By now, a lot of people have seen the movie Moneyball staring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, who during the 2002 season used an entirely new strategy to put together a competitive team. This strategy, dubbed Moneyball, focused on the idea of using statistics to help build a team of players who “traditionally were not good” or were past their prime. By relying on statistical methodology, Beane was able to put together an Athletics team good enough to compete with the New York Yankees ($125 million in salary) with a meager $41 million payroll.

This got me thinking the other day about larger companies and traditional marketing verses smaller companies and inbound marketing. There is actually a striking correlation between the two types of marketing and the team composition of Moneyball’s Yankees and Athletics. Larger companies often rely on the traditional marketing orthodoxy of throwing big dollars behind broad-based, push marketing and advertising initiatives. With fewer resources, smaller businesses need to take a more methodical and quantifiable approach to attract prospects naturally interested in their products and services. In short, they need inbound marketing.

The Yankees (Big Companies and Traditional Marketing)

During the period portrayed in Moneyball, the Yankees were one of the most successful teams in baseball, having won 4 of the last 6 World Series Championships. They did so by focusing a lot of attention and cash on traditional offensive statistics like Runs Batted In (RBI’s), Batting Average, and Stolen Bases. The Yankees could do this because they had (still have) the highest payroll in baseball.

This is very similar to how large companies approach marketing. They are willing to dish out big money on traditional marketing techniques like TV, radio, and print media, giving these corporate titans a lot of “offensive power.”

While this type of shot-gun strategy may work great for teams (companies) with a lot of money to throw around, what about teams (companies) without the resources to do so?

The Athletics (Small Companies and Inbound Marketing)
After losing a number of high-profile players from the previous year’s playoff team because the Athletics couldn’t afford to keep them, Billy Beane was tasked with creating a competitive team for the 2002 season. Using the principle of Sabermetrics, he was able to put together such a team. Sabermetrics looks at a deeper level of statistics to improve offensive effectiveness, using metrics like on-base percentage (self explanatory), slugging percentage (total bases/at bats), and runs created {(hits + base on balls) x total bases / (at bats + Base on Balls)}. This form of granular team management creates a less “entertaining” game but gives teams with lower payrolls the ability to compete against teams with larger payrolls.

This relates directly to the way many smaller companies are using inbound marketing tactics like SEO, online content marketing, social media management, email marketing, and data analytics to level the playing field. These “newer” forms of marketing allow smaller companies to not only reach larger audiences, but nimbly attract those most likely to be interested in their brand. Most importantly, much like the players Beane brought in to help his team, these inbound techniques are less expensive than traditional forms of marketing, but still deliver ROI.

Post 2002 Era: How the Small Market Teams Stay Ahead with Inbound

Observing the success the Athetics had with Sabermetrics, many large market teams (including the Yankees) started incorporating the Moneyball approach into their operations. The Boston Red Sox famously won the World Series in 2004 by combining a big payroll with Sabermetrics; the win ended a painful 88-year streak without a World Series championship.

In much the same way, larger companies are beginning to incorporate inbound strategy into their traditional marketing mix. They’ve figured out that by using inbound tactics like content marketing, social media management email marketing, and data analytics, they can reach a wide audience in a more targeted manner at a lower cost; many are finding that these online tactics are complementing or even augmenting their traditional marketing efforts.

To stay ahead of the curve, early adaptors of the Moneyball method started to use Sabermetrics to create a more complete team. Forward-thinking smaller businesses are doing the same by integrating inbound strategy and tactics into their marketing approach.

The big guys don’t care what the direct correlation is between how many pieces of online content they have to create to generate a sale. Using inbound marketing techniques, the little guy is able to take such knowledge and apply it to improve their offensive production, or bottom line, in a very real way.

In the end, the small businesses that learn to adapt by employing inbound marketing techniques (or hiring an inbound marketing agency to do so for them) will come out on top, using Moneyball marketing tactics to compete with- and sometimes even beat- the big guys.