Rick asks an excellent question. I’d like to slightly modify his original short answer…
“Yes, but not in the same way.” (And yes Rick, I will talk about the customer too.)
Here’s my long answer, which includes some stories to make your reading fun and to better make the points.
b2c vs. b2b, online vs. bricks-and-mortar, local vs global, etcetera etcetera. There is an unlimited amount of comparatives to choose from. I’m going with a local restaurant and an enterprise software company (where I used to work, long long ago.) Yes, the concepts of inbound marketing work for both but, as I hope you will see, in very different ways.
My favorite restaurant is True Bistro in nearby Teele Square (Somerville, MA). It’s a vegan place. I eat a vegan diet. I eagerly watched their preparations to open, and I go there all the time. I Yelp about it, and tell everybody I know about it, and it even was featured in my bio in a former version of our website. How did they use inbound marketing to get me as a customer? Well, mostly they studied demographics to decide where a vegan restaurant was likely to succeed. Meaning, they asked questions like, “where are there vegans and how will they find us?” They weren’t thinking about me, specifically, in the least. When they chose their spot, they used a really clever inbound marketing technique….they put up a sign saying “amazing vegan restaurant opening soon!” (Oh, and they had their name on it too.) But they still didn’t know that I drove by the sign on my way to work every day. I tweeted about it, saying something like “there’s an amazing vegan restaurant opening soon!” #truebistro. I got a reply tweet back and the rest, as they say, is history. Inbound marketing? Sure, but a very different use of the concepts then my next story.
I used to work at an enterprise software company…MRP software to be precise. Back when ERP was actually called MRP. Mid-market. Crowded competitive landscape. HP minicomputer-based. Almost all customers were in North America. Boston HQ, 5 or 6 regional sales offices. Four-legged sales calls. Tough biz. So, the sales and marketing veep decides that he needs to get him some sales training to stimulate the team, spur growth, and mature processes. And he hires a leading (maybe THE leading) sales trainer guy of the day. The 4-day class opens with a presentation from the guy that goes just about exactly like this:
We’re all in a room at a local hotel. Nothing but an easel with a flip chart in the front of the room. The guy comes in, doesn’t say anything as he meaningfully gives us each “the eye” (to build suspense I guess), and then with a flourish turns over a bunch of pages on the flip chart to reveal a pie chart. Big circle with a single, smallish wedge drawn on it. (Mind you, he still hasn’t said anything.) Finally, he turns to the room, introduces himself, talks about all his experience and stuff, and then walks back to the flip chart and asks, “Does anybody know what this is?” Of course we all know it’s a pie chart but we’re all not dumb enough to shout out that answer. So, silence. He waits…perhaps a beat too long…and tells us that studies have shown that in any market only about 10% (yes, that was the value of the small slice of the pie) of the potential customers are actively looking for a product or service (he said “solution” of course) from vendors that target that market. Okay, we’re thinking, so what? He then gets really excited to inform us that he’s going to teach us sales techniques to attack the 90% of the people who aren’t actively looking for our product because (he’s getting pretty wound up at this point mind you) that’s a far bigger audience and we all want to kill our quotas and stuff, right!?!?!? So, we’re all dutifully getting wound up ourselves and pounding the desks and shouting and whooping and….well, not really, but sort of and quietly to ourselves. The VP was pretty excited though. Anyway, it wasn’t until years later that I realized what an utter load of crap this was. (I bet you all can see where this is going now.) You’re all probably asking, “Why the hell would you do anything but try to figure out a way for the people actively looking for your product or service to find you?” Okay, I know you want me to wrap this up. Point is, the sales training should have been all about inbound marketing. But in fairness, this was before the Internet so that message would have been really hard to hear. (Oh, you want to know what happened? Nothing really. The sales were just as hard, the forecast was just as inaccurate, and yet the sales trainer got paid.)
So, how does all this relate back to the what we asked at the beginning? And how does this relate to the customer, as I promised you and Rick I would do?
Well, in the first example True Bistro employed inbound marketing principles BEFORE entering the market. Once in the market, they focus on social media as the main driver of their inbound marketing approach. In the second example, and if time-travel were possible, the company would employ inbound marketing principles AFTER entering the market. And, they would be focusing on search as the main driver of their inbound marketing approach.
But despite the differing manner of employing an inbound marketing strategy, I disagree (politely) with Rick. I believe it works for EVERY customer of every business. The tools and techniques may be different, but it definitely works.
Send all complaints, disagreements, flames, etc. to Rick.
Happy selling…I mean…inbounding. Peace.
BTW, you can talk with Adam, Rick and a bunch of other folks any Thursday at this on line meeting. Come on by.