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Think Magnets, Not Darts

The inbound marketing trend is finally beginning to sweep the hospitality and meetings industry. It isn’t too soon for it to begin sweeping away any parts of your hotel or CVB's sales marketing program that have outlived their usefulness.

Look to attract potential clients
vs. target them.
The opposite of inbound marketing, outbound marketing, refers to the collection of strategies that most of us grew up with as the gold standard for customer contact. We would deluge meeting planners with direct mail. Follow up with phone calls. Ply them with gifts. Swarm them at trade shows. Volume was the key to success, and the best message was a relentlessly consistent (and consistently relentless) one. As fax, then email and mobile entered the mix, we adapted those technologies to the proven way of getting sales done.

But somewhere along the way, we began to realize the outbound marketing model was broken. Customers came up with elaborate ways to avoid being “sold”. Regulators and procurement officers were nervous about all the free giveaways. And the best account managers realized the expectations were all wrong: instead of setting out to build genuine relationships that delivered real value, it was all about the quarterly sales targets, methods be damned.

You’ve no doubt heard the more recent business maxim that to get something back, you have to give something away. With inbound marketing, you get back the attention and engagement of your target audience—and, eventually, their buying power—by giving away something they need and want in place of a standard, outbound sales pitch. Offer them knowledge. Point them to resources. And make it clear that you ask nothing in return, that the conversation is its own reward.

Once your customers know why they want to talk to you, they’ll figure out the rest (and, yes, you can help them with that final step).  Inbound marketing is still a new enough concept that its meaning is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.  The important thing to remember is that focus has shifted from using darts to “hit” prospects, to one where you magnetize your communication and they come to you.

To read about Greenfield’s take on how the sales and marketing world has shifted; download our Discussion Paper, The Great Shift: Why B2B Lead Generation is Changing and What You Need To Do About It. Or join the discussion by registering for one of our webinars.

*This post marks the appearance of Greenfield's Chief Strategist, Doreen Ashton Wagner, who is speaking at the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Toronto Chapter's Education Conference in Niagara Falls, ON, on Monday, June 11, 2012.  She will be presenting the session: The Magnet vs. the Dart: Helping Meeting Professionals Create an Inbound Lead Generation Channel.