I recently returned from a safari in Kenya (it was a great trip and I recommend it to everyone).  On one of the days, we visited a village of Maasai, which are a semi-nomadic indigenous people.  I wasn't expecting to pick up any interesting marketing tidbits that day, but on the drive back to where we were staying, I realized that maybe there were some relevant inbound marketing takeaways...

  1. Don't advertise. All the safari guides know that there are a number of native villages that will accept outside guests, but you will not find any advertisements to tour the villages or any promotion of it as an activity. The only way we knew about it is that we have friends who have gone on safari before and the sent us pictures of their visit to a village and told us about it. If you think about it, advertising would probably have a negative effect on "business" since the village might feel a lot less "authentic" if there were pamphlets about it at the concierge desk including a $2 off coupon.
  2. Encourage user participation. Right from the first few minutes of our visit, the Maasai were asking us to join them in a number of activities, including dancing the "welcome dance" like in the photo above with me in the white t-shirt. (Yes, there is actually video of me dancing with the Maasai. No, you will not get to see it.)  Encouraging feedback, comments and interactions with your users or customers is an important part of inbound marketing because the company no longer controls or owns the market - the customers are in charge now, and you really want to give them a voice and listen to it.
  3. Generate lots of content. One fundamental principle of inbound marketing is that companies should act more like publishers, because publishing lots of content relevant to your market creates a magnetic effect of drawing more people toward your content and your company website. The Maasai have embraced this concept. Though they do not create much content themselves - they embrace user generated content because they were always encouraging us to take more and more photos.  Literally, every three stpes in the village, they asked us to take more and more photos.  The marketing benefit of this is that the more photos people take the more likely there will be good an interesting photos that people will share on photo sharing sites like Flickr, continuing to spread the word about visiting a Maasai village.
  4. Gather customer feedback. Our guide asked us twice during the visit if we were enjoying ourselves and what they could do differently. At the end he specifically asked a couple questions about certain parts of the visit and if a couple of the other villagers had been helpful or not.  If you are an inbound marketing guru, you know that only if you have a remarkable product will others spread your message for you.  Our guide was very interested in making sure we had a remarkable experience and were more likely to tell others.
  5. Ask for recommendations. Finally, if you have a remarkable product, there is something you can do to encourage your customers to spread your message even more.  Ask them.  After we had given some feedback to our guide and said our visit was enjoyable, he asked us to tell our friends to come to Kenya and visit a Maasai village during their trip.

Note: I know that it is highly unlikely that someone from a Maasai village in Amboseli, Kenya is reading blog articles and books from places like HubSpot, David Meerman Scott and Seth Godin and then devising an inbound marketing strategy based on that information.  The likely scenario is that all of this just evolved.  However, it is still interesting to me the way that it evolved, and that their strategy embraces inbound marketing so much.

What do you think?  Have you seen other interesting and unexpected examples of inbound marketing?

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Originally published Jun 17, 2008 10:38:00 AM, updated June 10 2021

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