Capturing user data via gated white papers and ebooks is a desktop-centric approach. These media continue to serve us well, but in the mobile era, brands need to look into alternative tactics and dynamic media formats.
I don’t think anyone will disagree that digital technologies — and, subsequently, consumer habits and preferences — have evolved considerably since 2007. So why are so many brands still clinging to a strategy that’s been around for more than a decade?
Inbound marketing emerged as a direct, inevitable response to the mid-00s — the period during which the internet began to transform into the largely consumer-driven environment we enjoy today.
If you’re not familiar with this strategy, here’s the basic gist:
- Brands generate relevant, useful content to target and funnel users from search engines and social media to their websites
- Once they arrive, they’re encouraged to download “gated” resources — or collateral that’s locked behind a submission form — which allows the brand to collect their personal data and qualify them further
- The most qualified prospects are transferred into an email or calling list where they can then be engaged in a more personal, sales-oriented manner
Unfortunately, just like the Death Star, inbound marketing has an inborn, fatal flaw: the process was conceived for a desktop-centric universe where you can, say, easily download and view a beautifully designed PDF.
Now that mobile has taken over as the dominant platform, that process has broken, effectively firing a photon torpedo into inbound’s exhaust pipe.
Just like in the mid-00s, it’s time for another digital marketing paradigm shift. Here are a few ideas on how to bridge some of the gaps that mobile has inserted into the traditional inbound model.
Same Goal, Different Pathway
While search engine optimization (SEO) is a core component of traditional inbound strategies, winning on mobile won’t just be about dominating mobile search.
Today, the most successful campaigns are those able to succeed in the final moments of the user experience, delivering the payoff a prospective buyer needs to actually make a decision.
To that end, you need to understand that mobile is an incredibly fast-paced platform. Classic data capture tactics, such as the gated, static PDF, probably aren’t going to work here — when was the last time you downloaded and read a 20-page white paper on your smartphone?
Instead, you need to look into new content types that are both engaging and capable of conveying complex ideas quickly.
Recognizing the need for more effective communication tactics, major news organizations like the New York Times have been steadily transitioning away from static, text-heavy articles towards digital storytelling media formats for years.
Combining multiple content types — video, graphics, interactive and dynamic design elements, etc. — allows news publishers to not only grab people’s attention, but to hold onto it as well.
Example: The Case of Jane Doe Ponytail
At L&T, we’re focusing our efforts on applying this same approach to brand publishing. We utilize a wide array of tools and media formats to help our partners better connect and communicate with their target audiences in an era when doing so is more difficult than ever before.
Give the People What They Want
But it’s not just enough to provide a great experience. An entire mindset shift is required when it comes to your owned media assets.
Mobile users don’t respond well to friction, especially towards the top of the funnel. That is to say, if you put up the gate too early, you’ll run the risk of losing your audience altogether. Unsurprisingly, these days, the brands that give more away for free (i.e., fewer gates) typically gain a larger audience faster.
Once you have someone’s attention and trust, that’s when you start offering gated content. (Side note: this is exactly why people host webinars via established publications like VentureBeat — the audience is already there.)
If you largely adhere to the traditional inbound model — but simply swap a digital story in for your static PDF white paper — guess how many mobile users are going to play ball?
At the end of the day, so long as the internet users maintain control over their online path to purchase (or at least the perception of it), inbound marketing as a fundamental concept will still ring true. That said, the actual process informed by that concept will invariably have to change to remain in step with technological evolution.
As we continue toward the dominance of mobile marketing, those who dare to be different will have the most to gain. What has worked well in the past won’t necessarily work well in the future. For many marketers, it’s time to evolve.