Propaganda has been used in some way by every political movement or government since the dawn of time. Its main goal is to influence. It can be used to sway opinion, to move people to act, or to affect decisions. Sound familiar? We may look back at some historical propaganda and laugh at its over-the-top tactics, but in truth, often times propaganda shares some similar techniques used in marketing and advertising today.
For the most part, the propaganda we'd normally think of would be considered very outbound. Having an old man on a poster point at you in a funny hat and insisting that you join a World War probably wouldn’t work in this day and age. However, with a closer look, there are actually quite a few inbound lessons marketers can learn by examining some old propaganda posters and tactics.
1. Take Risks, Even if They're Small
Definitive statements or claims are a huge part of propaganda’s appeal. However, saying certain phrases and calling out political or government groups were huge risks at the time. It’s important to note thought, that because of taking these risks, the creators of propaganda were able to call attention to their cause or social injustice. In other words, in inbound marketing, taking a risk can also good for business. Maybe you disagree with a common belief in your industry. Write a blog post about it. You may have a different opinion than what a customer posted on your Facebook page. Share your feelings and explain why. Never done a video chat before? Go for it. Don’t take a risk just for the sake of taking a risk. Believe in what you say, prepare, try a different approach, and make sure it still falls in line with the overall goals of the company. If your risk falls short, take the time to learn and so you can it better the next time.
2. Keep Them Coming Back
Propaganda often uses the tactic of shared experiences to elicit a response. As a brand, you want to focus on experiences that bring customers coming back year after year to buy your products. I have heard this old adage over and over again since starting my marketing studies; that it may be nice to constantly generate new customers, but you get more (e.g. money, time, commitment) out of customers you keep over the long term. One of the best ways to do this is by constantly generating content they enjoy that is directly focused on their needs and what brought them to you in the first place. Segment the emails and messages you send them so they are directly related to the products they bought. Have content that is product-focused and assists in making the product better and easier to use.
3. Show Your Customers You Chose Them, Too
Most aspects of propaganda are used to emotionally engage the person you are directing your marketing at. Make sure your customers, leads, and potential customers know why you care about them in a way that fosters an emotion. Respond to their inquiries and concerns personally and in a timely manner. Even if the feedback is negative, showing that you are engaged with their feelings about your brand or product allows for interactions that your customers will appreciate and remind them why they chose you in the first place. Every relationship is reciprocal; if you give, they give.
4. Stick to Your Core Values
5. Get on the Bandwagon
6. Commit to Change Internally
Propaganda is often times used to elicit a change. Sometimes though, the change should be internal. Saying you are inbound is one thing; being inbound is quite different. Just having a blog, a website, or social media accounts isn't enough. I hate to tell you, but people won’t just magically come to you. It doesn’t work by itself. Work on generating content around specific keywords so your potential customers can find you more easily than your competitors. Eliminate outdated marketing tactics like cold calling and direct mail that customers not only hate, but that they ignore (and cost you money). Humanized, personal marketing is the way of the future, and as we learned previously, you don’t want to be left behind.
Propaganda tactics have a bad rap. They are in your face, over the top, and often off putting. However, if implemented carefully, in an inbound manner, you'll find some propaganda tactics can truly empower your inbound marketing.
What are some ways you are changing old ways of marketing to become more inbound?