The epitome of marketing, according to Peter Drucker, inbound marketing is perhaps the least understood subdivision of marketing. In fact, it’s so poorly understood that many modern marketers have started to misuse the term — using it specifically as a synonym for Internet marketing or generally as an antonym for outbound marketing. This couldn’t be farther from the truth; in fact, Internet marketing is just a particular instance of outbound marketing.
So what, then is inbound marketing? Inbound marketing is the conductor of the marketing orchestra, and the different instruments are outbound marketing, corporate strategy, sales, customers, product development, and competitive positioning. Broadly, it can be divided into two disciplines: product management and market research.
Market research is the effort to gather information about your target markets, customers, and competitors (in all cases, whether current or potential). This information, in turn, is used to inform decisions about product direction, pricing, messaging … in short, every aspect of your business.
As with everything, I believe you should start with the easiest, most cost-effective methodologies, and move on from there, as necessary. For starters, talk is cheap — but contrary to popular opinion, it can be extremely valuable. Before you spend thousands of dollars on analyst reports, start by talking to your sales channel. Your current customers, and the people selling to them are your best source of information about what they need and what the competition is offering. From there, you can move on to conducting focus groups with your customers and indepth research on your competitors. As necessity dictates, add more elaborate and comprehensive research.
Products and services which provide unique, differentiated value to your customers are the single most effective driver of business success. Product management (sometimes known as product line management, particularly in larger businesses) is the art and science of establishing those benefits and differentiators which drive value.
In some industries — most notably, technology, banking, and FMCG — product management is a well-understood business requirement. But there are millions of business people out there who have never hear of product management. And more and more I’m coming to believe that every company needs at least one product manager. The product managers job is to help you create this value. And what company doesn’t need that? Whether that’s expanding or changing your channels, entering an adjacent market, or even defining a new product or service offering. From strategy to full product life-cycle management, dedicated product management can help any company be more successful.