Internet Search Killed Yahoo! Directories, And Web 2.0 Completed The Transition To The Buyer-Driven Buyer Journey

Buyers drive the sale with Internet search, 95% of the time, for 90% of the Buyer Journey. But businesses ignore this reality, even if it means they’re marketing to customers in ways they, themselves, hate to be marketed to. 

Most marketing today is interrupting people to talk about ourselves, and ask to take from them, later. Companies often forget the Golden Rule; they market their products and services in ways they avoid having done to them. It’s actually pretty crazy.

What is ‘inbound’ or ‘content’ or ‘pull’ marketing? It’s  giving rather than taking; it’s giving without the occult (selfish) expectation of taking. It’s giving high-value, relevant, content, upfront, with no ask, no strings, and no obligation.

It’s giving for its own sake. Helping versus selling. ‘Help marketing’. And it tends to ‘pull’ search traffic to you, build trust, and distinguish you. It ultimately leads to the sale more often than any other kind of marketing, but it’s done best when it’s sincere, and you’re not thinking about that. 

Other names for inbound or content marketing include ‘buyer-centric‘ or ‘permission’ or ‘pull’ marketing, as opposed to ‘egocentric’ or ‘interruption’ or ‘push’ marketing.

We all prefer to receive rather than fulfill a company’s desire to take our money, even if they think they’re ‘giving’ or helping us; most of the time the company that’s actually giving, upfront, ends up receiving (not ‘taking’) later on. 

Don’t believe me? Consider this illustration:

You’ve stopped at a grocery store on your way home from work. You’re in a bustling produce section, trying to remember if you’re out of romaine lettuce. You’ve had a long day, but you’re not tired, per se. You’re relieved to be out of work and bracing yourself for the checkout line. You’re looking forward to your time and enjoying a nice dinner.

All of the sudden, apropos of nothing, I approach you, with something in my hand. Before you can ask what it’s about, I enthusiastically hand you a brochure about how awesome I am. 

It sounds psychotic, in this context, for me to have done this, to expect a positive response, but this is exactly how most marketing happens. With or without a signal (search, traffic or behavioral gesture) of interest, ads are literally foisted on us all day long. 

If I did this to you in person, you would not respond well. Yet the gesture and associated feelings are the same in real life. It’s no less unwelcome. 

In any case, you would not read what I gave you, and would not buy whatever it was that I was selling, even if you were in the market for it.

The only real difference between this colorful example and how most marketing happens is that companies are paying Google, or Facebook, or AdRoll, or DoubleClick, or Salesforce, or SendInBlue to interrupt people, to talk about themselves, and hope to take money from them later.

The reason why response rates for ads and brochures are abysmal should be self-evident: they aren’t wanted. 

Actually, a more accurate analogy would be a cluster of salespeople and marketers interrupting you as you drive, at the entrance, in the produce section, in the bathroom on your phone…

It’s out of control and technology has really only made it worse. 

I’m convinced that there’s a disconnect between how otherwise smart people behave when they’re the marketers versus when they’re consumers. We’re not following the Golden Rule, and doing as we like to have done to us. 

Suppose, on the other hand, you wake up one Saturday morning, hung-over. The night before, a friend arrived from out of town and you ‘went hard in the paint’, on a wine bar or pub crawl, getting lost in good conversation and catching up. Today, you’re not feeling so hot.

You roll out of bed and shuffle to the curb to pick up your paper, the daylight burns like you’re a vampire, and you just want relief.  

You wipe your eyes, and you see me standing outside at the foot of your stairs, smartly dressed, with a pressed shirt and tie, holding stadium tray.

On the tray is orange juice, a coffee carafe, activated charcoal, electrolytes, mineral water, and acetaminophen. I have a hot box near my feet. 

Content works because it’s a universal truism that it’s easier to offer than it is to ask – for everybody involved. We’re watching a bizarre ritual of people continuing to ask despite  low click-through rates, a) because at scale it sort of works, and b) it’s depersonalized and automated ‘ask’ – no human has to endure being rejected 99.5% of the time, as happens with PPC. 

“Can I offer you a cure for your condition?”, I say. 

“Um, sure.” you reply. “What’s in the hot box?”

“Burritos.”, I reply, as I squat to open the container and produce one. 

You’re taken aback by the amazing timeliness and value of my offer. How did I know? you think to yourself. You’re actually beside yourself at this seemingly clairvoyant generosity. It’s just so helpful

You decide you can trust me, as you take the burrito, partly out of desperation. You pop the Tylenol and quaff the electrolytes and mineral water, immediately feeling better. You help yourself to the coffee as you unwrap the burrito. It’s the most timely cure you’ve had in ages. Maybe ever

You bite into the burrito, losing yourself for a moment. “Uh, what do I owe you?”, as you stand sheepishly.

“Nothing.”, I reply. “Here’s my card. Remember me next time you’ve got a hang-over.” And with that, I disappear.

Damn skippy you’ll call me next time you’ve got a hang-over. You’ll tell 100 people about  this experience, and remember it for 20 years, maybe until you die.

My card will go on your refrigerator. If you encounter me or my brand, helping in other ways with no ask, you’ll already trust me and be interested – even if you’re not in the market for what we’re offering.

If I make additional unconditional, high-value, useful, relevant offers to you, you’ll become an evangelist for me, a superfan

The cost of giving value, upfront, with no strings, is far outweighed by the returns. This is how content marketing works.

We grant, you can’t give out hangover cures on the Internet, but you can be helpful, and selfless, and timely. The only limit to how helpful you can be is your own imagination and level of effort. 

You can be the company helping people instead of selling them. You can pull them with content instead of pushing unwanted content in front of them.

The second example, of curing your hangover, and asking for nothing, embodies the spirit of Inbound or Content marketing. It’s giving to receive. It’s being helpful instead of looking at how a company can take from people. It’s providing objective value, upfront, without an ‘ask’.

The rules for marketing have changed. Consumers have changed. They have no time, no attention to spare. They don’t want to see your ads or hear you talk about yourself and your needs. 

Content marketing works because it’s a universal truism that it’s easier to offer than it is to ask – for everybody involved. We’re watching a bizarre ritual of people asking with such low success rates because it’s actually a depersonalized or automated ‘ask’; the interruption comes in the form of an unwanted ad. 

It’s time marketing grew up and followed the Golden Rule.

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