Inbound Marketing Versus Modern Marketing

Is modern advertising that tells a story inbound marketing? Is speaking at a tradeshow inbound marketing? They both bring prospective buyers inbound to your doorstep.

I argue that we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not whether or not these marketing activities meet the definition of inbound marketing. Rather, it’s about modern marketing. So, let’s examine what it means to be a modern marketer.

The Modern Marketer

The modern marketer understands that the buyer has changed dramatically in recent years. The modern buyer is very digitally connected. She has access to information through a myriad of devices and she conducts extensive research before considering a purchase. Even in complex B2B buying committees, the modern buyer uses the same tactics to develop their list of vendors and conduct online due diligence considering many factors. Word of mouth is still important, even to the modern buyer. However, the definition of word of mouth has evolved to include what total strangers say in social media and blog post comments.

Integrated Marketing

Advertising is alive and well. It has a place in modern marketing. In addition to traditional advertising, the modern marketer can get very granular in targeting through social channels including LinkedIn and Facebook. You want your ad to only be shown to people who work at a specific company on your prospect list? Until recently, that wasn’t possible. Now, you can target your ads that granular with just a few mouse clicks.

Back to inbound marketing for a moment. We all want customers to come into our funnel. And, we’ve come to understand that the modern buyer will touch not less than 10 pieces of information about a product before purchase consideration. So, our job as marketers is to figure out how to show up in those 10 touches. And, we need to figure out what type of information is relevant to the modern buyer in those 10 touches. Repeating the exact same touches 10 times will have a very limited impact on the modern buyer.

Three Buckets

The modern buyer’s mindset is generally one of distrust. We can only thank our industry for that. We bombard consumers with tens of thousands of messages everyday. So, let’s look at the three buckets that resonate with the modern buyer. While h/she may not consciously think in these terms, we know from our experience that h/she behaves this way.


In this bucket, you want your content or ad to create awareness that your product or service exists and what problem it solves. This can be accomplished through targeted banner advertising, PPC ads designed to show for the broad category you’re in, sponsored updates, guest articles in relevant online or print publications, exhibiting at conferences, to name a few. Our goal in this bucket is brand awareness. This is conventional top of the funnel marketing.

Intelligence Gathering

In this bucket, you probably have achieved some or much awareness. Here, you want to feed your buyer’s appetite for detailed information about the problems you solve in your industry segment. This can be technical blog posts, white papers, case studies (video and written format), webinars, research papers, to name a few. Each of these should offer an invitation to continue the intelligence gathering discussion. This is typical middle of the funnel marketing. Generally, the modern buyer in this stage is not yet ready for a sales conversation. H/she is still gathering intelligence.

Sales Ready

This is the bottom of the funnel bucket that marketers often mistakenly seek to drive people to before they are ready. Don’t believe me? Consider doing an analysis of how many touches your customers had with your company before they were genuinely ready for a sales conversation. If you don’t have that data, consider surveying your customers to learn this. Test the hypothesis by offering an invitation for the sales conversation at different touch points. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a metric such as 10 or 30 or 50 touchpoints including pageviews on your website. Whatever that metric is, once you know it your plan should be to strive to create that many touch points for your prospects. Sales ready marketing tactics can include requests for pricing, schedule a product demonstration, talk to a sales consultant to name a few.

The description above is traditional inbound marketing best practices. The added dimension is understanding the modern buyer’s process in their journey. This context allows the modern marketer to be aligned with the modern buyer. Only then can the modern marketer create experiences that resonate with the modern buyer.