Author Archives: Edwin Vlems

Making plans in a restless economy

“Perhaps the markets are speeding up Edwin, but there will always be one way to make sure that you are ahead in the future: if you make that future yourself”. A philosophical remark, made during a roundtable session I conducted at a marketing conference in Barcelona recently about the move from market insights to marketing strategy. The focus of the session was on planning in a changing market: is planning still valuable in a world that changes faster by the day?

Is planning still possible?
According to the people that attended the session, planning is still possible. Even though there are a lot of changes in markets on a ‘micro level’, the developments on the ‘macro’ level are still growing, like all the demographic changes around the world. Some attendees remarked that it all depends on the sector of course: in sectors like stock markets, the changes come by the minute. But even though the ‘macro’ predictibility is still valid, the people around the table added that some developments become less predictable. Some mentioned that the economy is becoming less predictable, while others remarked that the behaviour of competitors is becoming more volatile.  The predictability of the internet developments differs: online platforms come and go, but the transparency trend laying behind it steaming ahead.

How should you plan?
When asked how one should plan in an unpredictable market, the attendees remarked that it all depends on the Key Performance Indicators that you choose to have a central role in your plan, they should guide you along the way. Some of the attendees remarked that you shouldn’t put all the eggs in one basket: prepare for different scenario’s and have substitues near, e.g. in the case of commodities that run out of supply. For some in the round table group, contacts with government are important to become aware of new laws that are being written, and that can rip your market to pieces.
Most attendees remark that they can adapt the execution of their plans to the changing world by letting top management decide on the big matters, and lower management on the small. But in the end, making the future yourself seems to be the most solid strategy 


Posted by on 20/05/2013 in Marketing Intelligence


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Content Curation: The tale of the 76 Twitter-accounts

“Thanks for keeping me updated all these years about the developments in my market. I will be retiring soon and will not need your market news anymore”. Once a month, I receive a mail like this, although lately more often because people are going ‘in between jobs’ rather than in retirement. Most people that unsubscribe from our company’s daily mail newsletter are the ones that will not need the content of the mail in the new phase of their lives. Strange when you think of it: each day at 3.00 PM, 3200 of MCB’s customers receive an e-mail, for years now: in 2006 we subscribed about 4000 customers without asking, which means that 80% is still ‘in the mill’. Later on in this blog I will tell why they want to, and then I will also tell about our 76 Twitter accounts.

How do I become a curator?
Many companies  are busy working out ‘content marketing’, and acknowledge that in a few years, each company will become a publisher of some specific kind of knowledge. But if you want to help your customers with knowledge, you don’t have to do this with ‘fresh’ content, you can also become a ‘curator’, someone who collects and distributes knowledge that the target audience may find interesting. The term is relatively new, although at MCB we are working with the concept since 2001.

Scanning for Tarantino
2001. A crisis. At MCB, the Marketing Department was halved in size, a period filled with emotion. But also frustration: my plan to extend our ‘marketing intelligence’ went up in smoke, at least that was what it looked like because of the lack of people we needed to do that. Two people were working half their time on producing a (paper) clipping service, but they had to stop at that. And that is the moment I ran into Webagent.
Webagent was developed by a student, a fan of Quentin Tarantino who didn’t feel like scanning the TV guide each day to see if a movie of this director would be aired soon. So he built a website that did this for him: twice a day, a software ‘spider’ checked the online TV guide for the term ‘Tarantino’. If Webagent didn’t find anything, he didn’t hear anything, but as soon as it found something interesting, it alerted him by mail.
And that was exactly what our company was looking for: we wanted to extend the Marketing Intelligence, but had to do that with less people. I invited the student to MCB and gave him some money to make a special ‘tailormade’ version of Webagent (next to the open source version), and from then on the ‘spider’ went on a trip four times per hour past the news pages of competitors, customers, suppliers etc. We didn’t have to go out and look for market knowledge, we let it come to us. And in this way, we kept ourselves and later all colleagues informed on the developments in the market. And then the world…

Spam? Delicious!
In 2006, the system had extended considerably, and we were able to share all market knowledge with customers too: we decided to subscribe (without asking!) about 4000 customers to our daily tailormade market news mails. We did however make the threshold to unsubscribe very low, we did not want to spam our customers. Eventually, about 20% of all customers had unsubscribed from the mails, and a small sample learnt us that 30% wanted to be subscribed, but not full-heartedly. 50% viewed our daily mails as real added value.
And what makes it special: the daily news mail is completely tailormade. We know what products customers buy from us and in which market they are active, so we were able to produce a ‘news profile’: customers who buy aluminum receive news about the aluminum market, customers who don’t eh don’t. And customers that are active in construction don’t receive news about industry, and vice versa.

Permission to enter your mailbox
What I notice about many e-mail campaigns is that they are very ‘narcissistic’: the supplier and his products are in the center: “We have a new product for you” or “We have an interesting offer”.  If you then hear how few customers are still subscribed to the news letters of their suppliers, it doesn’t surprise me. One of the reasons that 80% of our customers is still subscribed after 6 years, is that THEY are at the center of our mails, or to be precisely: the markets in which they operate. We only mention our company or products a few times each month. Which is characteristic of the trend ‘permission marketing’: in order to have the right to interrupt people with your message, you will first have to do something for them. By the way: any one can subscribe to our news letter for free, although I have to add that it is in Dutch…(click here)

76 weekly papers, all for free…
Because whe have all market news digitally available, we were able to open 76 Twitter accounts, one for each product group and one for each sector we deliver in (click here, eh Dutch). Anyone interested in the aluminium plate market can follow @mcbaluplaat. Or @mcbopslagtanks. Or @mcbbedrijfsauto. Already, more than 1000 people are following one or more of these accounts. And because there are a lot of elderly people amongst our customers, who often say they don’t need news on a daily basis, we decided to make 76 weekly newspapers on the site (click here, Dutch too)

As said at the start: content is becoming more and more important, but you don’t have to be the source of it. When you help your market to find and distribute relevant content, you are a good ‘curator’. And perhaps customers will buy from you till their retirement…

This post is the eighth chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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Conversation marketing: a train from an airline company

When you write a blog about conversation marketing, you of course start with the bible on conversations: the Cluetrain Manifesto. But before I do, I want to start with what I think is the best example on conversation marketing: the tweets of airline KLM. And when I decided to start writing about KLM, I decided to just ask the KLM people to get involved on my blog. And while I waited for their first reaction, I read this interesting interview about the way KLM has structured its social media activities.

What is especially interesting, is that the use of social media at airline KLM started, as in other companies, in the form of campaigns. We marketers still have to get used to the idea of ‘real time marketing’, the concept that David Meerman Scott is stressing for years: “It’s a real time world now, and if you’re not engaged, ten you’re on your way to marketplace irrelevance”. The moment that KLM learnt this the hard way was in April 2010, when the Icelandic vulcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, as did KLM’s phone system. The company started placing status updates (‘broadcasting’) on Twitter, and ended with a 24/7 team of many KLM employees that could reroute people than replied on social media to other flights.
But when after a while the vulcano calmed down (as the phone system did), the CEO of KLM asked his social media strategist to keep the ‘dialogue’ alive. In a few days, the whole company culture had changed, a beautiful story. As a (social media) phoenix, KLM rose from the ashes of a vulcano. And while I wrote this paragraph, KLM started tweeting (me) about their social media activities. And although they couldn’t disclose their social media strategy to me at that moment, a few weeks later they decided to put it online (click here).

What I often notice is the fear at companies for these kinds of cultural changes, we rather hide behind the brand and the central phone number. Actually this knowledge is not new, it was already written down in the Cluetrain Manifesto many many years ago (eh in internet years then: 1999). Although the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto (click here to read them) were based upon the 95 theses that Martin Luther put forward as a protest to the catholic church, they were no religious complaint. The writers had soon noticed the influence of the internet on humanity, business and the hierarchy within companies. They predicted that people would be ‘conversing’ with each other, en that companies that didn’t see this would eventually become irrelevant. They bundled the 95 theses into the next categories (en notice how good they predicted the present):

  • Theses 1-6: Markets are conversations between people: “Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors” (these 2).
  • These 7: “Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy”.
  • Theses 8-13: Companies should communicate like markets: “There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone” (12)
  • Theses 14-25: Companies will have to jump in the conversation with the market, in the language of the market: “In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court” (15).
  • Theses 26-40: Marketing and an authentic reaction: “Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company” (28).
  • These 41-52: Intranets and their influence on hierarchy: “Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority” (50)
  • Theses 53-75: The connection of intranets with the internet: “Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall” (62).
  • Theses 72-95: The new market: “Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind” (80).

The theses above were written in 1999, so 13 years ago (ancient in internet time). But when you read them you will notice how strong the vision of the writers was. Just ask the people @KLM.

This post is the seventh chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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Inbound Marketing: all whitepapers gather behind the fence please

“Hey dad, I want you to UNsubscribe us from the ‘Do not call registry'”, my daughter of twelve told me the other day. “Why? Then all these salesmen will start calling us”. “Yeah, but that’s fun, I can verbally abuse them”. Hmmm if this is going to be a hobby for her generation, I presume that Inbound marketing will more easily outrun Outbound marketing than I had expected. In case you are not aware of what Inbound marketing is: it is sharing your personality and knowledge with the world, and make sure that you will be found through social media and Google. Much more effective and much less expensive than advertising and calling. Seth Godin explained it all in his presentation (click here) on a marketing congress in Amsterdam: “I am a marketer, I have money. That gives me the power to interrupt you […] But people are getting better and better at ignoring you”.

Quick dude, money
A lot of companies are switching to Inbound marketing at the moment and are putting content online, if only for the much lower cost than advertising (which comes in handy during an economic crisis). The thing that keeps surprising me is the urge of a lot of ‘inbound marketeers’ to put their content behind a ‘gate’: “You can download my whitepaper, but first you will have to hand over all your personal information, so I can tell in a second how much money I can earn from you”. Still outbound thinking then, because within 5 minutes after the download, you should be called according to the scripts.
Recently I was in a converation on LinkedIn with Bhaskar Sarma, he was surprised about what he called ‘gated content’ and the large amounts of personal information that the content owner gathers before you can enter this gate: “Dude, you will make for a very crappy first date when you ask all these things right after introductions.” According to calculations from marketing guru David Meerman Scott, ‘ungated’ content (no form) is downloaded 20-50 times more often than ‘gated’. But don’t you recognize this? You want to download a whitepaper and fill in a form, but then you think “oh no some salesman will call within five minutes and I am not interested in that”.

Frodo Wolverine?
Bhaskar also decided to only fill in nonsense in the whitepaper-forms from now on: “I am not going to get into details, but let’s just say that there are a lot of Frodo Wolverines with a funny sounding email ID living in 221B Baker Street, Atlantis in a number of customer contact databases”, and apparently a lot of people do this. He also adds that he will ‘lead the dance’: “My inbox has around 4000 unread mails. If I need something, I will mail you and ask for information. I, and most of your prospects, am not into you yet”. So be patient. And patience is not a quality of us marketeers, I noticed earlier, we find that ‘too passive’. The funny thing is that when you search for the terms ‘gated content’, which doesn’t sound very positive, that you see a lot of links of companies that can help you ‘gate’ your content. Apparently it’s a profession, a bit like marketingzoo-caretakers.

Patience in the trashcan
Actually it is very strange that we talk about Inbound marketing, but cannot find the patience to wait for the customer to approach us. The last time I looked, customers had phones that could call, and mailboxes that could mail. But even at the end of an article from Hubspot (click here) that pleaded for removing all gates around content, there was a link to a ‘free e-book’ of David Meerman Scott…but you should fill in  form first…

I believe that Inbound marketing with ‘gated content’ as bait is not REAL Inbound marketing, it’s semi-inbound marketing. With REAL inbound marketing, you trust that the customer will find you when you are being transparent. That you don’t have to hunt or push. And when nobody finds you when you are being transparent, apparently you are doing something that nobody is waiting for. In that case I advise you to stop, it will prevent you from ever having my daughter on the phone.

This post is the fifth chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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Privacy and big data: happy with light products

A strange article on the web: Microsoft patented the technology with which the Kinect sensor of the Xbox 360 can “sense the emotion of users” and “show advertisements based on these emotions” because “using cookies to track behaviour is being restricted more and more”. The Kinect sensor is, according to the patent information, able to deduct a user’s mood from faces and body language, and with this information “for instance show unhappy people advertisements about weight loss”. So depressed people will be bombarded with advertising for light products? Until they are happy? Or until enough is sold?

A knight’s privacy
I will not try to be a moralist, I have to admit that I get goose bumps too from ‘privacy knights’ who find that you shouldn’t publicize the personal information of criminals because of their privacy rights. Or who think that all companies and governments are out to follow all of their steps. Contrary to their beliefs, only a few people are really interesting enough to track. And it’s not them. That is why the reaction of Scott McNealy is so characteristic (at that time CEO of software company Sun), when a journalist asked him about the privacy of a new software product: “You have zero privacy anyway, get over it”. It is also the standard reaction of Google on accusations that they think lightly about the privacy of their users: you have no privacy, so let us go ahead with it.

The pregnant data miner
The feeling that companies have gone too far with their urge to track customers struck me when I read about a recent incident (click here) at retail chain Target with an overly active data mining department. An angry customer walked into a Target establisment in Minneapolis and said “My daughter received these coupons for baby clothing by mail? Do you want her to be pregnant?”. The shop manager would investigate and call back a few days later, but when he did the telephone conversation took a turn: the daughter was apparently really very pregnant. The statistics experts at Target had set up a so called ‘pregancy prediction score’ that deducted from the buying behavior of the girl that she would be going in labour in a few months….What they learnt from these incidents is that their ‘pregnancy coupons’ should be more disguised, for instance by placing it next to an advertisement for a lawn mower: “And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”.
So this is how it works: stalk the customer, but as soon as he or she looks around, you dive behind the lighting post. Sick. I also don’t understand the complaints about ‘cookie laws’: just for fun you should go to and see how many companies are ‘stalking’ you around the internet. And when you’re there, click the ‘opt-out’ button, the webite will ask 200 of these ‘stalkers’ on behalf of you to stop doing that. And while you watch a shrinking list of stalkers (when you listen well, you can hear their death scream), you get the feeling of living in The Matrix,  “A computer generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to turn a human being into a battery”.  You really get the feeling that business sees you like that: a battery. And we marketers come up with these ideas, and complain when they bake a law against it.

No Big Data but Vendor Relationship Management
You can talk long about marketing ethics, but the question is if this behaviour will be neccesary in the future anyway. In his book ‘The Intention Economy’, Doc Searls shows a glimpse of the world “when customers take charge”. In The Intention Economy, he writes “the buyer notifies the market of his intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase”. Marketing will become very different, you don’t have to haunt and catch customers: “free customers are more valuable than captive ones”. Companies don’t need to collect ‘Big Data’ about large numbers of customers, the customer will manage his ‘Small Data’ himself. Not in CRM but VRM: Vendor Relationship Management. By giving control to the customer, we will earn more money: “The market will have many more dances when customers can take the lead”. Great image of the future, isn’t it? Who will dance with me?

This post is the fourth chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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Batman marketing: “Why so serious?”

‘In the months preceding the premiere of Batman, a cultural phenomenon called ‘Batmania’ raised its head, or as writer Kevin Smith put it: “That summer was huge. You couldn’t turn around without seeing the Bat-Signal somewhere. People were cutting it into their fucking heads”. The movie’s director was irritated by all this publicity. His name? Tim Burton, not Christopher Nolan, the man who is feeling very guilty the last few months…

Wrong McBatman
Because we’re talking 1989. The marketers of the production company opened up all registers, and months before the movie ‘Batman’ entered the theaters they were responsible for the “most talked about coming attraction”.  Numerous books and articles were written afterwards about the thoroughly planned strategy to put this movie in the market, or as Dan Owen put it: “a yardstick for how to successfully hype a blockbuster-in-waiting”. For example: months before the premiere, billboards were placed with only the Batman logo on it, and secret messages were hidden on the front page of the New York Times (eh but this very awkward McDonalds Batman commercial was less of a good example). And what I can remember from that time is that in Europe we hated the movie up front, because the Americans were so obsessed by it. In psychology it’s called the ‘inoculation effect’, named after the flu injection: Europeans were in a way ‘inoculated’ against the movie by all this marketing.

Let’s jump 20 years ahead, a new Batman movie, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Again, the marketers of the production company did everything to make the public go wild before the premiere. Some examples:

  • The film poster was painted (!) mega huge (click here) on a large building, and billboards were place where Batman had literally flown through.
  • Nerds deciphered the sound on the movie website (it was all that was on) and found the Twitter hashtag #thefirerises. Everyone that used this hashtag on Twitter helped unfolding this photo of the ‘bad guy’ in the film, Bane.
  • In various cities around the world, graffiti images were sprayed that each portrayed a part of the movie trailer. Fans combines the images and premiered the trailer this way.

Rotten Reactions
The marketing actions had their effect: lots of fans of super heroes in general and Batman in particular were nervously awaiting the movie. After strange effects of the last Batman movie (the acter who played the Joker committed suicide), strange things now happened too. The website Rotten Tomatoes, that collects the reviews of professional film critics, had to stop the discussion part of its site after thousands (!) of Batman fans went wild (even death threats) on the one reviewer that didn’t like the movie. A movie that no one had yet seen: “The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether,” explained the site’s editor Matt Atchity. “It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn’t even seen.” Hate feelings for something you don’t know being criticized? The effects of ‘smart marketing’ on people can be astonishing…

Smart marketing?
We marketers are pushing the world too hard it seems. When in the course of my psychology study I had to choose for a major, the most interesting to me was ‘Economic Psychology’. I would learn how consumers think, and how you can make them buy your product. I chose it because this idea intrigued me, but at the moment I am wondering if we are not too good at our jobs.
It was also a conclusion that the British government drew (click here) after the riots in London in 2011: there is too much ‘Aggressive marketing’. In a poll, 70% of the Londoners said that the amount of advertising aimed at youth shoud be diminished: “While no one individual brand is to blame, children and young people must be protected from excessive marketing”. Weblogger Gavin Richardson was astonished about this effect of marketing on people: “Has our consumption now taken over out identities so much […] that we now can lay blame to tragic events and unfortunate behaviors on a big business marketing campaign?”. 

Marketing lessons from Karl Marx
When you jump into history, you learn that these effects were predicted much earlier already. A citation that is attributed to Karl Marx is astonishingly accurate: “Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism”. Marx uses the verb ‘Commodity Fetishism’ to describe a development that says a lot about how in the end the human kind has translated all what people do and make in terms of money…

For a man who’s parents are killed because of their riches, who treats his butler as an equal and that uses his ‘toys’ to help the greater good, Batman would have been the hero to Marx that he ought not worship. How cruel that it’s the ‘smart (outbound) marketing’ of this movie that has these aggressive effects on people.

Soon, I’ll see what effect the movie has on me…

This post is the second chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!

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Posted by on 05/08/2012 in Outbound Marketing


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Inbound Marketing: Sales leads, the Sun and the North wind

The Sun and the North wind decided to put their strength to a test. They saw a man walk by a lake, and the goal of their game was simple: make him take off his coat. The North wind would go first: he started blowing and blowing, but reached the opposite effect: the man held his coat more tightly to his chest and walked on. Then the Sun took her turn. She started glowing and beaming, until the man got warm and decided to take off his coat and bathe his feet in the lake. The moral of this story? Most power is not in the pressure from outside, but in the surrender from within. Does this sound familiar to you as a marketer? Could be, but the fable is already very old. It is even written before the birth of Christ by Aesop, a man that started his life as an ugly slave, but ended being an advisor to kings. You don’t believe it? It’s on Wikipedia.

Dirty conversions
So warming is better than blowing. But just for fun, you should check how many articles on marketing weblogs still believe in ye olde sales funnel, a funnel in which you throw ‘leads’ at the top until they ‘convert’. It sounds more dirty than it is, it just means the ‘lead’ becomes a ‘customer’, the wallet opens. And then of course you loose interest and go back to the lid of the funnel, to throw in new leads…
The art of marketing and sales has always been to pressure the right parts of the funnel, like the blowers in the wild water rivers at water parks. The world has changed drastically however, as David Edelman has taught us in a recent article in Harvard Business Review (click here): there is a phase after the sale at the end of the funnel that is becoming more and more important in these transparent times, the phase ‘enjoy, advocate and bond’. In the past, our customers could share their experiences with us only on parties and other gatherings, but nowadays they can tell the whole world through social media, just at the moment we are in the upper side of the funnel, looking for the next lead to convert. What David Edelman tries to tell is that this phase is nowadays perhaps even more important than the pre-buy phase, when our customer was still a ‘lead’. He wants to learn us two lessons:

  • The judgments of others have more influence on the choice processes of our customers than all ‘outbound marketing’: advertising that nobody is watching or clicking. Just look at yourself in your customer role: where do you rely on mostly? Advertising or word-of-mouth? And what are you doing tomorrow? Making advertisements and trying to convert leads.
  • We’ll have to shift focus from ‘paid’ media (in posession of others, on which you can buy the right to advertise) and ‘owned’ media (your website, brochures etc.) to ‘earned’ media (media where customers are boss, like social media).

The night life of Sao Paulo
So the magic of ‘outbound marketing’ has disappeared, at least in the Western world. When I was invited to speak on a marketing conference in Brazil a few weeks ago, the manager of the congress bureau introduced me to the night life of Sao Paulo the night before the meeting. He told me enthusiastically about the way he organized the ‘sales funnel’ for his bureau, he had gathered 350 conference attendees in a few months. When I asked how many ‘cold mails’ he had to send to get to these 300 (in Brazil there is no law against that eh yet), he replied ‘40.000’. “So you irritated 39.700 people?” I asked with a whiff of Dutch directness. “No Edwin, people don’t receive that many mails here”. Hmmm how different from Europe… But when I asked him how he found me as a speaker for the conference, he replied “Because you were active on LinkedIn in discussions on the topic”… So Inbound Marketing does work on the other side of the equator, and here the day will come too that people are fed up with being interrupted by companies that want to shout some commercial message in their ears.

Your small print?
But it goes even further. I read the book ‘The Intention Economy’ while travelling to Brazil, and the subtitle says all: ‘When customers take charge’. The book is a real eye opener and makes you aware of the absurdity of the fact that we as customers, the ones with the money, still let companies take the lead in our dance. That we should conform to their small print (‘click to accept’), but they won’t have to conform to ours. Wake up, we have the money!
In his book, Doc Searls shows us the future, a future in which people with money show their needs to the world, and potential suppliers are free to respond to these ‘intentions’ (hence the title). When you read the book you have to acknowledge that this will be the future one day (there are more and more signals on the internet), but that it will take a while. Not because of the companies, but because we as customers are reluctant to let go of a model that is a remnant of the industrial revolution, we will have to get used to the idea of having the power. And companies don’t have to fear to loose money in this future: “The market will have many more dances when customers can take the lead”. Who will dance with me?

So it will take a while, but that is no excuse for us as marketers to not already work with the idea. Break down these sales funnels and replace them with a joyful ‘inbound marketing’ slide…. Much cheaper, and much more fun! We will have to stop trying to blow the coats off people, and start deliverering a bowl of water for their feet when they tell us they are warm. And they would like to pay gladly for it…

This post is the third chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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Telemarketing: let’s all scream!

A funny thing happened a few months ago: a 61 year old German woman blew a telemarketer into the hospital with a small whistle. She was fed up with being cold called, and whistled loudly right down the telephone. She now has to pay a fine of 800 euro’s for the hearing damage at the telemarketer, but she refuses. Actually a very original thing to do, especially for people who don’t know that they can be registered so telemarketers won’t call them. People are sick and tired of us marketers. But there is hope.

Slasher movies
That is what is called Marketing, interrupting people to get attention, or to quote Seth Godin: “I am a marketer, I have money. That gives me the power to interrupt you […] But people are getting better and better at ignoring you”. Actually pretty absurd when you think of it, that we marketers see it as a profession to harrass people. And that we are abhorred by all the ‘rights’ that people have nowadays to protect themselves from us. But nothing will stop us: we will skip around their infofilters, anti-cookies and do-not-call-me-registries, we’ll just start selling at the door again, just like in the old days. Or we will pay their friends to recommend our products, or tweet about it. Isn’t this behavior absurd? Or is it me? It feels obsessive, like the script of a slasher movie, “Here’s Johnny”. Nobody escapes.
A characteristic example of this absurdism is shown in an article about so called ‘ad-blockers’ (browser plugins that hide advertising banners in Google Chrome) and in which a marketer utters the unforgettable words that “consumers of course have a “moral right’ to install ad-blockers, but that these blockers are ‘businesswise not sustainable'”. We marketers want to harass people with our advertisements of course, and all attempt to block this are of course not ‘sustainable’. Duh?

Cold dripping
“People shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adopt or risk extinction”, Brian Halligen from Hubspot twittered recently. Yet still: if you follow all discussions in the marketing groups on LinkedIn, you will notice that still a lot of marketers want to take this risk at extinction: “Cold acquisition is still the best way to find new customers. People may feel harassed when you call them but in most cases you are bringing them money, arent you? 🙂 “. Notice the smiley at the end: dripping with contempt for the customer. And could you get away with this contempt in the previous century (click here for a nice docu about ‘sales boiler rooms’): we live in a transparant era now!

Jealous husbands
Why is it that we marketers so badly want to interrupt people? Why can’t we just leave them alone, and wait till they come and buy from us? Is it a scream for negative attention? In the last few weeks, I have been in discussions on LinkedIn with people that earn their money with ‘outbound marketing’, and at one moment it struck me: we get impatient if we are not pushing the buttons…Like jealous husbands, we want to know exactly where our customers are, what they are watching, and feel uncomfortable if we cannot find them. We cannot cope with the idea of anonymous people watching our content, we have to know who they are and call them five minutes after downloading our whitepaper (“I just saw that you”…). We cannot leave them alone, we need their money and fast.
A few weeks ago I ordered the long awaited book from Doc Searls about the ‘Intention Economy’. He had already written an impressive article (click here) on his theory in the Harvard Business Review (and I dragged him into a LinkedIn discussion about the subject, click here). In the article, he tells about the future ‘Intention Economy’, when the customer finally has all the power and “tracking customers like animals” no longer makes sense. Consumers ‘throw their intentions in the air’ and potential suppliers can catch them. For us marketers, this means an enormous turnaround in thinking, we will have to learn to be successful in another way… But the beauty of it is: the rest of the world will enjoy too, because we don’t have to bother them any longer.

“Selling starts the moment the customer said ‘no’. When people start ordering blindly, you will not need salesmen anymore“, someone said in a LinkedIn group. Actually a very typical remark, because ‘alas’ we live in a time that customers become more and more independent and mature in the buying process. Be honest: do you still listen to marketers or salesmen when you want to buy something? And what do you do when the commercials start on TV? Wait and listen? Apparantly, the world needs something different. And the whistle market will notice.

This post is the first chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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A book about REAL inbound marketing? Who will help me?

It’s going to happen. I decided. The pressure from outside and within got too big.

I am going to write a book.

There. I said it. A book about Inbound Marketing. REAL Inbound Marketing. What Inbound Marketing is? It’s eh the opposite of Outbound Marketing, and that’s the traditional marketing in which we interrupt people at what they find interesting (e.g. watching a movie) because we want to shout a small message in their ears. More and more companies are switching their marketing from Outbound to Inbound, although I noticed that they still want to do a little bit of outbound marketing: when you download their whitepaper you have to fill in your ‘resume’ and they will call you in 5 minutes. That is what I call semi-inbound marketing, and I see it as a phase. REAL inbound marketing is inbound till the end: the customer will lead the dance. And to quote Doc Searls: “The market will have many more dances when customers can take the lead”.


The pressure from outside
I heard it more and more often: “Why don’t you write a book about Inbound Marketing? If someone should, it’s you”. But the most important pressure from outside came from the many marketeers who are still interrupting people with expensive Outbound Marketing. Marketeers that cry about laws that restrict them in harrassing their customers by telephone, mail or tracking cookies. Big LinkedIn discussions about how terrible the governments are treating these poor marketeers who are restricted in stalking their customers. But it’s the stalking that put us marketeers at the bottom of the ‘most reliable professional’ list. Am I the only marketeer that is not happy with this position? Don’t we want to change that? Do we want to wait till the next law restricts our hunting behavior?
I’d like to help the image of the marketeer by turning them from hunters to fisherman. Those who put authentic and relevant content online and wait till someone bites. Who show their real, authentic face on social media. Inbound marketeers. But REAL inbound marketing, not the semi-inbound marketing in which the sales department still hunts you, but only after you downloaded a whitepaper.

The pressure from within
I have had to accept it, there is a writer inside me. When I decided to start blogging, I had to push myself writing each next post. Now I see potential subjects every day, and I don’t know which to choose. It’s mainly an e-book from Jeff Goins (click here) about writing books that persuaded me to start doing it. And eh stop it again after two weeks. Because although writing blogs can go pretty quickly, I noticed that writing a book gets you stuck very easily. But then I came upon an idea that suits me: write the book in parts in your blog.

The Plan
So that’s what I’m going to do. From next week on, I will start writing the first chapter, in which the blog will be sort of a summary. I presume something like ‘Why Outbound Marketing doesn’t work anymore’. And I also would like some help: anyone that actively collaborates on my mission by responding to the chapter-blogs, will (of course) be sent the e-book for free. I’m curious. I’m motivated. Let’s start. Who will dance with me?


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