What’s New: Inbound Marketing, Choice-Based Impressions, Content Marketing

It’s always interesting to watch marketing organizations and ad agencies scramble to apply the practices they preach to clients on their own businesses. –> Find a customer problem, provide a unique way to solve it, develop differentiated messaging, and spread the word.

The big challenge in the 21st Century is that we have to figure out how to position vis-a-vis the great equalizer, the Internet. There are now myriad tools and technologies that help companies get their message out to broader audiences. That’s great. What’s not so great is that the Internet provides buyers with easy access to an unbelievable number of choices…including competitors, substitute products & services, and tons of distractions. For marketing service providers, the challenge is to differentiate from each other and from the power of the Internet itself.

Take the case of HubSpot. They bundled a standard set of e-marketing tools (e.g. blogs, web analytics, search rankings reports) with a few hours of consulting and coined the term “inbound marketing” to describe the new world of marketing. Their goal is to help those who are having trouble figuring out Internet marketing. I admit, if you don’t live and breathe this stuff, it’s hard to keep up. HubSpot generated $29 million in 2011. And they’ve taken in over $60 million in venture capital. So far, so good.

Now, along comes Hill Holiday, one of the big ad agencies, with their spin on the new world of marketing. Their “thing” is content marketing and “choice-based impressions.”

At the most fundamental level, we define content as any marketing execution that people choose to spend time with. While content may deliver fewer overall impressions than traditional advertising channels like television, recent research has supported our contention that choice-based impressions (CBI’s) have a disproportionate impact. In a recent study conducted with researchers from MIT and Brown University, we found that experiencing the “choice condition” increased audience recall by 32 percent and likability by 100 percent.

HH is espousing the provision of content that prospects will choose to interact with. HubSpot is encouraging companies to spread content around the Internet so eventually your prospects will stumble across it, spend time with it, and eventually find their way back to your web site or landing page or click to call button. In a separate post I’ll discuss Google and its Zero Moment of Truth concept that’s about how buyers turn to the Internet to find…you guess it, content…that will help them make purchase decisions.

Content…content…content. They’re all dancing around the same issue while trying to carve out their own little niche and related terminology. Ok, that’s marketing.

Here’s what I don’t get. Way too many companies are acting like “content marketing” is a hot, new invention that’s taking the world by storm. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing content marketing since I got into this business (back in the caveman days before the Web). Even back then, when DEC and Prime and Wang ruled the roost, the bulk of our work was focused on content: white papers, tutorials, features articles for magazines, industry insight columns, even videos (done in expensive production studios). Back then, these were the core components of any good public relations program…put out good content that will demonstrate your expertise and bring buyers back to your stable to talk.

I started in the data acquisition business, in the early days of companies like National Instruments and Intellution and LABTECH. If anyone should get credit for inventing content marketing, it’s Betty Hollander (God rest her soul) and the Omega Engineering marketing team. Their catalog-handbooks were a brilliant amalgamation of product info and tech articles and engineering data.

So hurray for the push for more content marketing. But let’s not pretend it’s a new invention. Content has long been a staple of good B2B marketing programs.

Leave a Reply