I am an entrepreneur building an Internet platform. That means I have to talk to people and „sell“ my product. I am not really shy, I like to talk and I believe in my product – meaning I like to talk about my product to people who are interested. What I do not like – or to put it plain: I loathe – is intruding on people who do not want to talk to me, who have no time or do not want to know about my product, do not like getting offers the way I am presenting it and so on. That is why I simply love „Content Marketing“.

There are times when there is no way around cold calling and there are people who love to do cold calling. On the other hand I have met my share of people just like me: not really shy, able to talk (and write) about their knowledge, topics and products in a nice and entertaining way – but not very fond of cold calling, shouting or advertising. Especially in startups and small businesses where the founders or bosses have to do everything and cannot afford to hire someone who really enjoys these hated sales pitches, content marketing is a nice and entertaining way to solve this problem.

What makes Content Marketing different?

The hard truth is: if you do not make your potential customers aware of you and what you have to offer, you will not sell anything. There are many different ways to get the attention of potential customers, they basically divide in two main groups outbound and inbound methods: either you tell them what you offer, without them asking, or you make them notice you and ask what you do.

Outbound: Tell your audience what you offer

Outbound marketing basically includes all marketing efforts where you actively tell potential customers (no matter if they are interested or want to listen) about your products and services. In this category we can find all advertisements, cold calling, sales pitching. No matter who is listening, you keep shouting out what you offer.

Inbound: Make your audience ask what you have to offer

This is a much more subtle way of marketing. Instead of intruding and shouting your offers at people, you get the attention of people and make them interested in you, i.e. by providing “content” to your target group that they are really interested in. By continually providing more and more of this interesting, outstanding, informative and helpful content you make people aware of you and your expertise. Eventually they notice that you are an intelligent person who always provides some really good and helpful content and your audience starts to wonder what you do and what might be the service or product you really sell. And here is your big opportunity when they ask you: “What do you have to offer?”

For me as a non sales person who likes to talk and share knowledge, Inbound or in my case “Content Marketing” is a god send: I can write articles (I always loved writing), I can share all my knowledge (I have been a lecturer at university), I can connect to people (I have done my share of networking). Within the process of content marketing I get more and more information, I can develop my own skills and expertise (I have been a scientific researcher, I do love to learn) and I can advance my business while having fun online (I am an entrepreneur, in the end it is new customers that count).

The results of content (or inbound) marketing include much more than closing a deal: networking gets much more targeted, you gain visibility and credibility online, you can build a reputation and thought leadership and eventually you will get new business out of your efforts.

And a nice side effect: Since I started content marketing for my business, I get contact requests that really make sense: instead of “lets connect because we are in the same LinkedIn groups”, people get in touch because they like, what  I do and share (“Love your article on XXX, would love to get more information about this topic”).

When does inbound marketing pay off?

Of course there is a time and a situation for both forms of marketing.  Usually the inbound process takes a lot of time (and content) before starting to give any measurable outcome, whereas shouting out advertisements can get you instant results. In addition the audience for inbound methods often hast to be build, while in outbound marketing the audience can often be bought.

It is legitimate to ask the question: When does the effort for inbound marketing pay off?

From my point of view there is one situation that really calls for inbound marketing: any kind of business where deals and partnerships are based on trust and you need time and communication to connect to people before you have any chance of closing a deal. That is the case for almost any relevant B2B transaction or B2C deals that include a large amount of money and trust.

There are some things to keep in mind, when deciding on the inbound route:

  • Inbound marketing is a long-term commitment
  • Inbound marketing does not always give you instant feedback
  • The time scale in inbound marketing makes measuring results difficult
  • Inbound Marketing influences more than just the number of customers (Reputation, Social Media Visibility, Thought Leadership, Trust, …)

If these facts agree with your goals in marketing, inbound and content marketing is definitely worth a try!