Tag Archives: Inbound Marketing

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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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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