The Truth about Inbound Marketing

June 21, 2016   /   by  Diane Callihan

Why Slow and Steady is NOT the Only Way to Win the Race

The term “inbound marketing” was coined in 2005, and since then, it’s become the marketing standard, a rallying cry, an industry unto itself.

The idea behind it sounds great. Instead of buying attention with direct mail, emails, telemarketing, ads, etc. (what has been deemed “interruptive marketing”), inbound marketing provides valuable content (blogs, videos, ebooks, whitepapers, podcasts, etc.) that attracts people in different stages of the sales funnel.

This is considered a win-win. Users come to you (hence the term “inbound”) out of their own free will. You help answer their questions or solve their problems, which in turn, builds trust. The idea is that by establishing yourself as a thought-leader and trusted resource, when the time comes for someone to buy, they will come to you.

It’s a beautiful thing. And it works.


The Trouble with Inbound

There are some problems with inbound marketing, however, which inbound fans are often hesitant to admit.

First, if you are doing content marketing right, and addressing your various user personas in all stages of the buyer’s journey, as well as their specific pain points and issues, you're going to need A LOT of content.

Let’s look at this simple content formula that shows how many pieces of content our sample company would need:

content formula

If you have more than three buyer personas, or offer multiple products or services that you need to answer questions about, your content needs can grow exponentially.

Many marketing departments don’t have the time, staff or budget to crank out large amounts of content on a consistent basis.

Also, if you’re aiming to provide a variety of content types (which you should), you’ll need even more resources. For example, it typically takes a lot more time to produce a video or develop an ebook than it does to create a blog post.

Second, inbound marketing is inherently a slow process. You are building trust and loyalty, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s rare for a company to publish a blog post that generates a ton of leads. That’s just not how it works.

In fact, on average it takes 12 marketing interactions/touches before a web visitor becomes engaged enough to want to do business with you. If your interactions are solely through content marketing, 12 interactions can take a long time.

It also takes time for search engines to pick up all the new content you are posting, index it and gain ranking.

So, here’s a question: while you’re waiting for all these things to happen, how are you getting leads?

Maybe You Should Consider Some Outbound Marketing

Suggesting you try some outbound marketing is not going to win us any popularity contests, but hear us out.

If content marketing is not producing the results you’d hoped for, maybe you should try something else.

When a business is first starting out, or is in a position when they really need to be generating lots of leads and converting sales, outbound marketing tactics offer a faster turnaround than inbound.

You can literally send out a simple text email to a targeted list of contacts and get hundreds of leads within a day. Even direct mail – especially if it is personalized – is experiencing a resurgence.

Marketo Banner

And account based marketing, which employs very targeted outbound marketing methods, reportedly has one of the highest ROIs of any B2B marketing tactic.

The thing is, despite the bad rap that outbound marketing has gotten, it actually works. Or it can work, if you do it right.

Outbound and inbound marketing can be complementary. We see it like this:

Inbound vs. Outbound

When you are starting out, put the bulk of your marketing effort into outbound marketing to fill your sales funnel with qualified leads. As you build your business and your audience, your focus can shift to more content marketing, where you can nurture the contacts you already have and attract new customers.

Starting out with outbound efforts will also give you more time and resources to create all the content you’ll need.

So, if inbound marketing hasn’t produced the leads you hoped for, consider a more balanced approach.

Need help? Inbound, outbound and all around, we’ve got this. Let’s Talk.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.