's a bit of both. After all, the recipient gives his permission. And at the same time there is an evolution towards a more conversational and valuable focus on the recipient. But, despite all this and the fact that email marketing has found a strong companion in social media, there is a broadcasting aspect as well.

When do display ads contribute to the brand experience?

Which leads me to the big question: what about display advertising? In a way, display ads allow people to find you. That's a bit inbound. They do have an impact on branding. But they are often intrusive. That's outbound. Can I add that they are also still very often without value for the people that should see them, being you and me?

However, it's not really about the formats. It's about what they contain: the story, the promise and the content.

Whatever the definition: if display ad campaigns don't engage the people that see them, use intrusive formats and are not set up in function of the needs and wants of people, in the formats and circumstances that are relevant and enabling people to get something out of them or what they promise, they fail.

Customer-centricity is key in everything we do. The same goes for display ads. If they simply are about pushing your products and services or about one-way branding, they are not perceived as valuable.

If they are used to offer something that your 'target group' seeks (fun, relevant content, a paper, interaction, etc.) they will lead to a positive brand experience.

Your brand is not what you want it to be. It's what people make it: the people in your company and the people in the influence sphere of your online brand.

Give your brand a face and value beyond the brand itself. Let go of your brand, and it will get stronger than ever. In display ads as well. The value is in reputation and thus the value you put into relationships. With people, as people.

Display ads should engage people and get them talking or taking action. No, this does not mean display ads are about clicks (alone). Engagement and interaction are also about word-of-mouth, interacting with the creatives themselves and being surprised, impressed and touched. Display ads can do that. If you dare to let go more of your brand.

Again, your brand is not what you want it to be, so don’t try to “position” yourself via a display ad, in fact forget positioning completely (sorry, Al Ries and Jack Trout, but it is what it is). Your brand is what you get when you involve people, in all layers of the ecosystem that determines the value of your online brand.

Feel free to comment here or on Twitter.


Eric said...

While I agree with much of your article, I have to say I don't agree with the "forget about positioning" aspect.
Yes, Inbound is all about getting found on the Internet. But you are still getting found for something and that something is what you position your keyword phrases around, what you then build your entire website around, and what you gear your content towards, all the effort to reduce bounce rate when you do manage to attract people to your site.
The best way to think of Inbound, is to divide it into 4 phases:
1) Attract more visitors to your website through SEO, Social Media Marketing, and, if needed, PPC
2) Engage their attention with industry leading content (website copy, white papers, videos, podcasts)
3) Convert them by getting their names and email addresses in return for valued content. Grade their profiles (each time they visit ask them a few more questions) and score their digital footprints (their activities on the site), to rack up points. Keep them in your funnel by automatically nurturing them around their buying cycle, educating them automatically with multi-touch drip email campaigns cultivating them from cold lead to hot prospect.
4) And when their Grade and Score reach your target levels, automatically feed these prospects directly into your CRM and notify the assigned sales rep (based on product or territory or whatever…).
Our website contains a library of white papers, tools, videos and an extensive glossary, all covering the above in more detail.

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