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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Jun 21, 2016 10 min read

Advertising Is Easy And Inbound Marketing Is Hard

Ads Are Set It And Forget It; Inbound Marketing Requires Constant Care And Feeding, But Inbound Still Fits Today's Buyers Better

Inbound Marketing Is Not An Easy ButtonI was watching TV the other morning and saw the same car dealership commercial that’s been running for the past month or so. The thought occurred to me: “Wow, that’s so much easier than what we do.”

If you think about it, you make the ad and then run it over and over and over again. If it works, you get leads and new customers without any additional work on the part of the agency or the client. Banner ads, PPC, TV ads, radio ads, print ads and outdoor ads all work like this; once it’s set up, you’re done. Advertising is really set it and forget it.

But inbound marketing is the opposite. We have to keep on top of the program every single day. We have to continue to create new content. We have to continue to update website assets. We have to optimize asset performance daily. We have to analyze and report on performance weekly. Since so many levers can be moved, we have to prioritize the options monthly. It’s a lot of complex and highly skilled work.

So, the question has to be, which is better? The easy set-it-and-forget-it advertising, or the more time-consuming and intensive inbound marketing?

Advertising Can Be Hard To Measure And Inbound Is 100% Measurable

If you put up a billboard, run a series of print ads, buy a TV spot or run some banner ads, do you know how many people came to your website, became leads and are now customers? Not usually. There are ways to make traditional advertising more quantitative and trackable, but most advertising remains awareness centric.

On the other hand, almost every single tactic within an inbound marketing campaign is 100% measurable. Emails, social, pay per click, landing pages, content offers, blog articles and other inbound tactics are all set up with defined performance expectations and then tracked to see how well they deliver to our expectations. This allows you to work weekly to optimize performance and stay on top of your tactics until they either perform or get canceled for lack of performance. It's 100% performance-based marketing.

Advertising Can’t Be Changed Mid-Campaign And Inbound Can Be Changed Every Day

Once the creative is done and the campaign is launched, you’re at the mercy of the ads and the media buy. Sure, you can stop the campaign, redo the creative and then re-launch, but that takes time and costs extra money.

Since most inbound is digital, we can change it as often as we want and we usually do make changes over the course of the campaign to improve performance. Almost any element of the campaign, including content titles, landing pages, headlines, website messaging and graphics, can be changed. And as long as the campaigns are set up properly, these elements can be changed as often as we like, and those changes require only minimal time and investments.

The results from this real-time response to actual campaign performance data means your marketing can be much more agile, flexible and dynamic, which means better results in less time.

Advertising Requires You To Rent Your Audience And Inbound Helps You Earn Your Audience

Most advertising requires you to rent your audience. If you buy a print ad, you’re renting the subscriber list. If you attend a trade show, you’re renting the attendee list. If you buy a billboard, you’re renting the attention of the people who drive by. This is fine, but to continue your marketing efforts you have to continue renting the audiences.

Inbound recommends you earn your audience’s attention and then own the list instead of renting it. Once you switch your mindset and start building your own internal list of prospects interested in talking to you, your marketing costs will shift from list acquisition to content creation. This shift means more assets for both marketing and sales to use when attempting to share stories with prospects.

We still suggest clients rent attention from time to time, but instead of it being the focus of 100% of the marketing activities, this becomes about 10% of the marketing and only when it’s a requirement. Clients usually have a big enough internal list or enough visitors to their website to start building their own list almost immediately.

Advertising Is Interruptive And Inbound Is Not

There are a ton of old advertising narratives about the number of times someone needs to see an ad before it sticks. These are so much less relevant today than in the old days when all you had was TV, print and radio to see these ads. This was so much more relevant when there were no DVRs, ad blocker software, satellite radio and smartphones.

The average American is exposed to over 3,000 ads in a single day and we’re blind to them. Plus, these ads are not for all of us. Just because you see an ad doesn’t mean you have any interest in what the ad is pushing. Inbound on the other hand is not about ads, but about being where you need to be when people are actually looking and interested in what you do.

Inbound is about being found on search, it’s about being in the conversation on social, it’s about sharing valuable content with groups of people who could be your prospects and it’s about creating a sales process that is designed to help people, not sell them. Yes, it’s a mind shift, but it’s one that is required in today’s society.

Advertising Requires An Upfront Investment And Inbound Can Be Ramped Up Based On Results

If you want to run an ad campaign, you hire an agency, you pay for the creative and then you buy the media. You’ve invested your entire budget before one single ad has even run. The risk is mammoth. What if the campaign bombs?

Inbound is much more pay as you go and much more dynamic. We’ll run 30-day programs for clients where we establish 30-day goals, a 30-day plan, and then create and deploy the assets required to deliver on those short-term goals. The biggest difference here is that we can see what works and what doesn’t work as well, and then apply that knowledge into the next 30-day plan.

We can start slower with clients, show positive momentum and then increase their budget over time. The more you invest, the better the results, but once we prove the campaign model you can step on the gas as fast or as slow as you’d like or as you can afford. It’s a much more dynamic approach to marketing.

Let me be crystal clear; this article is NOT about how advertising is bad and inbound marketing is good. There are plenty of excellent reasons for businesses to do traditional advertising. If you’re looking for people to be aware of your business and your budget is rich enough to include awareness campaigns, then advertising will serve you well.

But if leads and new customers (real business results) are something that’s important to you, then inbound marketing is going to give you many more opportunities to connect marketing effort with actual results. Even if it takes more work on your part and on the part of your agency, it will be worth it if leads are your objective.

7.5 Ways Inbound Marketing Outperforms Bus Bench AdvertisingStart Today Tip – Start by determining whether you're most interested in generating awareness or leads. This will help you decide if advertising or inbound is what you should be looking at for your company. If you’re looking for a lead-generating machine, you want to make the commitment to do the heavy lifting associated with planning, building and optimizing an inbound marketing program. Next, do you have the resources, people and expertise to run your own inbound campaigns, or do you need some outside expertise from a team that’s been doing this for a variety of clients in a variety of industries? The answer will help you decide your next steps.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.