For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember, those postcards that are still inserted in magazines used to be the primary source of inbound leads.
They were called "bingo cards," and when a reader found a product of interest, they circled the advertisers’ number on the card and returned it to the magazine. A month later, the magazine would mail a report to the advertiser with the names and addresses of all of the leads from the prior month. Then the advertiser would send sales literature, a brochure, or catalog -- and perhaps follow up with a letter.
Later, phone numbers were provided and inside salespeople or marketers would call the leads by phone. As you might imagine, by the time a salesperson followed up on those bingo leads, 4-6 weeks may have passed since the ad had piqued the reader’s interest. Often, they had completely forgotten about it.
As I see it, there are three big differences between then and now:
1) Size of the Audience
Depending on your perspective, the audience is either larger (the globe) or smaller (your niche) and it’s easier than ever before to target and/or get found by the audience you wish to reach.
2) Speed to the Audience
Decades ago, ad copy had to be submitted a month prior to publishing -- and it could have taken anothermonth for the agency to even create the ad.A company with a new message may have had to wait 90 days before they could get the word out.Today, savvy marketers can change their messages or add a new one in as little as 90 seconds!
3) Speed to the Reader
As mentioned in the introduction, six weeks may have passed before a salesperson was able to follow up on a bingo lead. Today, an inbound marketer can follow up within six minutes of a reader showing interest.
Of course, there are some additional minor differences.
First off, it wasn’t just magazines. Newspapers, infomercials, catalogs, coupons by mail, the phone book, and other direct mail campaigns were all popular and effective ways to generate inbound leads. Those leads were what kept salespeople going.Without them, they would have to make cold calls!
But so much time went by that the calls were, for the most part, cold, and salespeople needed to be very aggressive, persistent, and effective.
That brings us to the second minor difference. The salesperson or inbound marketer that follows up on today’s instant leads must be a kinder, gentler, more helpful, and consultative while selling.Arm wrestling is not allowed!
Instead of product features and benefits and pushing for a sale or appointment, today’s inbound lead professional must nurture the prospect along by asking questions.
The oldest form of inbound is retail. The only difference is that it’s face-to-face. The similarity is that even though a shopper chose to walk-in (raise their hand), when approached by a clerk (inbound marketer), the shopper may still say, “Just looking” (“Not ready yet”). So if it’s retail, postcards, or landing pages, inbound has been around for many, many years. It's just a matter of whether you choose to make cold calls or focus on the organic, friendly tactics of inbound.
Originally published Jan 24, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated December 06 2016