Inbound Marketing: Why Human Minds Are Often The Biggest Barrier To Its Success

The biggest impediment to getting the ROI you’re after from inbound … might actually be you and your brain

Daniel Rosehill
Marketing Communications Digest
5 min readJun 17, 2021


Inbound marketing: what if our own psyches, rather than the content itself, was often to blame when things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like. Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

As a marketing consultant who specializes in helping companies to plan and execute thought leadership campaigns, I deal with a lot of companies who are dipping their toes into the whole world of inbound for the first time — sometimes, indeed, into marketing itself.

I’ve written previously about the differences between thought leadership and content marketing. Not because I’m trying to pick up an (online) megaphone and shout “see, they’re not quite the same thing — didn’t I tell you so!” But rather because I think that understanding the nuances between them is essential to doing both well.


So while I think that understanding those subtleties is indeed vital, I still see everything through the prism of inbound.

In content marketing we might be working on providing value to create the kind of material that is going to pull prospects into our sales funnels. In thought leadership, we’re trying to create and cement a reputation as experts. But if either is done well, we’re hoping to attract people into our funnels rather than disrupting their day. That’s the fundamental objective at work.

Whichever tactic you’re currently rolling with, I think there’s one key attribute that is under-appreciated among inbound marketers including content marketers. That’s the mindset aspect — it’s a long game, which I’ve written about previously (below)— but also the enormous danger that lurks in falling into the pitfalls of despair and giving up too early.

And of leveraging data that you think is reliably (and smart!) but which actually paints a fall picture of the true engagement that you’re receiving from your audience.

Problem 1: Much Engagement Can’t Be Measured

If you’re reading this and working in PR, there’s a good chance that you’re already extremely well-acquainted with the measurement problem that has plagued the industry for decades.

PR is notoriously hard to measure — although that hasn’t stopped many agencies from coming up with all sorts of magic tricks and dubious formulae that attempt to prove positive ROI to clients (when it doesn’t always exist).

But the problem with attempting to measure engagement is that it can necessarily only paint a part of the picture.

A post gets 100 likes and creates excitement. Another one gets only 5 likes but reaches a more important audience who don’t have the time or desire to click the like button. Impression counts are often not exposed to users because if you’re creating content on a platform you don’t own (say LinkedIn) ultimately it’s the provider and not you who gets to decide. You get the idea.

A vital part of the inbound marketing picture is what’s often been described as the silent audience effect. Which is what I’m trying to describe above.

Some of your most ardent fans who are loving the content you’re creating might be totally invisible but a couple of touchpoints away from reaching out to you at any given moment.

Whether they ultimately do so — and perhaps convert to become paying customers — may also depend upon what side of bed they got out of in the morning or any other such arbitrary factor. The problem is that you may have no way of knowing that they exist — much less what those arbitrary factors might be.

Problem 2: Humans Are Impatient By Nature

In light of all the above, the biggest impediment to the execution of a successful content marketing might not be the content that you’re creating — which is where most people start looking to to troubleshoot when something’s not working (which seems logical). In fact, it may not be execution at all.

It may be staring you right in the face. In the mirror.

It’s you. Your mindset. Your brain.

Problem 3: Marketers Tend To Think That Using Any Data Is Smart — And We Tend To Gloss Over Its Reliability Because We All Want To Be Data-Led

And now, the final part of the picture.

It’s your tendency to base A/B testing around simple engagement metrics that don’t reflect the true picture of what your content is achieving for you or for your brand.

Because you’ve heard that data is everything and think that you’re being smart by basing decisions around it. And you — or your clients — may never have stopped for a moment to question whether that data is actually providing a meaningful insight into how your content is being received. Whether it’s signal. Or whether it’s noise.


The biggest impediment to a successful inbound marketing campaign often isn’t the content itself being leveraged.

It’s the mentality of the people leading that effort.

Their tendency to give up on things too early. Their tendency to be impatient. Their tendency to be human. Their tendency to look for data that doesn’t tell the full story but which supports their effort to pull the budgetary plug, prematurely, on the content marketing spend.

Seen like this becoming a successful content marketer is about a lot more than just becoming a good writer, videographer, or podcaster.

It’s about doing so while cultivating the kind of patience and mindset that is needed to stick with it over the long run. Even when, at first, few people are watching — or telling you that they are.

It’s about realizing that when people tell you that they’ve been following you online for months — but you’ve never heard their name — that there’s an important learning there. And it might signal that you should stick with this content thing just a little longer.

Content marketing requires so much more than just creating “content”. It requires a mindset shift.

The vulnerabilities of the human psyche — including our tendency to give up on things that don’t produce immediate results — is often the make or break factor standing between us and success.



Daniel Rosehill
Marketing Communications Digest

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things.