A Guide To Inbound Marketing From 1900

Plus ça change, Plus la même chose…

There’s no denying that the world of Marketing has changed substantially in the last 5-10 years. Having a website that only functions as a company brochure just doesn’t cut it anymore. This has forced a lot of companies to start blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and so on because they feel they have to.  This often leads to the following questions arising:

  1. How come I’m not generating any more leads?
  2. How come my visitor numbers aren’t increasing?
  3. Why am I not creating high quality leads for the sales force?

The fundamental shift we all need to make.

But there’s one fundamental change that you need to make that probably isn’t on your agenda, but will make the difference between winning and losing; bringing in more visitors to your website; converting those visitors into leads; integrating the offline activities and winning more sales.

This change is so important yet so over-looked that it often doesn’t occur to marketers until it’s too late.  What is that change?


How Michelin showed the way.

Let me illustrate with a story from the early part of the century (not the 21st, but the 20th).  In the early 1900s a tyre company was trying to increase sales of its tyres in the nascent Automobile market.   They had been advertising in the normal way but their problem was more difficult than that – they needed to encourage the few people who had cars, to use them.

They came up with an idea – how about creating a guide to restaurants outside the city of Paris, to encourage motorists to drive more.  The Michelin Guide was born and 130 years later, is still going strong – probably one of the first of a new kind of marketing which has taken 130 years to really build momentum.

We call this change ‘Inbound Marketing’ and the Michelin Guide is a great illustration of the kind of content that should now be driving your marketing activities.

What has made Inbound Marketing so important?

The sheer number of advertising messages faced by people every single day is growing exponentially – there’s no point in putting a number on it because we know that it’s huge and it’s growing – if you download a free app you’ll be hit with advertising and selling messages the whole time.  A quick look in your inbox will tell you that there are thousands of companies trying to sell tens of thousands of things to millions of people.  In fact all of this ‘Outbound’ activity (selling messages) gets in the way for most people.

The proliferation of social media platforms also means that you can be sold to while you’re purchasing products online, or emailing your family or playing a game on the mobile, or posting to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or using a search engine.  Organisations like Google and Facebook are making a fortune from advertising, so it must be working? Surely it must?  It certainly, but mainly for Google and Facebook.  While it may well work for some businesses (consumer primarily), it costs a great deal of money and for many businesses has dubious benefits.  The problem is that to all intents and purposes, this type of marketing still adheres to the old Outbound maxim of pushing your message in front of an unsuspecting audience. Some of this advertising is targeted, especially when using Social Media platforms, but most people put defences up to prevent messages getting through.

These defences are the third reason Inbound Marketing is so important – you could try to get around them, but our view is that Inbound Marketing makes them irrelevant, because the Inbound content is intrinsically what customers search out and want to read.

So how about we all take a leaf from the Michelin Guide and start thinking about creative content that engages the customer and has real utility for them in their everyday lives, instead of flogging some dull old sales message?


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