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Why Inbound Marketing Doesn’t Work on its Own

Uncertainty is not a word executives like to hear–especially in reference to the company’s source of revenue. When a plan is uncertain, upper management hears layoffs and missed revenue goals. The rise of inbound promises high quality, but can you be certain that it’s enough?

Inbound marketing and content marketing have been hot topics in 2012 and 2013. The idea is simple–create great content that appeals to your target audience, create a lot of it, distribute it well, and then your customers will come to you.

That is a classic pull marketing strategy.

However, some folks feel that strictly focusing on inbound is entirely inefficient.

“Inbound marketing allows companies to send more, unqualified leads to sales faster than ever before.” – Dan McDade

The concept of inbound as a ‘con job’ is a whole other discussion. For most organizations, the decision to fill the funnel with inbound or outbound leads is not black and white. A lot of organizations build inbound strategies because they are good lead generation channels. However, marketers cannot just flip a switch to drive great inbound leads; a number of circumstances must align for inbound marketing to be successful.

Inbound works if…

  1. You know exactly what your audience cares about (and what they’re willing to give up to hear it, which is typically their contact info)

  2. You have access to an active, targeted audience

  3. You have skilled marketers to consistently generate engaging content

  4. You have people and money to build out the technological infrastructure to attract, capture, nurture, and manage new contacts

  5. Most importantly, you have TIME

  6. You can deal with UNCERTAINTY

Creating e-books, shipping webpages, attracting subscribers to a blog, hosting webinars, is all great. But most marketing and sales teams need to hit numbers.

Do you have the time, resources, and active audience to attract enough prospective customers through inbound alone?

Even if you do, there is underlying uncertainty that your inbound marketing will not pull in a specific number of leads. It can pull in an estimated number of leads, but most marketing and sales managers can’t offer uncertainty in their growth strategy to upper management.

For most organizations, a combination of inbound and outbound marketing is the most efficient lead generation strategy. Outbound marketing drives inbound marketing, and inbound marketing complements outbound marketing.

Here’s an analogy I like to use.

Imagine you’ve just been hired as campaign manager for a politician in your district. You’ve never agreed more with a politician’s ideology, and his victory would make your entire career.

You hire several campaign fundraiser pros to give speeches in specific regions about the politician on a year-long circuit of fundraising events.

If the campaign doesn’t raise $500,000 in twelve months, you’ll likely be out a job, and the candidate will fall hopelessly behind the competition.

The first month on the circuit is very slow. The fundraisers are delivering incredible speeches. The small audiences that hear the speeches are generous donors, but not nearly enough people show up.


If the circuit continues in the same fashion as the first month, donations are likely to top out around $100,000. The politician will run at a disadvantage, and you’ll be out of a job.

Unless you can get more people to attend the fundraisers and hear the speeches, you aren’t going to fulfill your fundraising quota.

You buy an ad on a billboard.

billboard blue

Speech attendance increases slightly, but the amphitheaters, assembly halls, and gymnasiums are still mostly empty.

Then you buy a list of names of people that have donated to political candidates in the past in every region. You invite them to attend your fundraisers next events. You even offer a food and drinks to help fill the room.

Initially, there are people who walk out of the theater midway through your speech and donations aren’t quite where you need them. But more and more people are becoming aware of the politician and the proclaimed message. You stick with it.

Over time a increasingly supportive audience grows. Monthly donations have skyrocketed. At the six-month marker, some of the earlier attendees return with a checkbook handy, along with a few of their friends. Your politician’s Twitter following quadruples. Website traffic spikes around each event.

crowd blue

By the end of the tenth month, you’ve earned well over $500,000. Your politician is leading at the polls.

In the end, he wins the election.

Your products are your politicians; your sales reps your fundraisers; your great speeches, giveaways, and campaign materials are the content; and you are the marketing manager that makes it all happen.

So create great content. Identify your target audience. Acquire their contact information and get whatever insights you can into those leads. Push them valuable content. Listen, record, analyze, and improve for your next go around.

You can’t fill a funnel and empower a sales team with just great content for inbound marketing. It’s time for the resurgence of outbound using great data, great technology, and expert advice.

Plug in to the live discussion. We are crafting a great speech.

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