IBM strides towards inbound marketing

In a recent interview with David Meerman Scott of Web Ink Now, Ben Edwards, VP Digital Strategy and Development here at IBM talked of the move from outbound to inbound marketing.

See an excerpt of the interview:

What exactly does this mean? If you aren’t aware of the term ‘inbound marketing’, HubSpot has an excellent definition. Essentially, rather than pumping a message out through broadcast channels like billboard advertising, inbound marketing is more concerned with finding people that are researching your products or industry and engaging with them at that point.

This has a particularly strong fit with online marketing, whether that be a traditional channel like search or an emerging discipline like social media. On that note, Ben points out there are over 400K employees at IBM: 200K have profiles on Facebook and roughly the same number have a presence on LinkedIn. Add to that 30K declared IBMers on Twitter and you’re looking at a lot of connections! The communication through these channels is more about engaging in conversation. It’s more about helping those prospects that might be interested in your products and services speaking with employees who have expertise in that area.

For instance, if an IT architect from the retail sector is looking into a business process management (BPM) solution, she can join an IBM BPM group on LinkedIn and ask questions of IBM experts before synching up with the regular sales process.

To make this a reality, we’re seeing more integration between the IBM website and IBM social networks. Take a look at this section on the newly revamped Software Overview page:

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There’s a virtuous circle at play here. Giving prominence to social media on the corporate website helps drive up community involvement. As these communities grow, whether they be on Twitter, Facebook or on IBM’s own domain, they will channel more visitors back to the IBM site. All without spamming email inboxes or cluttering freeways with billboards:

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On the subject of advertising, IBM has been experimenting with a new generation of online ads that moves away from the traditional broadcast model and lets the viewer interact and provide feedback through the interface. Here’s an example on Slashdot:

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The inbound marketing model serves as a good framework to look at the future of marketing where the communications are conversational, relevant and requested, rather than authoritative, broadcast and pressured. Social media usage at the business level shows no sign of abating, and it’s encouraging to see major corporations like IBM embracing this change at the highest level.