Whether we realize it or not, it is already the way we look for solutions to our needs. Buying goods or services is essentially a process of discovery and today, our decisions are influenced by things that go way beyond the traditional B2C messages.
I always enjoy Andrew's views because he brings refreshing views that weren't always crafted within the boundaries of the financial industry. That is why I sometimes call him my 'cross-over' friend, he doesn't like it so I'll stop using that term.
We recorded our chat on video. It was out first 'Google Hangout' and we are totally hooked already. We came away loving the 'Hangout' experience so you can expect us to be doing this much more often.
Andrew's insightful post can be found below the video, which I hope you can take some time to watch. As usual it takes on a refreshing journey outside our industry.
Tell us what you think.
WE ARE ALL DOING INBOUND MARKETING, ELVES INCLUDED.
By Andrew Walker
There's still a lot of conventional wisdom out there when it comes to business and technology, but when you consider the way we live today, it's not really wisdom anymore. To put that into perspective, I walked out of my post-grad MSc in multimedia because my supervisor, a highly respected academic, refused to mark my dissertation on web-based computer games because "you can't write a paper on that, the internet is a storage system for academics, it's not for playing games."
That was 1995. Today, just one of the thousands of web based games that arrived since then, World of Warcraft, has over 10 million users and is reckoned to raise $1bn in revenue each year. That's a lot of money from people who like pretending to be elves. Ironically, most of them of them also use the internet as a storage system for academic work too. The moral of the story is the commercial opportunities of technology are defined by the people who use it, more than the people who build it.
In the early years of the web, it felt like we were killing-off the traditional marketing and advertising industries. It was the end of the middleman. Over the last decade we've seen the digital world decimate the high street. Travel agents, video stores, record shops, department stores, car dealerships, estate agents… you name the industry, the survivors of the last century are now fewer in number and integrated, wholly or in part, into the online world. The traditional marketing mindset couldn't do a thing to stop it.
The media, from music to newspapers, TV to movies are rethinking the fundamentals of their business models on a daily basis, each time trading the traditional sales and marketing approach in favour of the new world of mobile devices and social networks. That's making CDs, DVDs, printers of glossy brochures and TV ad revenues a thing of the past.
Those early years of the web built a network of distributed publishing platforms that led inexorably to a world where marketing and advertising in the traditional sense, would stop making financial sense. The 'tell and sell' era was coming to the end of its hundred or so years of driving commerce, it just didn't know it yet. The geeks thought they were building a utopia of new ideas but they weren't just killing-off the traditional marketing industry, they were digitising the need for marketing itself.
The rest is history. Now we all have Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever the next big thing is. We expect our music to be downloaded, watch whatever we want whenever we want to, fast-forward through the ad breaks in our TV shows and if you can't buy it on your laptop and get it delivered to your door, you probably won't buy it. The thing you probably will do, if you're like most modern consumers, is refer to online reviews and recommendations from your online friends before you decide to buy anything. And whatever that something is, you'll most likely hear about it via searching Google or reading about it somewhere online.
Our spending decisions are now driven by discovery. We’re on a journey inbound, zeroing-in on the products and services we want, navigating by the opinions of other people as much as following the signposts the marketers put up. We rate journalists as experts but rate our friends opinions higher. We touch upon multiple sources of information, some good, some honest, some biased and some plain misleading along the way. The paths are many, varied and constantly evolving. That's where marketing lives now. It's not an industry anymore, it's a way of life.
Inbound marketing isn't a fad. There's demographic weight behind it. Children who have never lived without a DVD player or a mobile phone are in the B2B world now. Their habits, as regular as your dad's Sunday newspaper or mum's radio crackling out the evening news whilst she made dinner, are just as ingrained. If you're hoping to reach this generation with a glossy brochure or a branded coffee beaker at a conference, you're living in the past.
But this is good news. The new world is cheaper, more flexible and reaches a wider audience than ever before. It's populated with people who want to buy your niche product, fund, post-trade platform and everything else. In the old days you'd have to find them. In the inbound era, they'll find you - all you've got to do is create content, have conversations, measure trends and spread yourself around into the places people go online.
It's easy too.
Don't think brochure, think blog.
Don't think 5 minute corporate with the CEO video every quarter, think 1 minute mobile phone video with a co-worker every week.
Don't think trade stands outside the conference hall, think live tweeting presentations from the hall itself.
Don't plan a launch three months from now, start now and build a customer relationship you close three months from now.
Don't build a dream team, use the people you've got right now for 20 minutes every day.
Conventional wisdom has its time and place, but ask yourself, if the people who leave the company are writing a blog post about you 17 years down the line, do you want to be remembered as the person who scoffed at $1bn revenue from people pretending to be elves, or running a more successful business?