The Inception of Inbound Marketing
There is no disputing the fact that inbound marketing has been the golden child of business-to-business marketers for the past decade. In this post, we’ll look at some interesting stats and opinions as to why an inbound-only strategy may not be the strategy for you. We’ll also share some modern outbound strategies that are on the rise due to advances with real-time data.
“An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you,” said Dom Cobb, the mental mastermind from the blockbuster film “Inception.” Although this film is completely fictional, that statement holds a lot of truth in the real world.
About half a decade ago, a new marketing trend started to gain some serious momentum. Coined by Hubspot’s Brian Halligan, “inbound marketing” describes the method in which a brand creates original content on the Internet to pull its customer in organically, rather than push advertisements onto them. This idea became so powerful–so contagious–that thousands of B2B companies reallocated their marketing dollars from list buying and blast emailing to blog creation and ebook publishing. This is a classic “pull” instead of “push” marketing strategy. It was deemed cheaper and more efficient and in theory this strategy seemed flawless, but in the B2B world things are not that clear-cut.
Speed up to present day and inbound marketing is still on the rise, but is it generating the highest converting leads in brands’ marketing pipelines? When marketing teams commit to an inbound-only strategy, they must be 100% sure that all their potential customers know they need them. When a marketing team lists out their ideal customers, are they positive that those customers know of their brand in the first place? Do the potential customers think they need the product or service offered? There are many instances where potential customers have no idea for what to look.
B2B companies also don’t realize how much bandwidth is necessary to properly carry out an inbound marketing strategy, and in many cases a hyper-targeted outbound strategy can be much easier to execute.
“But it’s free, they say!” Sure, writing a blog post is free, if you as the B2B business owner do it yourself. Hiring someone to do it day in and day out is not. And by the way, it’s just as free for all of your competitors. Which brings me to my next point.
One of the most paramount terms in reference to inbound marketing is “content marketing.” This is the method in which companies create different types of content (blog posts, eBooks, case studies, etc) in order to gain inbound leads through the finding of this content. Recently, Mark Schraeder published a series of blog posts about “content shock.” He explains it better himself:
“The core premise is that we have been in a marketing environment of increasing consumption of content (in terms of hours per day) enabled by tech advances. But eventually, there is a limit. The latest research shows that Americans spend about 10 hours a day consuming content, up from 7.4 hours per day in 2000 and 4 hours in 1980.
“At the same time, the amount of available content is exploding, which will place a strain on marketing resources to keep up and even maintain “mindshare” with our customers. It does not mean content marketing will end (I don’t think that will ever happen) but it will have to change, and I challenged readers to think through alternative strategies when their businesses start to see that cliff.”
This is a pretty hard argument to dispute. There are only so many hours in a day, and we have seen such an exponential increase in content due to the Internet. He goes on to create a metaphor between what is happening today with content marketing and the history of the fast food industry. He writes about how he grew up in a small town in Texas where originally there was only one fast food restaurant. Over time as massive chains like KFC and McDonalds ventured into his area, there was no way the lone fast food restaurant could compete. It could not keep up with the billboards, newspaper coupons, and advertising the major corporations had.
In relation to inbound marketing, this makes a lot of sense. Years ago when inbound first became popular, there were not nearly as many businesses creating content. Now, most B2B companies have full content marketing and social media teams, but only a handful can afford to post a blog post an hour and an ebook every other day. The major brands with large budgets for social media and SEO pose a huge problem to small businesses relying heavily on content for leads.
Jeff Josephson, CEO of LeadGen.com, writes about his concerns around inbound marketing for B2B and what little options it leaves for outbound efforts: http://bit.ly/1farecR
“In the end, though, it’s the economics that undermine the case for inbound marketing in the B2B market. Hits, visits, downloads, clicks, inquiries, emails and all the other outputs of the inbound program ultimately have to be converted to leads, and those have to be converted to sales. If you really look at your conversion rates, and the cost of conversion, you may find that the numbers don’t add up.”
In a recent survey conducted by CMI, (Content Marketing Institute) 36% of companies believed that their content marketing strategies were effective, 5% knew exactly who was engaging with their content, and only 20% knew what content was driving leads. This sheds light on how oversimplified some aspects of inbound marketing have become.
These statistics speak for themselves, and I encourage all B2B companies to question whether or not they have been incepted by this inbound only strategy. Josephson mentions telemarketing, direct mail, and cold calling as viable options and there are new and innovative data analytics tools that enhance these traditional outbound strategies. The ability to lead grade, segment, and prioritize campaigns based off of data is starting a wave of modern outbound marketing. If the modern marketer is able to find out who his or her best customers are and then get real-time information on thousands of customers just like them, that seems a lot more efficient than waiting for them to land on his or her blog. I challenge B2B companies to invest some of their budget in these new and innovative tools, and then see if the numbers add up.