Guy Kawasaki is quoted as saying, "If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing."

It often seems many large, traditional companies have continued to spend heavily on traditional or outbound marketing while smaller, leaner companies have embraced inbound marketing or as it is sometimes called, content marketing.

Many smaller, cash strapped businesses are often hesitant to try inbound marketing because the "big boys" are not doing it.

Well, according to Brandon Gutman in Forbes online blog, MarketShare, that is all changing.

Check out 5 Big Brands Confirm That Content Marketing Is The Key To Your Consumer. Read the article for all the details and links, but I'll summarize it here. (I have blogged a bit about Inbound Marketing and you can learn more about our Inbound Marketing Services here.)

Gutman profiles five national and international brands and shows how they are embracing what he is calling content marketing to engage with their customers, increase brand awareness and provide value to their customers.

The first thing you may notice is that big companies still spend big money, even when they are doing inbound marketing. This does not mean that you need to spend big money and there are many things you can learn and do from these examples.

The other thing that you will notice is that most of these efforts are not directly selling or promoting their brand or product. They are finding content that is interesting or valuable to their customers and providing them access to that content. Here are some of my thoughts and possible alternatives for smaller companies.

1. Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile Live is a social newsroom with up to date links to music, humor, video, technology and a number of other topics of interest to their customers.

This would be a big effort for a small business but posting content from other sources so that your customers and prospects considered you as a resource and clearing house for valuable content can easily be done.

But be careful, I'm not advocating stealing content, but you can link to news and important information or embed videos or infographics with proper link-backs and citations. You will also notice that Virgin makes it very easy to share content on social media with preformatted messages and branding in the tweets, likes and pins.

2. American Express

For American Express Unstaged American Express is creating original video content of some pretty big name musical acts. The videos are of course branded and it exposes fans to the American Express brand. This type of effort will be out of range for even bigger companies but try to image how something similar could work for your company.

The music has nothing to do with American Express but a lot to do with their prospective customers. What kind of entertainment or information do your customers want and you can provide?

A much more modest version of this concept could be the coffee house with an open mic night. Simply recorded videos of some of the better performances could be posted to the coffee house's YouTube channel benefiting both the business and the performer.

3. Marriott

Of all the examples in the article I think Marriott's Renaissance Hotels' Navigators platform and RLife Live program add the most value for their customers. Positioning the Renaissance Hotels as a "lifestyle" brand these online tools help travelers find interesting attractions, food and music near the hotel destination.

For the life of me I cannot figure out why any business involved in travel, hospitality and beverage industries are not doing inbound or content marketing in a big way. There are so many opportunities and topics where they can help their customers. Travelers not only want to find a nice hotel room they want to know where to eat and where to have fun.

There is an interconnected web of benefits for all involved and I think Marriott does a good job.

4. L'Oréal

L'Oréal, like American Express and Virgin Mobile, is not providing content about their product or business, but partnered their Garnier Fructis line with Rolling Stone Magazine to create Women Who Rock, featuring content around new, emerging musicians that their customers would be interested in. Smaller businesses cannot partner with Rolling Stone but they may be able to partner with smaller media organizations or businesses that cater to their customers to the mutual benefit of both partners.

5. Vanguard

Vanguard, an investment management company, has taken the traditional TV commercial format, produced a series of spoofs on classic movie genres and launched their own YouTube Channel called "Vanguard at the Movies". Any business can launch a YouTube Channel and it is a great way to get your content found online. Even without big Hollywood budgets it is possible to make effective videos that will help your business get found.

Inbound Marketing Impressions and Critiques

My one critique of most of these examples is the idea that the only content anyone is interested in is entertainment. That is what the traditional Madison Avenue model of outbound marketing has always been: put on a successful TV show and sell ads around it. For most of these businesses the content they produced had nothing to do with their product.

They made something entertaining for their customers and promoted it so that it is connected to their brand. This can actually be a good lesson for those businesses that say they do not have content that anyone would be interested in. Associate yourself with content that your customers are interested in and promote that content. Still, people need help and information and that is exactly what happens at Take Care Garnier, L'Oréal's more hands on, how to do it content website.

One more thing from the Forbes article; Gutman interviewed Lisa LaCour, VP Marketing from Outbrain and I think her 5 tips bear repeating here:

  1. A content strategy should focus on existing customers as well as prospects. Content marketing is a great tool to create brand affinity but can also be powerful in building a new audience of potential customers.
  2. When it comes to content marketing, brands should think beyond direct response tactics and focus more on the top of the funnel customer engagement and awareness. Content marketing is a great tool for thought leadership, education and customer relations. Define the appropriate analytics so that the ROI can be measured effectively.
  3. An amplification strategy should be a key tactic in a content strategy. Once the content is created, search and social networks can be used to distribute, but you should also make sure to distribute it out to others who may not know it exists. Intent is not created in a search box.
  4. Invest in the appropriate resources to meet your objectives.
  5. Stay honest and true to the brand

What is your reaction to the examples in the Forbes article? Let us know in the comments section below. If you would like to learn more contact us for a free Inbound Marketing Assessment.

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