This is the New Inbound Marketing

Shama Hyder, Senior Contributor.
Shama Hyder is CEO of Zen Media, a leading marketing and digital PR firm, a best-selling author, and an internationally renowned keynote speaker.

It would be difficult to overstate just how game-changing inbound marketing has been for the marketing industry. Powered by the emergence and popularity of social media platforms, which in turn gave rise to a more empowered and informed consumer, the shift from "outbound" to inbound marketing meant that brands had to prioritize value-adding content and connection over direct response tactics. Now, the game is changing once more. Brands have become skilled at creating valuable content-but now, consumers are inundated with it. Putting out valuable content is now the baseline-it's essential. In order to stand out today, brands need something more.

What we learned from inbound marketing: When inbound marketing first began edging out traditional outbound marketing, in the early 2000s marketing was still largely seen as a transactional affair. You, a marketer, convinced someone to buy your product by touting its advantages. Customers purchased your product, and hopefully they liked it enough to come back and buy again when they ran out.

There were exceptions but this was the general rule.

The internet changed all of this. The capabilities of digital marketing allowed for a much more equitable, give-and-take relationship between brand and consumer. As brands began to see the value in creating content that brought their customers to them, inbound marketing grew. This new method of relating to consumers taught marketers and brands the importance of building authentic relationships with the people who purchase from them. To facilitate those relationships, we started turning to storytelling.

That brings us to this next phase of inbound: thought leadership.

Thought leadership and storytelling go hand in hand: Storytelling isn't going anywhere any time soon. It's too effective a technique-there's little else that can bridge the gap between consumer and brand as quickly, thoroughly, or authentically as a strong story can. This is especially true in the age of the connected consumer, when disdain for anything that sounds too promotional or sales-y has risen to an all-time high.

Thought leadership, however, makes us better, more purposeful storytellers. Becoming a thought leader is all about sharing not only your expertise, but also your unique experiences with readers. To connect with readers on a large scale, you've got to tell your story.

Thought leadership helps us serve customers-in the truest sense: Thought leadership channels our creativity to serve our customers-and not just in the typical, business sense. The best thought leadership helps solve problems. When we share our expertise, our authentic selves, with consumers, we can enrich lives and empower our humanity.

Thought leadership is disruptive: Even though thought leadership is the natural evolution of inbound marketing. Thought leadership embodies dedication to a particular idea, endeavor, or discipline, and disrupts the dichotomy between social strategy and content strategy. Instead of existing in one or the other, it emerges at their intersection and thrives on their integration.

Thought leaders, by definition, are people who are considered authoritative voices, and go-to resources, in their industries.

Thought leadership isn't a replacement for all the trappings of inbound marketing-it's more of a goal to move toward. By creating content and cultivating your social networks with this aspiration in mind, you'll be able to better serve the connected consumer and gain their trust.