I’ve been noticing more and more content about the death of inbound marketing. In the words of the great Austin Millbarge, “We mock what we don't understand.”
What I mean by that is: If you can’t figure out how to do inbound marketing, the next best plan is to say it doesn’t work.
It makes sense. Today, almost anyone who has been paying any attention to anything in marketing is at least aware of inbound marketing.
And anyone practicing marketing for their business knows that there is a real issue with the old-school marketing tactics.It’s not fiction that direct-mail response rates are dropping, trade show attendance is at an all-time low and caller-ID is impacting cold-callers' ability to actually get someone on the phone. Even email open and click-through rates are lower than they’ve been in years.
Faced with this reality, CEOs, business owners and marketing executives have two options. The first is to pretend that today's world isn’t different from when these marketing tactics were first introduced and to continue trying to make them work.
You can upgrade creative on your direct mail. You can hire a new cold-calling company or roll out a new way to incentivize your sales team to make cold calls. You can attend a different set of trade shows or conferences. And you can keep spending money on advertising (online or offline). But the results are going to be similar: modest if you’re lucky, and poor if you're not.
If you pick this option, it makes sense to try and convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing. And knocking inbound marketing might make you feel better. It might help you sleep at night, and it might convince one or two other people that you’re doing the right thing with your marketing. Once you get into this defense mode, it probably also makes sense to dig your heels in and become evangelical about it, blogging and posting about how outbound still works, how inbound marketing is dead, how it's like waiting for the phone to ring.
But there is a second option.
When faced with declining results, you might try to understand why the results are declining and what has changed over the past 10 to 20 years to impact the performance of your marketing efforts. It wouldn’t take long to see that the power has shifted away from the company that had information and leaked it out as needed. In essence, the sales person controlled the purchase process. Today, however, the new buyer behavior has shown us that buyers have almost all of the information they need, and they control the purchase process.
You can engage them while they go through their buyer journey or you can continue trying to interrupt them. If you consider your own experiences with buying goods and services, both personally and professionally, you'd probably agree that no one likes to be sold to, and almost everyone likes to be educated.
This is the power of inbound marketing. It’s built on the premise that marketing should be about educating instead of interrupting, and it embraces the idea that people today are looking for a positive experience with companies, from the first time they connect with them all the way through their time as a customer. Great experiences drive great stories, which drive referrals and major business growth. Mediocre experiences drive even more mediocre stories, which actually inhibit your progress and make growing exponentially more difficult.
If you’re knocking this new type of marketing, you don’t understand what it is and why it works. If you have any experience with inbound marketing, you know firsthand how well it works and how predictable and scalable it is for almost any business.
As a recovering advertiser, one who once spent $85,000 on a print ad in CFO Magazine, I know what we used to do versus what we do today. And I know from a quantitative and qualitative perspective that inbound marketing is the only way to market your company in 2014.
Start Today Tip – You don’t have to look far to see what’s working and what’s not. Ask a marketing director practicing traditional marketing tactics, “How is your program performing?” Better yet, “Does your company have enough leads to hit its revenue goals for the year?” I’m going to bet the answers are, “Not too well," and, "No, we don’t.” You have to pull your head out of the sand and start doing something new.
Just start. Try it. Start a blog. See what happens. What do you have to lose? Follow the simple tips and track it. You will see improvements in organic search results, engagement with subscribers, maybe even leads. Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.
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