If this is not the first time you’ve visited this website and blog, I’m sure you’ve figured out that we here at Rhino Digital Media are great advocates of Inbound Marketing. We’ve shown repeated examples of how it’s more effective than old-school methods of marketing. In particular, Inbound Marketing provides an excellent way to stand out from your competitors in a highly saturated market. The inbound methodology utilizes engaging online content to attract visitors to your website, follow them through the “buyer’s journey”, and ultimately to convert them into closed sales (and satisfied customers!). But, what happens when the world of online content itself becomes saturated? Does Inbound Marketing cease to be effective?
Content Marketing Fundamentals
Before we delve into the topic of saturation, it may help to briefly review the basic principle of what we call the Inbound Methodology. Old school marketing methods, like direct mail and phone campaigns can be referred to as “outbound”. They operate by essentially interrupting the people you’re targeting, and trying to get them to pay attention to your message. Unfortunately (for marketers), in today’s world, people are busy, and tend not to appreciate those “in your face” interruptions. What’s more, current technology makes it all too easy to filter out unwanted messages and solicitations, leaving marketers talking, as it were, to an empty room, while paper mailings go to the wastebasket and emails are dumping into a spam folder.
As its name suggests, Inbound Marketing works in the opposite direction. By creating and consistently publishing content that addresses subject matter relevant to your target audience, we attract potential customers, rather than demanding their attention. The basic premise is that by addressing the “pain points” of those who could benefit from your products or services, you give your customer base a reason to visit your website, where they become leads, who you can turn into buyers.
Content Saturation: You Are Not Alone
It all sounds great, doesn’t it? However, things have changed since 2006 when the concept of Inbound Marketing was introduced. AdWeek reported a while back that the average user of social media consumed 285 pieces of content every day, and experience shows that this number continues to increase. That’s a lot of writing to sift through! How does this affect you, as a possible purveyor of online content?
Look at it this way: Inbound Marketing depends on the use of intelligent keywords, which we would expect may be on the minds of our prospects. Their searches for those keywords should bring them to our content, at which point we can begin to work our sales magic on them. Initially, this is a great plan, and employing good Search Engine Optimization methods (SEO) should further attract and drive traffic to our website.
Not so, however, when there are dozens, hundreds, or thousands of competitors using the same methods, very likely targeting the same prospective buyers, using the same keywords. It’s even worse if you’re late to the game, and your rivals are already dominating the field with their content. What’s an inbound marketer to do?
Just how bad is it?
The measure of just how saturated your field is, content-wise depends on what you’re trying to sell, and to whom. But to get an idea, choose a relevant phrase, and type it into a Google search. Just for fun, let’s use the term “content marketing”, to get an idea of how many people are talking about it (and selling content marketing services). I just ran this search. It only took Google 0.68 seconds to come up with “about 23,100,000 results”. Wow. As I said above, you’re not alone.
So, is inbound / content marketing dead?
It’s been over a year since CMO.com announced that “The Internet Has Reached Saturation”. It’s a real phenomenon. Others have even suggested that content marketing is not a “sustainable” methodology. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that inbound marketing won’t be effective any longer. Like all forms of marketing, we need to adjust our approach as market conditions change. Here are a few ideas that should be helpful in adapting to a content-saturated web: