Inbound Marketing: Retards Growth and Turns Marketing Folks into Zombies

I’m getting tired of battling marketing departments over their irrational devotion to Inbound (and Content) Marketing.

It seems that marketing folks can’t help but fall violently in love with these concepts, rendering them useless to the rest of the organization.

Here’s my beef.

I know, from personal experience, that the content marketing thing works, in certain environments. (And, I’m enormously grateful that my business happens to be one of those environments.)

But, I also know from experience with our clients that content marketing does not work at scale in most environments.

I heard a presentation from a marketing person the other day who was supposed to be generating sales opportunities to feed a team of five inside salespeople. He was excited to report that his content marketing efforts had resulted in him generating 65 high-scoring sales opportunities from a list of 11,000 email addresses.

Here’s the problem. Those 5 inside salespeople consume 12 opportunities, on average, each day.

So, if our content-marketing buddy wants to feed those five salespeople, he needs to repeat this feat every day. And if, to avoid email fatigue, he decides to mail his list only weekly, he needs to rapidly increase his house list from 11,000 to 55,000 contacts.

Now, you could argue that the fault here is with sales for building a team that’s larger than the opportunity flow. But, here’s the thing. This organization knows that there are hundreds of selling conversations occurring every day in its marketplace. Problem is, those conversations are occurring between potential customers and their competitors’ salespeople.

This organization simply cannot afford to wait for marketing to slowly scale up their opportunity-generation efforts, hamstrung by their ideological devotion to Inbound Marketing.

Where Inbound Marketing is concerned, the problem this organization has is, like most other organizations, it does not have a massive point of difference and it’s products are not high-involvement for their customers.

So the notion of building a ‘thought-leadership platform’ or whatever the content-marketing folks call it, is untenable.

To return to our story.

I pointed out to the marketing guy that his model could not scale and had to be revised if he we were to keep the inside sales team fully loaded with opportunities. I explained how we could devise offers that were targeted to micro-segments and then compile lists, send pre-approach campaigns and push opportunities (at scale) to inside salespeople’s opportunity queues.

He reacted as if I’d suggested he sell his soul to the devil. It was clear to the rest of the organization that he could not get behind this idea. It was also clear to the rest of the organization that it made no sense to retard the firm’s growth out of deference to this marketing ideology de jour.

Ironically, the whole notion of inbound marketing is a distinction without much of a difference. The idea of prospects following a breadcrumb trail to your door is an alluring one. But the fact is that, at some point, the marketer has to alert them to the existence of that trail. Like it or not, there must be some kind of disturbance to the natural order (or interruption, as they call it) or those breadcrumbs will go unnoticed.

I think it’s time that people started questioning this ideology. It’s not as generally applicable nor as scalable as the software vendors who perpetuate it would have us think (sorry, Hubspot).

And, in my experience, the all too common mindless devotion to this ideology is retarding the growth of organizations and turning marketing people into zombies: out of touch and of limited use for the rest of their organizations.

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