Think of the industry's development as though it was a child's journey to adulthood. The history of marketing has shown growth through three eras to become the inbound, digital oriented entity we know today. Similar to the maturing nature of the industry is the matring of a child to become a productive member of society, developing a more complex sense of self as they grow into adulthood.
Newborn to elementary: The Birth
One could say that the industry began the second man recognized and fulfilled his needs and wants, but what we recognize as mass production began in the early 20th century. At this time the focus was getting goods in bulk, and quick. There was little competition, meaning little buyers choice. Much like newborns and toddlers do not have the cognitive skills to respond and create meaningful conversation, supply and demand was the only concept utilized and the buyer/consumer relationship was based solely on recognizing and fulfilling a need. Like a baby or toddler does not quite understand needs beyond food and mommy, the market was simple, and specific niches were few and far between.
Elementary to middle school: The Industrial Era
At this stage of life, children are naive and selfish. At this age, people begin to develop meaningful relationships. This is when companies began brand building and using relationship marketing. Though we are taught the golden rule as early as we can remember, we tend to do just enough for others to keep us out of trouble with mom and dad because we have not yet developed a sense of morality. The golden rule is much like the “Consumer is king” concept that businesses recognized to make profit; you must serve the needs of the consumer.
However, this era was less about creating relationships and more about recognizing a need and making an offer. This is the era of outbound marketing, where cold calls and one-way asymmetric print advertisements reigned. Like a pre-teen is focused on how they fit in the short-run, advertisements were more promotional and sales-oriented than relationship building.
High school to college and beyond: The Digital Era
In high school, people begin to notice trends, and adapt. You begin to foster those meaningful relationships you developed in elementary and middle school and understand their importance for the well-boing of yourself and your community. As society developed, the market became more competitive and, to be on top, a business had to create a mutually beneficial relationship with the consumer. The marketing concept that shaped today’s inbound orientation means working from what you know about the consumer to create the product or service.
This is much like the awkward stage most teenagers encounter on the way to finding themselves. When a person begins to recognize the needs of society, they tend to conform based on the niche they would like to fill, whether that is a jock, nerd, athlete or any other persona they can identify with. Like a teenager develops a persona, businesses now create buyer personas for the ideal customer to better understand how to serve and reach them. In college you begin to develop a deeper sense of self in relation to your community. Similarly, Inbound marketing works by building trust and understanding your ideal customers, and maintaining that relationship to create brand loyalty.
People never stop growing, and neither will the industry. To keep up you must understand where it all began, and detect future trends. The field can only grow larger and more complex. Get familiar with inbound services today, so you can be prepared for tomorrow's growth.Union Square from the Cheesecake Factory via photopin (license)