In 2004, a 19 year-old Harvard University undergraduate launched a social networking site to connect profiles of the university’s students and staff. Little did Mark Zuckerberg realize, that this simple idea would change the way the world interacts. The rest, as they say, is history.
The advent of social media has made the modern consumer more informed than ever, due to the rapid dissemination of product information available at their fingertips. Vehicle purchase decisions naturally become a significant area of concern, as the purchase of a car is often the second most important life investment.
Engagement has become an important factor in social media, and marketers are now required to quickly respond to the evolving dynamics of comments and reviews of their products and services.
The faceless nature of online communication has also created an environment where cynicism and criticism become even tougher to manage. Trust in brand is driven not just by the marketer, but also through the power of discourse between consumers through the various social networks available today.
Marketing strategies changed from its traditional standards of the one way, mass communication seen through print, television and billboard advertising, to the inclusion of socially engaging content that required personalized experience for consumers through social media campaigns we are used to today.
This has altered how consumers respond to advertising. Traditional “interruptive” advertising content has changed to more engaging “organic” content. This dynamic shift has led to the new concept or “In-bound marketing”.
The traditional marketing methods, or “Outbound” marketing, gathers attention from the consumer by interrupting a consumer’s activity. TV advertising, for example, interrupts a program to introduce its products or services. Newspapers place advertisements next to their columns and articles to attract readers.
As content moved from traditional channels to the online domain, reading materials and videos became easily accessible. However, advertising did not gain this ease in access. Whilst content production had a higher barrier to entry via traditional channels, the world wide web allowed anybody to broadcast their content to the world, creating a blue ocean scenario that forced advertising prices to sell at a much lower cost.
The In-bound marketing approach became the next resort, as it targets marketing at points where a purchase decision is most likely to take place. At its core, advertising will not attract customers when they are not ready to make purchase decisions. Therefore, in-bound marketing targets consumers at the touch points where there the need, product selection, and buying decision takes place.
Advocators of In-bound marketing mention the need to build brand trust. Unlike outbound marketing techniques, in-bound trust building requires a personal journey for the target consumer. The ultimate end is that the customer is fully aware that the products they are buying come from experts in the product – therefore marketing is driven by content that instils trust in the event the consumer is ready to buy, such as blogs, instructional videos, etc.
Implementing successful inbound campaigns require a lot of planning, understanding and most importantly, massive and accurate data collection systems that allow marketers to predict consumer behaviour at the important touch points. It is therefore important that businesses grapple with the concept of Big Data, where large sales teams can make informed, cost effective in their marketing content development.
In order to remain competitive in today’s age of fierce competition, it is also important that the creativity of the sales team is harnessed and enhanced. Sales and after sales development programs are now a crucial element of development.
As we approach the liberalisation of the automotive sector in the coming years, it is pertinent for automotive companies to reinvent their marketing and sales strategies, as competitiveness cannot be gauged by strength of manufacturing alone. It takes years for consumers to develop trust for a brand, but it takes a second for trust to be broken.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.