Why Product Managers Need To Learn To Love Inbound Marketing

by drjim on July 8, 2013

Inbound marketing is what product managers need to learn about

Inbound marketing is what product managers need to learn about
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What kind of marketing do you do: outbound or inbound? For that matter, do you even know the difference? In today’s overloaded, hyper connected society, getting the attention of our potential customers has become harder than ever. Darn. As product managers we need to find ways to overcome this hurdle and right now, it’s looking like inbound marketing just might be the way to go…

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Let’s face facts: doing any type of marketing as a part of your product development definition can be a major chore for a product manager. First you have to identify who your potential customers are, then you have to determine how best to get in contact with them, next you need to create a creative and flashy way to get their attention. Once you’ve done all of this you then have to get it approved by / changed by your senior management so that you don’t end up damaging the company’s reputation with your outbound marketing program.

When you finally have all of the approvals that you are going to need, that’s when you can finally pull the trigger and launch your marketing program. Now you sit back and wait for the new orders to come rolling in so that you can brag about your marketing success on your product manager resume. Either the new orders show up or they don’t but it’s always been fairly hard to measure what the results of any marketing program are.

The marketing programs that most product manager turn to are the traditional outbound marketing ones. These include such activities as buying attention, cold-calling potential customers, direct paper mail, radio ads, TV advertisements, sales flyers, unrequested email (spam), telemarketing and traditional advertising. The problem with each one of these approaches is that they are old – everyone else is doing them and they no longer seem to be very effective.

The failure of outbound marketing has led to the recent interest in inbound marketing. Inbound marketing takes a different approach to capturing the interest of the potential customer: it’s all about earning the attention of your customers. The thinking goes that if you can do this, then they’ll naturally be attracted to your web site and both your company and your products will have become easy to find.

How Can Product Managers Use Inbound Marketing?

Since every product manager knows that some form of marketing is going to be required in order to get the world to take notice of your product, it sure seems as though you should spend your limited time working on the marketing activities that are going to provide you with the biggest bang for the buck. This means that you’re going to have to learn how to master the new art of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing always starts in the same place: you need to create content that your customers are going to find valuable. This content can take on a number of different forms. The classic content is the white paper that takes one topic that will be of interest to your potential customers and investigates it in detail. Note that although you can mention your product, you can’t do very much of that or else your potential customers will see your white paper as a thinly disguised marketing brochure. Other forms of valuable content can be slide presentations, Excel worksheets, videos, audio interviews, or data files.

Once the valuable content has been created, your next job is going to be to make your potential customers aware of the content and draw them to your web site in order to get ahold of it. The modern web provides us with an almost unlimited number of ways to go about doing this: Blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, eNewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing. Keep in mind that once one of your potential customers finds your valuable content, they’ll tell others and very quickly the viral properties of the web can draw many potential customers to your web site. Make sure that you are ready to become very popular once you start to tell people about your valuable content!

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

All too often when you pick up a book on classic marketing, it’s going to tell you about a tried-and-true outbound marketing technique that used to work. However, times have changed. Our potential customers no longer notice our best outbound marketing efforts when we thrust them in front of them. It’s time to try something new and make it a part of our product manager job description.

Inbound marketing is starting to pick up some steam simple because it appears to work much better than outbound marketing. Inbound marketing consists of creating valuable content that your potential customers will then come to you to obtain. This is not easy to do, but it can pay great rewards.

As a product manager this means that you need to stop doing the things that are not producing the results that you want: buying attention, cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements, sales flyers, spam, telemarketing and traditional advertising. You need to start doing the inbound marketing activities that are going to get you the results that you are looking for: Blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, eNewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing. Now that you know what you need to be doing, go get started!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should stop doing all outbound marketing or create a mix of outbound / inbound marketing?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What would the perfect buying experience with your product be for your customer? I’d be willing that it would go something like this. They’d contact you and explain their problem to you. You’d listen, and then based on what you already knew or could deduce about them you’d end up recommending the perfect product that would solve their problem. While you were at it, you might also suggest some other products that would solve problems that they didn’t even know that they had. Too bad this perfect world does not exist…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Tyre August 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

There has been a huge change in the last 7 years away from telling and over to listening; from advertising product features to solving customer problems, from talking with a sales person to self education. The prospect is now in control & they love it. As a product manager, you ignore inbound marketing at your own peril.

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Dr. Jim Anderson August 16, 2013 at 8:37 am

Dan: You are correct. Add one more task to the list of things that Product Managers need to be good at!

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