The case against inbound marketing

Philip Morgan

I've been a fan of inbound marketing for a long time, but I've got to admit that it has serious flaws.The dream of inbound marketing is that you can create some content (written, spoken, video, slide deck are the usual forms), search engines will pick up on it, potential clients will discover it, and then those hungry eager clients will beat a path to your digital doorstep to hire you.And it does work that way... sometimes.When it does work, it feels like magic. When it does work, it's scalable low-cost lead generation at its best.However, there are plenty of cases where inbound marketing just won't work very well if at all. Why?

  1. Lead time: It takes time for search engines to pick up on new content and only part of good search engine rank is content relevance. The other part of good rank is external ranking signals like who links to your content, and that takes time to build up.
  2. Control: You control relatively little about how search engines like Google or social platforms like Facebook present your content. Their algorithms are purposefully obscured, and they always prioritize paid placements over free.
  3. Long conversion pipeline: Simply reading or listening to or watching a piece of content you've created does not create a new client. Instead, it creates an opportunity for someone to move from being an anonymous website visitor to a lead on your email list or in your CRM. That's great, but it's only the beginning of a much longer process that takes time to unfold. The fact that you want anonymous site visitors to identify themselves to you and thereby become a lead will tempt you to create a horrible, crappy website experience for visitors by piling on the opt-in forms and popups. You may successfully resist this temptation, but trust me, it will always be there. :)

I have seen cases where inbound content marketing creates new clients very quickly. The most memorable of these usually involve someone giving a talk and literally walking off the stage and getting approached by a new client. I've also seen written articles produce results quickly.But it's much more likely to take about 6 months to produce results. Here's an actual timeline I got from a colleague who moved into a new niche recently:

2015-07-20 - decided to look into [redacted] niche2015-09-21 - started content marketing2016-03-17 - got the first and second inbound leads via content marketing and google (both in the same day)

6 months of "planting seeds" before you get a "harvest" of leads. That's the main reason to either not use inbound marketing or to look instead to outbound marketing.I know what you're thinking... outbound marketing is slimy, mysterious, and scary. You're thinking that outbound marketing is spam email and junk mail.Sure, if that's how you want to do it. But it doesn't have to be that way.I've invited a guest speaker for the August Dev Shop Marketing Briefing (DSMB) that I think you'll want to check out.He gets results like the following from outbound marketing:

- For a social media consultancy focusing on the outdoor space. We launched an outreach campaign to several prominent outdoor brands. Out of 60 brands contacted, we got meetings with 25 of them. Out of those 25 we were able to secure partnerships with over 10, and out of those 10 partnerships, one turned into a customer for the consultancy. The client they won was one of the biggest outdoor footwear manufacturers in the world.- For a software development consultancy, we built a predictable process that generated one new deal per month by doing targeted outreach and creating value up front.- For another software company, the simple act of prospecting lead to a deal closing through their existing network. Someone they knew had posted a job application hiring for a role they had, but had they not been actively prospecting for new work, they would have never seen that and reached out to their contact.

How much time does it take to get these kind of results? Way less than 6 months!If you are interested in 1) getting conversations with potential clients quickly 2) testing a potential new market position 3) firming up your pipeline quickly, then you'll want to attend this DSMB with Jake Jorgovan of Outbound Creative.It's August 24 at 8am Pacific (11am Eastern, 4pm United Kingdom time) and since I haven't started charging money for these briefings yet, it's free.I've asked Jake to limit his presentation to about 30 minutes to allow up to 60 minutes for Q&A. I'll record the whole thing, so don't stress if you can't make it. Do try to attend if you have outbound marketing questions you'd like to run past Jake. The Zoom webinar software I use allows for live video interaction between you, me, and Jake, so you can basically get a free "micro-consulting session" out of this if you attend live.Register here: /dev-shop-marketing-briefings/dsmb-outbound-marketing/Hope to see you there,-P