As my company has grown into a recognized lead generation firm throughout North America and beyond, I’ve noticed an interesting trend: there are a lot of established businesses who make the switch to inbound marketing but treat it like a New Year’s resolution.
That is, they embrace it with bravado for a while, but drift back to their traditional sales and advertising habits once they realize they can’t just set it and forget it. It’s as if they bought into a trend instead of working thoughtfully to improve their company's lead generation processes.
Oddly enough, newer companies don’t usually suffer from the same problem. Once they embrace inbound marketing and discover all it can do for them around growing business and increasing market share through better relationship-building, they realize it’s a no-brainer.
They want a website that generates leads, to spend less time qualifying prospects, and to refrain from the habit of annoying their potential customers through direct selling, pitching or cold calling.
So I need to ask, why is it that the more established marketers have so much of a challenge maintaining inbound strategies, especially when they have the most to gain? What is it about old-school sales tactics and transaction-based interactions that drag them back into the dark?
Based on my observations of the hundreds of companies I’ve worked with over two decades in the marketing business, and perhaps a bit of speculation, I’d like to share these insights…
1. It’s Human Nature to be Attracted to What’s New and Shiny
Anyone who’s done inbound knows there is a lot of work and strategy involved in coordinating multiple messages, assets and campaigns. Inbound marketers put together some incredibly well-coordinated campaigns that deliver amazing results.
If not truly committed, it might seem a whole lot easier to go back to what they knew. Throwing money at ads is certainly easier than planning, coordinating and deploying an integrated campaign – even though siloed results can be significantly weaker and those who respond are more interested in the deal-of-the-day than they are in becoming loyal customers.
2. They Miss the Rapid-Fire Nature of Traditional Marketing
The one good thing I can say about traditional “outbound” marketing is that it often produces results quite quickly. Announce a half price sale and - boom! - the phone rings. They can tell almost immediately whether the message is resonating or not. It’s called “direct response” for a reason.
For businesspeople who are used to seeing rapid-fire results from their campaigns, I can understand why growing business through inbound marketing can be frustrating.
It takes more time to develop a style, cultivate a message, grow an audience, and get buyers to trust you than it does to get them to buy into a discount. Of course, all of that effort pays you back in spades once the new leads are coming in, but you do have to stick with it.
3. They Think that Ads Are Easier to Track Than Content
It would be conservative to estimate that my team and I generate hundreds of pieces of content per year. We publish blogs and guest posts (like this one), add reports, tools and ebooks to our website, share our thoughts on social media, and even send out the occasional email.
That’s to say nothing of the infographics, interviews, and training materials we produce both for ourselves and with clients. That takes a lot of work.
With web-based ads (we aren't going to touch on billboards or print 'impressions' here - not a good measure), you can track percentages and response rates cleanly – often just because it’s done in a silo.
With content, you build audience cumulatively, over time. The longer you go, the better the results. Side note: because content casts a wider net, be sure to use visitor tracking tools on your site to observe and adjust to their history and visit behaviour patterns.
4. Ditching or Launching Ad Campaigns is Simpler
If you want to change the direction of your ad campaigns, it can be as simple as killing a poorly performing ad and running another.
By contrast, Inbound sales funnels are based on well-thought-out prospect personas (some call them avatars) meaning that you do need to know your audience better and actively watch for signs of success or failure so you can make adjustments that improve ROI.
5. Some People Are Wired to Sell
Not every lead is a good lead. That’s a core philosophy within inbound marketing, and one that can save you a ton of time and money. Some businesses have trouble accepting that fact, though. They are naturally predisposed to want to sell to everyone, regardless of whether it makes sense for the prospect or the company, or where the prospect may be in their discovery process.
Are These Good Reasons to Abandon Inbound Marketing?
You’ll notice something common to each of these situations. They are all valid, if all you are looking at marketing in the short term. In other words, they stress what can be accomplished right now, this instant, without regard for what will be better for the company (not to mention the customer) over time.
To put that realization in a different light, marketers get pulled back to outbound, interruptive efforts because the business leaders and sales teams are impatient.
They know on one level or another that they could get bigger and more consistent results by having customers come to them, but they aren’t willing to stick things out until that happens. So, they play with their inbound sales funnels until it isn’t fun anymore, and then go back to what they know.
Sales targets are ‘this month’. Marketing targets are ‘this year’. – Marty Tascona
There’s a reason gyms are packed the first week of January and nearly empty by March.
Fitness isn’t something you do, it’s a new lifestyle you take on. The same thing happens with inbound marketing. It’s not an activity, it’s a new business model.
When you treat it like something to try, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But, when you commit to generating qualified leads online, month after month, you begin a more thoughtful journey that just keeps getting better and better.
If you’re ready to change the course of your company and make marketing easier and more efficient, then you’ll love the opportunities that come with an inbound sales funnel.
If you’re just looking for another gimmick to cross off the list, though, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you slide back to what you think works, or perhaps didn't work so well in the past.