For the past 5 years, inbound marketing has earned it’s fair share of ink.
Every business is told they must sprint to create more content and generate more leads than the next guy. You’re supposed to optimize blogs and web pages for search engines, dedicate time and money to content creation and post on social media more than a 12-year-old with an addiction to the internet.
But is it worth it?
It depends on what determines whether a marketing strategy is “worth it” or not. Do you prefer immediate ROI or future ROI? What about passive lead-generation and overall brand image?
Here’s the thing about Inbound marketing: it will rarely generate immediate results.
That’s fine and dandy for some businesses. But if we’re talking about B2C or ecommerce companies, inbound marketing might not be ideal.
But what about everyone else?
After all, SEO — one of the pillars of inbound marketing — works on a graded bell curve. In other words, for one domain to succeed, another domain (or more like millions of others) must fail.
For every Shopify or HubSpot result, there are millions of results that didn’t make the cut.
Put more simply, there are a lot more businesses failing at SEO than those that are succeeding.
If you’re like many companies that have been told you need a content marketing strategy, but you’re not seeing results, then turning to outbound might be the best thing you can do.
Because outbound marketing offers quick, targeted, one-on-one interaction with the people who are most likely to buy your product.
If you don’t have the energy, time, or bandwidth to commit to inbound marketing, but you’re doing it anyway, this article is for you.
Here are 3 inbound marketing flaws that no one talks about.
1. Inbound marketing is difficult to measure
With outbound marketing, the measurements are obvious. Someone either clicks on your Facebook Ad and becomes a lead who then pays you money, or they don’t. Someone either clicks on your AdWords campaign and becomes a customer, or they don’t.
In most cases, there are ways to measure all of that data automatically.
But with inbound, the metrics aren’t so clear.
And it’s no wonder why. There’s no simple way to measure the effectiveness of most inbound marketing campaigns.
Someone, for example, might see your content online but not buy your product for another six months. Do you contribute that sale to your content marketing? If so, how? Obviously, that six-month-old data is difficult to keep track of and apply to a new sale.
You can measure brand image and brand engagement a bit more easily by counting shares and comments on content. But when that engagement translates to sales, the story is more confusing.
In fact, the top three ways that content marketers measure their success have absolutely nothing to do with sales.
Traffic, social media sharing, and time-on-website could all contribute to sales — so long as the transition from lead to conversion is a smooth one — but it’s also possible they won’t. There’s plenty of businesses with lots of traffic, but few sales; lots of attention, but little money.
There’s also plenty of the opposite. When it comes to businesses that fly under the radar, only their target audience is familiar with their service. And yet, these businesses are winning.
In the end, only the businesses who actually make sales are sustainable. Attention is great, but it’s only as valuable as the conversions it attracts.
If you can’t measure that, you don’t really know if you’re headed in the right direction.
In the world of social media inbound marketing, 60% of small business owners aren’t able to track their ROI.
That’s no surprise. How is any business able to track something so fleeting? People might read your content, and they may even enjoy your content. But it’s not just difficult to attribute sales to that content; it’s nearly impossible.
Not to mention that tracking how much money a company invested in an inbound marketing campaign is equally tricky.
Someone wrote that article or created that video, but how much time did it take them? And how much did you pay them per hour? And how much money did you spend on edits and organic promotion and SEO?
Quickly the “I” becomes just as confusing as the “R.”
And to further illustrate my point, 40% of companies say that proving the ROI of their marketing efforts is a top challenge.
Now that’s not to say that content marketing isn’t effective. After all, traffic, brand engagement, and brand image all contribute to sales.
But how much? And is inbound marketing working for you?
Sadly, if you don’t have the time or bandwidth to answer those questions — which many businesses don’t — then inbound marketing is, at best, a shot in the dark.
2. Inbound marketing takes a long time to start working.
For some companies, inbound marketing has worked wonders.
By optimizing their website and content creation process to rank in search engines, they passively pull in leads every month. Their business seems to survive on well-placed keywords alone.
They live and breathe content creation, and their business thrives.
It’s the dream of every company. Create content, publish it online, and watch the sales role in.
Which is probably why 60% of companies are “extremely” or “very” committed to content marketing.
Sadly, in the world of inbound marketing, only those with deep pockets stand out. Since everyone is doing it, only those who do it best actually land in the top 10 results.
Here’s the reality: inbound marketing works. But only if you have the necessary time and money to pour into it. The companies who’ve risen to SEO heaven and content marketing paradise are the ones who’ve been working at it for a long time.
Only the lucky few create content that gains immediate viral traction overnight. But more often, the hopeful results of every inbound marketing campaign occur over years, not days, weeks, or months.
On average, to land even at the end of the first page of Google, you have to work at updating, maintaining and optimizing your content for about two years. And to get higher than that, you’ll be looking at an investment closer to three or four years.
That’s a great strategy for the established business who are looking to their future success. But for a business that needs customers today, that’s a long time to survive on nothing but lucky crumbs.
Nearly 60% of pages ranking in the top ten results of Google are three years or older, and 20% are at least one year old.
Now you might be thinking to yourself that you’ll be the exception. That you’ll optimize more than most people, and so your website will be ranking faster than you can say, “inbound marketing.”
And that might be true. There are always exceptions to the rule. But keep in mind that there’s a reason it’s called the “exception.” It’s far less common than the rule.
To prove the point, consider that less than 5% of web pages ranking in the top 10 results of Google are less than one year old.
If that doesn’t convince you that ranking on Google takes an extraordinary amount of time and dedication, maybe this visual graph will. It shows that about 94% of indexed pages under a year old do not rank in the top 10 results of Google.
And it’s not just SEO that takes a long time to start generating leads passively. It’s the whole of content marketing.
Content marketing lives and breathes on dedicated audiences. In other words, without an audience, content is worthless.
But building a loyal following takes more time than most businesses can afford to spend — especially in the beginning.
The majority of businesses that are dedicated to content marketing assess their content maturity level as “adolescent.” Only 24% consider it “mature.”
There are a lot of people creating content. But many of them are still trying to figure out what they’re doing. Unfortunately, all that content doesn’t do much good for the business unless it gets results.
And an adolescent content marketing strategy just doesn’t cut it anymore.
3. Inbound can draw an audience, but it can’t close a sale.
At the heart of inbound marketing is the ability to pull in leads through SEO and content marketing. Unlike traditional outbound marketing strategies, such as paid advertising, inbound seeks to attract customers without interrupting them in their daily lives.
With outbound, someone might come to your website through a paid advertisement. With inbound, most people will actively seek out your brand or your services in general.
But there’s a problem.
Only the giants of content marketing have the ability to attract leads passively through SEO. The rest of us have to promote our content with social media platforms, paid advertisements, and influencer marketing.
But once we’ve done that, the marketing is no longer inbound. It’s outbound.
In other words, in most cases, an inbound marketing strategy can’t survive on its own. It at least requires a savvy outbound strategy to complement it.
Shockingly, 73% of B2C businesses were planning to create more content this year than they did last year.
That means that there’s no shortage of blog posts, videos, and infographics in the digital world.
In fact, that clutter should bring some content marketing adopters to snuggle up to outbound strategies instead.
After all, the top priority for companies is to convert leads into customers.
Which is something that inbound marketing is remarkably bad at doing.
Yes, inbound marketing will build an audience over time. But whether that audience buys your product or not is another gambit altogether.
Among content marketers, there’s a general confusion about what success looks like. Does success mean more traffic, more sales, or more leads?
And once we’ve decided, how do we measure that?
A whopping 45% of B2C content marketers rate their strategy as a shy “moderately successful.”
And that moderate success is probably a result of all the inbound clutter online.
In order to cut through that clutter, inbound marketers are turning to outbound strategies to promote their content.
They’re realizing that if they don’t promote their inbound efforts, all of that content goes to waste.
But content marketers aren’t just promoting their content on their own platforms. They’re also paying to promote it.
In other words, marketers are increasingly aware of the reality that every yin needs a yang, and every inbound strategy needs an outbound strategy.
Because, while inbound marketing is exceptional at building an audience, outbound marketing is remarkable at monetizing that audience.
Recently, many have pitted inbound and outbound marketing against each other. One creates an audience organically, and the other makes sales.
But inbound and outbound probably work best together.
The inbound fallacy…
The inbound fallacy is that your business is going to grow when you start creating content. That by using well-placed keywords, proper backlinking, and personable writing, your business will begin to thrive within a few months.
And this whole lie is supported by the influencers who’ve benefited from inbound marketing.
And these influencers aren’t trying to lie. They genuinely believe in the power of inbound marketing.
Because they’ve found success with it.
But here’s the reality: they are among the few who have.
Many more businesses sit on page thirty, fifty, or seven hundred of Google results.
With all of inbound’s benefits, it has some serious drawbacks. Its success is difficult to measure, it takes a long time to pay you back, and though it can draw an audience, it needs outbound marketing to make the sale.
In the end, I recommend using inbound and outbound together as a part of your marketing strategy.
Both will contribute to your success: One in the short run and one in the long run.
But for those of you who need sales now, outbound is a better partner.