David Blecken
Oct 26, 2016

An inbound marketing guru spells it out for novices

Some straight advice on becoming more customer-centric from the president of HubSpot's first Diamond Partner in Asia, 24-7.

Kei Tamura
Kei Tamura

TOKYO - Tokyo-based inbound marketing consultancy 24-7 was recently named HubSpot’s first Diamond Partner in Asia. We asked the company’s president, Kei Tamura, to throw some light on a discipline that is still poorly understood in Japan. Here are five things marketers (especially more traditional marketers) need to keep in mind if they are thinking of taking the ‘inbound’ route to building their brands.

1. Inbound marketing has nothing at all to do with Chinese tourists

It sounds like a bad joke, but Tamura says the ‘inbound’ tag means that many Japanese marketers still confuse the term with working to attract tourists from countries like China or Vietnam. It’s not just about creating content to generate leads either. It’s not even a new way of marketing, Tamura says, but does require a different thought process from the normal sales mentality. “Instead of trying to sell your product, it’s about trying to be helpful first," he says. "If you’re helpful, people will come to you.”

2. Conversion is just the beginning

A common perception is that inbound marketing’s work is done once leads have been created or converted. Wrong, says Tamura. Instead, he advises marketers to constantly consider how they can “delight” existing customers through content. As a customer moves down the funnel, communications should be personalised enough to be like a one-to-one conversation, he says. If you’re doing it right, customers should evolve to become more like “partners”.

3. You have to earn the right to push

For someone approaching inbound marketing for the first time, the most important thing is trying to gain a deeper understanding of the customer and how you can help solve their problem. “Push-style marketing isn’t bad in itself, but if you push to people who don’t want it, that’s obviously really bad,” Tamura says. “Most people still get on the phone without really knowing who they’re calling. You need to invest in analysing data and pushing the right content. Most companies don’t. They think, ‘We have a good idea; let’s sell it’.”

4. Don’t expect results overnight

Tamura says inbound marketing is a bit like committing to a diet. “You can’t expect to just stop eating tomorrow and lose 10 kilograms,” he says. “You need to be consistent and change little by little. It’s not just about the marketing team, but also sales and other support functions [that need to adjust]. You can’t change culture in the space of a month.” He adds that more case studies are needed for inbound marketing to really take hold in Japan—that is, for all the relevant departments to see the value of adopting it.

5. Get the management on your side

In the end, no matter how good a marketer’s intentions, an inbound approach will never take off unless the people at the top understand and support it. “If a company really wants to implement it, it has to come from the managers because they have to convince people [of its merits] and change the structure of the teams,” Tamura says. “It’s also about education. You need to educate yourselves to listen to the prospect first and make decisions based on what the prospect really needs. You have to involve executives in this because they have to push this message in the company’s culture and convince people that it’s not only about marketing, but also sales…and philosophy.”

Campaign Japan

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