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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistMon, Jun 3, 2013 7 min read

No One Ever Promised Inbound Marketing Was A Panacea

The Truth about Inbound MarketingI have written a number of blog posts that speak directly to the search for "the marketing silver bullet." The other day, I found this article, authored by the noted sales specialist Geoffrey James. The article was titled, Inbound Marketing Is No Panacea. Click here if you want to check it out.

What is most interesting about the article is that no one ever claimed that inbound marketing is anything other than a much improved approach to connecting with prospects and earning their attention instead of either buying it or trying to get it by interrupting them.

Mr. James made a number of uninformed comments that, as an inbound marketing evangelist, I felt obliged to address. Primarily so that Mr. James is more informed going forward. To Mr. James' credit, he references a quote he found online and this quote holds some inaccuracies too.

Let me see if I can help clear up some of the uncertainty and misinformation.

Here is the quote: "Inbound marketing has placed the power in the client's hands. Prospects are equipped to collect qualifying information from social media influencers, search engines, videos, website content and blog posts in order to make an educated decision. There is no longer a need for a cold-calling salesperson, you need a closer."

Mr. James' first issue was with the comment around the power being put into the client’s hands. He is arguing that the power has always been in the client’s hands. I agree completely. After all, it’s the client who makes the purchase decision. However, there are a number of studies that show people are using the internet and social media to educate themselves BEFORE engaging with a traditional sales rep.

The nuance to this point is NOT that the power has moved completely from the sales person to the client, but that it has shifted. If prospects are more educated earlier in the process, then the sales person has to adapt to that change and marketing has to contribute to the prospect’s desire to be educated earlier. This is where inbound marketing shines. Understanding what your prospects want to know, and delivering this to them, makes your business stand out vs. others who continue to rely on sales to educate prospects.  

His next issue is with the content inbound marketing people are publishing. He states that this information is actually promotional in nature and not educational. He states,While prospects CAN get information from social media, most of it is so biased that it misinforms rather than informs.” He goes on to comment, “...most social media influencers are trying to sell something, usually their own consulting services.” In reality, good inbound marketers are actually trying to “earn” a prospect’s trust and attention. We aren’t trying to “sell” them anything. Successful inbound marketing firms know that there isn’t anything they can do or say to get a prospect interested, but that if they make an effort the help, advise and counsel a prospect they are more likely to consider their firm when it’s time to make a purchase decision.

Of course, there are just as many people practicing inbound marketing poorly as there are firms practicing other approaches poorly. I am sure there are many inbound marketing programs that are executed in a way where it might appear they are trying to sell their services. When inbound marketing is done right, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Last but not least, Mr. James discusses the continued need for a cold-calling sales person. He states, “Contrary to popular belief, every first-time conversation with a customer is a cold call, even if the customer picks up the phone and calls YOU.”

This actually sounds ridiculous to me and I leave it to you to decide. How do you feel when you get a cold-call in your office? Do you drop what you're doing and spend 20 minutes on the phone chatting? Do you sit there, trying to figure out how to politely tell them “no,” or are you just annoyed that you were interrupted? If you are being honest, the answer is that you can’t wait to get off the phone and back to work.

On the other hand, if you wanted to speak with a representative because you researched the firm, were interested in what they did and how they could help your firm before you picked up the phone to call them—how could this possibly be considered a cold-call? This isn’t a cold-call, it’s the first step in continuing an experience for your prospect that started when they visited your website for the first time. This is inbound marketing at its best. When prospects call you, instead of you calling them—you know your inbound marketing is working perfectly.

If anyone wants to see what it’s like to have a professional services firm that gets 200 inbound leads a month, let me know. I would be happy to share our inbound marketing program with you. HINT: We don’t make any cold calls.

Start Today Tip - There are a lot of misconceptions about inbound marketing. If you’re not sure about the plusses and minuses, check with an inbound marketing agency or inbound marketing consultant who has a proven track record of delivering results for clients over an extended period of time. The good ones won't try to convince you or sell you. They will try to educate you so you are better prepared to make a good decision for you and your business—this approach is at the heart of inbound marketing.


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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.