Inbound Marketing Audiences ChangedI read blogs and books on marketing constantly and am able to apply new strategies and techniques on behalf of my clients, who are always interested in improving this area of their business.

But I am dismayed by the lack of sophistication in this area, especially in smaller companies. They are not keeping pace with current thinking at all. In fact, they have not successfully understood or applied the oldest techniques available.

How many companies are there that still have major marketing and sales alignment issues? I have been in companies where marketing doesn’t even talk to sales. And sales has no interest in marketing. (This as recently as last year). It’s like they have been in a time capsule for the past 20 years.

I also talk with companies who are interested in sending email to rented lists, and don’t want to follow Can-SPAM guidelines. What are they thinking?

Where Inbound Marketing Audiences Are Headed

So this blog is not so much about the past. I’m much more interested in where lead generation and marketing are headed.

It seems to me that a fundamental shift has occurred but no one is talking about it. We’re in the marketing business, so we’re talking about permission-based marketing. And that’s a start. But neglecting the nature of today’s audience is a mistake.

Even though there are a ton of ways for communicating with customers – traditional media as well as the web, email marketing, social networking, podcasting, blogs, etc. – I think that today’s marketing requires engaging audiences that are connected in fundamentally new ways.

Inbound Marketing Audiences today read blogs. They use RSS feeds and Google Alerts to stay in contact with minimal effort. They join social networks to affirm their bonds. They pass along information about themselves and about others. They have conversations about your products and services, your company, your services, your support, your pricing, and more.

This is a fundamentally different scenario where the audience has more control than ever before. And that control is only going to increase.

Marketers who remain on the outside spouting the same old sales pitches will be ignored, abandoned, even ridiculed. And there is no fast, easy entry point to exploit. You can’t force your way into this audience, even using techniques like blogs.

How to Be Successful

To be successful requires shifting your perceptions about the nature of the inbound marketing audiences you’re trying to reach.

So let me run something by you that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

hivemindIn nature, bees represent one of the most connected communities. They communicate with each other and with other species in both tangible and subtle ways that go beyond direct interaction. Some mathematical research has even discovered that their dancing influences and interacts with quantum quark particles in ways which only the hivemind fully understands.

I think it’s useful to think of your audience as a hivemind. Not in the sense of the Borg (if you’re a Star Trek, Next Generation fan), where there is no free will. But as an intelligent, collective consciousness that acts independently, that connects with other like-minded individuals spontaneously, that can’t be controlled, and that has significant impact on your company’s brand and ultimate success in the marketplace.

So instead of thinking of target audiences (that you shoot at?), think of a hivemind audience that has constellated around a particular product, service, or company, that you engage.

Marketing to a HiveMind isn’t something that can be done from the outside. You can’t blast them with ads, spam them with emails, fill their mailboxes with junk mail, or interrupt their TV programs with commercials. It just doesn’t work. You have to engage them…and that means understanding their collective consciousness, their HiveMind.

You have to understand and relate to the hivemind as people, rather than prospects. You need to supply information with the purpose of helping them, rather than selling them. You must engage them about topical issues that matter to them. You have to put aside your sales, marketing and business agenda, and trust that your transparency will engender sympathy trust and support.

I welcome other opinions.

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