Inbound Marketing: A Lesson from The Karate Kid

By: 31st October 2013 Content Marketing, Digital Marketing No Comments

Here’s a mind bomb that Yahoo Movies pointed out to me recently: Ralph Machio (the Karate Kid) is now older than Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) was when the original movie was filmed. Go ahead and Google it in a minute, but bear with me for a moment as to why I think that’s relevant to digital marketing.

Having been reminded of the movie, I naturally had to re-watch it – if only to see how much my changed perspective on life in general – in turn, affected how I re-perceived the wisdom in the film. Everyone wants to wax poetic about waxing on and off, but it was the lesson being taught by Mr. Miyagi when he’s trying to catch a fly with chopsticks that gave me pause this time around.

For those who need a refresher: Daniel walks in (through a door that is already open and letting flies in, I might add) and sits down to an intense session of catch-fly-with-chopsticks, rife with focus, perseverance, and dedication. The lesson of course is meant to teach the value of patience, and rewarding practice: it’s not so much about efficient methods of pest control. It’s a virtuous lesson by most accounts, and Daniel makes a mockery of the task when his beginner luck snags him a fly within about 30 seconds. Comedy ensues.

But isn’t that what a whole lot of old school outbound marketing was all about? Practice, refine and hone the craft of seeking out a TARGET, and then once found, relentlessly chase it until it’s in your clutches? Chopsticks v. flyswatter isn’t the issue – the tool is secondary to the method. Maybe the swatting worked, maybe it didn’t – but even in the absence of data, an old school outbound marketer could say she was simply trying to “raise awareness” of your brand presence and hope the CMO bought it. The flies in the room always knew they were being swatted at, but who ever said they liked it?

Then someone new with a slightly better swatting technique came onto the scene, had some beginners luck, and stole the account.

Wrap it in a bow and call that a strategy? No thanks. The world has moved on.

Outbound vs. Inbound

As I was watching this great cultural icon of my 80’s childhood with my  “all-grown-up digital marketer in the 21st Century” perspective, I wondered how the student becomes the master re-write of that scene would shake out in an inbound marketing context.

Instead of targeting the individual flies, tracking their movements and taking a chance to catch just one, Daniel, The Inbound Marketing Kid, sets out a glass of wine and creates gates for the flies to pass through: holes in a tight saran wrap covering. He goes to do other things while the Outbound Guy sits really still stabbing at the air with sticks.

Common sense tells us that 24 hours later one method is going to yield better results than the other. Notice that we went from talking about house flies to fruit flies? The outbound marketer thinks of that as a different market segment. Two types. Mutually exclusive. The inbound marketer simply thinks about what it is they have on hand that can attract a larger volume of flies that want something specific. The bait set up is custom made for that type of user desire. It starts by asking “what do they need from me?”

That’s what content or inbound marketing is all about: offer case studies, blog posts and other interesting bits of information to entertain and inform your visitors. Be helpful. Be useful. Don’t be annoying. Don’t chase them. Use the opportunity to connect with these passers-by to see if your business exists to make their life a little better or easier – don’t just try to sell something. Maybe they’ll fly away with a happy buzz (pun most definitely intended) never to return. More likely though – they’ll remember you as a confident, trustworthy source of information and come back later, having graduated down the sales and decision making funnels – ready to talk shop.

The Takeaway

Fly catching metaphors aside, if your goal as a modern marketer or business owner is to spend a lot of time training yourself to be disciplined and to vehemently argue for outdated methods that have, to date, only served to precisely define your limitations: go to it and may you excel at mediocrity. Keep chasing flies with chopsticks. It will build character!

But if your goal is to make money, or make a difference in your customers lives – you need to look at the value of the content you provide for your audience. Does your website meet your users needs? How do you know?

Do you have a blog post for every question your business has ever been asked? Not just an FAQ section: your customers don’t search by FAQ’s – they search by asking Google a question. If you don’t have a blog post that answers that persons questions ranking high in search results – that customer goes somewhere else when they are doing research or trying to find a confident, local, trustworthy supplier.

Do you have gateways through which visitors can become customers, and a strategy to turn customers into fans and champions talking you up to all their friends? Are you counting each time any of the above occurs and using it as the foundation of your business intelligence and decision making processes?

We think a lot about these questions, and in future posts we’ll get into the specifics of each of those questions in more detail. 

In the meantime: wax on, wax off…..