There have been seismic shifts in the marketing industry in the past few decades with the rapid deployment of technology and a knock-on impact in public attitudes. Ruben Rens from Ashgrove Marketing charts two of the significant developments in recent years.
Marketing in the 21st century is all the more challenging for some of the radical changes the industry has witnessed.
One of the key transformations is the rise of marketing technology, which encompasses all the automation and technology solutions available to today’s marketers. This has become such an imposing landscape that marketing technology blogger Scott Brinker’s famous slide of the roughly 5000 companies competing in this space became one of the most frequently shared slides in the world. That was back in 2017, and a year later Scott produced an update, with close to 2000 more companies now appearing in the slide.
The rapid growth in this highly competitive landscape makes perfect sense when one reads a recent Gartner study that claims that marketing technology (martech) now accounts for close to 30% of total marketing budgets around the world.
The goal of marketing technologies is to improve internal collaboration, measure the impact of marketing activities and reach customers in new ways. The more surprising thing is how few companies are able to identify all the pieces of marketing technology they use and rely on. The term “marketing technology stack” is therefore used to describe this group of technologies that marketers use to execute, analyse and improve their marketing across the customer lifecycle.
That all sounds wonderful, but these tools are not a strategy. It is easy to compare different software packages by ranking their features, but that’s like marrying someone based on their online profile. The real value marketing technology offers is in the strategy and approach it enables and how it impacts the critically important Customer Experience.
Neither is marketing technology just about making existing processes more efficient: it is the interface by which marketing sees and touches the digital world. The list of choices each marketer makes will shape the experiences they deliver to prospects and customers.
In fact, one of the most important implications of the overwhelming growth in marketing technology is that it allows the creation of entirely new kinds of processes that weren’t possible previously. A savvy marketer therefore has to adopt a circular relationship between strategy and technology.
If marketing technology represents one major shift, then inbound marketing is undoubtedly the other.Inbound marketing is a relatively new marketing concept. It stands in opposition to outbound marketing or, as some people like to refer to it, interruption marketing. TV and radio ads, telemarketing, banner and display ads, billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, cold calling, pop-ups and contextual ads are all examples of outbound marketing. Outbound marketing has gradually fallen out of favour in the last 20 years. Oversaturation, especially in the digital space, caused people to start ignoring this type of advertising.
One of the leading companies in the inbound marketing space, HubSpot, offers this explanation of what they do: inbound marketing is about creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business. You attract prospects and customers to your website and blog through relevant and helpful content. Once they arrive, you engage with them using conversational tools like email and chat and by promising continued value. And finally, you delight them by continuing to act as an empathetic advisor and expert.
Considering that HubSpot listed on the NYSE in August 2014 and has a current market capitalisation of USD7.4 billion, it is very evident that inbound marketing is not just another fad or label.
Unlike outbound marketing, with inbound marketing you don’t need to fight for your potential customers’ attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.
Around 20 years ago thought leaders like Seth Godin started talking about the concept of “permission marketing”. It was all the rage back then and, although a lot of people thought it was a way to pitch traditional marketing against digital marketing, it was actually the beginning of this movement to inbound marketing where the person in charge of the process is your potential customer, and not the other way around.
In conclusion, using marketing technology wisely is all about devising the strategy that is right for your business, and only then identifying the technology that will help you execute on that strategy. And what is right for your business needs to include a very healthy understanding of inbound marketing practices.