Marketing’s New Golden Age

Now is the golden age of marketing. I was tempted to write the second golden age since history sometimes seems to repeat but I am more of the Mark Twain school of history and he believed that history did not repeat itself but that it rhymed.

In that vein, what could be seen as the first golden age of marketing was really more the golden age of broadcasting and it’s instructive to consider the similarities and differences.

Times Have Changed

During the broadcast era, which lasted roughly from the introduction of TV after World War II until the Internet age, almost anything you could imagine was sold over the airwaves to a public eager to consume. The public was so eager in fact that by this year an interdisciplinary team of social scientists from UCLA was able to document that consumption was just about kaput as an indoor sport simply because we’ve filled all the nooks and crannies in our homes. There’s no more room to put things and with credit a hard thing to get, buying things has slowed significantly.

Just look at the table below. It shows US Gross Domestic Product over the last four and a half years and it has barely budged. No growth means no (or very few) new jobs and certainly not enough demand growth to drive the economy forward. So you get what we have. In this economy, broadcasting a marketing message is like pushing on a string and selling means really knowing and understanding — they are different — what customers want and are willing to spend money on. Enter inbound marketing.

I spent part of last week at Inbound, the HubSpot user conference held in Boston, my hometown. What a joy it was to not visit any airports in the travel process and the old town even managed to shrug off its sub-tropical humidity so typical throughout the summer.

HubSpot is an up and coming content marketing company with all the right ideas about social media, marketing and the road ahead. I learned a few things, got reinforced on some others and the proceedings made me curious about a few more.

Content marketing isn’t exactly new but for a long time it has lacked an organizing principle. People like David Meerman Scott, who gave a keynote, have written books about it or its cousin, the “new” marketing but there is nothing like a vendor endorsement to show an idea has taken root. After all, guys like me can write all we want for very little investment beyond our time but vendors have to really believe and see the potential for making money from their investments in a new idea.

US Real GDP (Trillions)Source: US Bureau of Economic AnalysisMarch 31, 2012:$13.50December 31, 2011:$13.43December 31, 2010:$13.22December 31, 2009:$12.81December 31, 2008:$12.88December 31, 2007:$13.33

Give Them What They Need

If you are new to inbound or content marketing the big switch involves providing content people want instead of brochures and other sales materials they don’t. This requires a level of personalization that uses social media to divine needs too.

What got all this started is simple. After several decades of marketing into emerging markets caused by technology implementations, markets are full. It’s hard to introduce something into a green field, heck it’s hard to find a green field. So rather than broadcasting product offers, everyone needs to get better at pinpoint offers. That’s where inbound marketing comes in. Inbound marketing invites people in when they are ready and when they are they don’t need a lot of convincing. It’s more precise and less costly to do, too.

Inbound also takes some time to get going because you are casting a message and waiting for an echo. It takes a certain amount of confidence and support from the boss to get started. If you plan a strategy that moves incrementally into this new world you can be very effective. Given the alternative that is working poorly, the change looks enticing.

My big critique of inbound marketing generally is that it has not yet begun to focus on future need. There is a lot of information not being collected about unmet need that could take the whole concept to a new level. I believe it will come and I need to be patient with a very new idea.

HubSpot ran a good show and did a better job than many similar companies have at ensuring that all the messaging was in sync. They also introduced so many improvements that you could say they reinvented their product. To make the point the latest line has a new name, HubSpot3 and it’s made to be a single marketing cockpit where people can develop and monitor marketing campaigns across most social media types and email.

HubSpot3 will do great things for inbound marketing especially when the economy thaws out.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and website. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected].

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