Did you ever walk up to a store and you can’t seem to get in?  You can see all of the beautiful merchandise.  People are milling around, browsing.  You actually make eye contact with a store employee, but no matter how hard you push you can’t seem to get the door to open.  You finally look down and there, right above your hand, is a tiny, little sign with a single word:  “PULL”.

The same thing is probably happening to your marketing right now.  You’re pushing out 10,000 mailers that are getting thrown away while your competitor is pulling in 1,500 people who regularly read his blog posts about stuff.  Which would you consider a better return-on-investment?

There are two basic schools of thought about building a marketing strategy:  traditional techniques like direct mail, cold-calling, or door-to-door (outbound marketing), and engaged marketing like social media, blogging, and viral video (inbound marketing).  Consumers are more and more looking at outbound marketing as something that is intrusive and an annoyance, while the rise of social media and viral video is allowing consumers to participate with a brand.  There is an interesting infographic, originally published on Mashable.com here:

Some things to consider:

  • Almost half of all junk mail is never opened or looked at.
  • 86% of people skip through television commercials.
  • 200 million Americans have registered their phone number on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list.

With the explosive growth of on-demand video services like Apple TV and Netflix, consumers are now choosing how they absorb their media.  Sites like Alltop and Reddit are competing with traditional print media.  More and more consumers are opting for “paperless billing”, so the walk to the mailbox is less important than ever.  Many consumers now manage much of their daily life through a smartphone.  A recent study showed that 80% of smartphone users multitask while watching TV.  Do you think that they caught your commercial?

A good study in the value of viral video is the crazy success of the Old Spice: Manly Campaign.  After the success of the commercials featuring the Old Spice Guy doing manly things, Wieden + Kennedy started a viral campaign on YouTube where he would answer your questions on all things “manly”.  Over the course of 183 videos, they gathered over 11 million views, saw their Facebook fans grow by 118%, YouTube subscribers jumped by 227%, and Twitter followers bumped by a staggering 2,800%.

Facebook has seen some explosive trends as well.

Levi Strauss used Facebook to connect to consumers with a Workwear campaign.  They featured a series of videos about a small steel town in Pennsylvania and the residents who were trying to revive it.  The call to action was often as simple as “Like This” and they were able to engage in a two-way conversation with consumers.  Once people had connected through the “Like” they were presented with sales messages and ads.  Over the week that the campaign ran they saw their number of “members” on Facebook increase by 35%.  A 40% off offer for their e-commerce site saw a two-fold increase in traffic within 15 minutes of being posted.  An in-store offer for a specific brick and mortar location saw some 1,600 people show up with printed pages and cell phones to take advantage of a 30% discount.  Their current campaign is “Go Forth” which is crowdsourcing funds to help “pioneers” who are tackling planet challenges.

There are still some people out there who aren’t on Facebook.  There is someone, somewhere, who gets off of the couch to change TV channels.  If your desired demographic is sitting in the La-Z-Boy reading a supermarket tabloid then outbound marketing may still work for you.  There are a growing number of people who are gathering around the kitchen table clipping coupons.  It still works.

But people like to participate.  It is more enjoyable to have a conversation than it is to have someone talk “at” you.  Inbound marketing allows you to be flexible and responsive.  If a conversation isn’t working you can change the topic and your ROI is huge.  It cost you 5 minutes.   It is about sharing information.  The interaction is also immediate.  You can instantly launch new products, immediately communicate pertinent industry news, and promptly respond to customer queries or complaints.  Remember, when Captain Sully landed in the Hudson instead of at LaGuardia it was on Twitter with photos before it was on CNN.

Quit pushing on the door and pull it open.  Come on in, and let your marketing begin!