Brands waste too much time and effort chasing the next, shiny marketing strategy or buzzword, thinking it’s a silver bullet. Leading with “intent” lets brands put their audience first, and leaves the tactical marketing implementation as a detail, not a key focus.
There are a lot of buzzwords in marketing—inbound, outbound, native and the list goes on. And these buzzwords can lead to confusion, wasted time and even paralysis for brands.
Which methods are “right” for you? When weighing your options, it’s less about the next buzzword, and more about audience intent and delivering what your buyer persona wants, in a way they want it, when they want it.
So essentially, it’s really not about you, the brand, at all.
When you look at the marketing landscape today from a bird’s eye view, the method of delivery, the tactics—all of that—those are merely the vessel to deliver the information your target audience is looking for right now.
Not leading with audience intent can be dangerous. And so, let’s explore common buzz-worthy marketing strategies, how to strategically approach them, and why your strategy should lead with much more than just the buzz du jour.
Times, They Are A Changin’
There are radical changes happening in technology right now that are reshaping how people consume media and how brands do marketing. Amongst these changes is a mindset shift from technology first to people first.
Research shows that high-performing marketers emphasize people over data, technology and even strategy.
Consumers are demanding a personalized experience, and that experience can come in any marketing campaign, in any technology or device for all they care.
Not knowing what your target audience wants can end up in lost revenue. Take NBC’s Olympics debacle and a projection that fell short and was blamed on Millennials.
When brands start blaming customers instead of better serving them, they’ve got bigger problems. (Sorry NBC, you don’t have a “Millennial problem.” You just have a 20th-century business model and the internet is going to eat it for lunch.)
So, What Are Some of These Buzz Marketing Strategies Brands Wrestle with Today?
It’s worth getting into some of the big buzz-worthy marketing strategies that a lot of brands think they want or need without fully understanding what it is or how to really be successful.
Again, it’s not really about the thing you choose to do—that’s too simplistic. You don’t just “do” inbound marketing or native advertising and expect results. What you do is discover where your audience is and what experiences they want, then uncover the methods to help you facilitate that.
Nonetheless, a basic understanding of some of these strategies helps frame the conversation of what tactics are at your fingertips to be where your audience is.
Inbound marketing is a blanket term for a set of marketing strategies designed to attract your target audience online. This can include things like having a thriving blog attached to your website, social media marketing, search engine optimization—basically anything that drives targeted traffic to your website.
Many believe that inbound marketing shouldn’t stop at just driving traffic. Once you get visitors to your website, it has a job to do: convert them—whatever a conversion means to your business. It can be a form fill, a sale, a phone call or something else.
The one thing all of these activities have in common is that they are centered on creating useful content for your target audience. The digital landscape has shifted the way businesses communicate with their prospects, and content is king.
Outbound marketing was more popular before digital marketing, though it still has its place. This is a term that comprises some of the more traditional marketing activities such as trade shows and conferences, cold calling potential leads, direct mail and even television.
Many companies balance both inbound and outbound marketing activities, while some industries may be more prone to outbound marketing simply due to the nature of their work—especially those that thrive on face-to-face communication.
On the paid side of things, we have native advertising. This type of advertising seamlessly integrates with the experience of the website it’s featured on—so much so that it often doesn’t feel like an advertisement at all.
One example of this in action is Facebook video ads. Nestled in a Facebook user’s News Feed along with all their other updates from friends and family, these type of ads can be engaging and feel less disruptive.
Many advertisers see this potential and are adopting this format more and more. One Facebook study forecasts that native ads will make up 63 percent of mobile display ad spend by 2020.
The term outbound marketing and interrupt marketing are often used interchangeably. For the purposes of this conversation, interrupt marketing consists of the type of marketing that stops a person from what they are doing, and demands attention.
Examples of this include interstitial ads, pop-ups, videos set to auto-play with sound, and generally anything that interrupts the experience a person is having online.
This type of marketing can be annoying to users but it can sometimes be effective, too. On one hand, interstitial pop-ups that completely disrupt the experience are generally frowned upon by Google. On the other hand, some do see success with pop-ups intended to drive conversions like signing up for a mailing list.
Lead the Marketing Strategy with Intent
OK, now that we’ve got the logistics out of the way, let’s talk about how to pick a marketing method that’s right for your audience.
All too often, brands get roped into marketing strategies because of the buzz. They’ve heard the term “inbound marketing” or “native advertising” so many times that they think it must be the thing they need to do.
As I’ve alluded to throughout this piece, there is no “right” marketing channel—one that beats out the other. This article does a nice job of showing how they all work together—inbound, outbound, allbound—it’s really all the same.
In other words, they’re all designed to do a similar thing: reach your audience. What separates them is the tactical implementation.
That’s why before any decisions are made about marketing, it’s important that brands know what they’re getting into. This includes the logistics of some of the activities I mentioned earlier.
Also, and this is key, know your brand’s intent. What you hope to achieve with “marketing strategy X.” Know what’s involved, how to implement it well and what commitment level is needed to get results. Too many brands waste too much time and money on half-baked efforts in any given area of marketing.
Second, and more importantly, lead with the intent of your audience. Know where they spend their time, how they like to consume media today and how they will consume it a year from now.
Then, armed with audience intent and types of marketing strategies, create the messaging, the content and the experience in the format your audience wants it in, and then let your knowledge of the various tactical implementations deliver that experience when they want it.
To wrap up, here’s what you need to keep in mind as digital marketing and audience needs evolve:
- While it’s tempting to want to chase after a certain type of marketing, always, always understand what you’re getting yourself into, and how to really be successful with it (meaning, what level of commitment and effort is involved to see results).
- Marketing strategies and the technology that facilitates them are going to continue to change, so will audience intent.
- Staying ahead of the curve means understanding what your audience wants now, what they will want in the near future, and what technology/strategy/device/experience will match that.
In 2017, if we shift our mindset just a little to lead with intent, we can shift our tactics and our budgets to better serve our audience.