Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Don't Confuse Inbound Marketing Tools with the Methodology

We've recently moved over to HubSpot at work to handle our marketing automation and assist in our Inbound Marketing efforts.

At ShoreTel, we are big fans of Inbound Marketing and believe that being customer-centric is necessary for success in the modern economy.

I was reading a post about the latest report on the State of Inbound Marketing and one of the comments really stuck with me. It was from someone called "HT" who did not like what he was reading...
HT: Blah, blah, blah. Of course Hubspot is going to create a report singing the praises of "Inbound Marketing" and making claims that "traditional marketing" is dying. Do you think they would make a report claiming the opposite? It's self-serving. Branding, messaging, targeting, promotion, service and the product itself are the drivers. Let's not fool ourselves. Without those, inbound is irrelevant. "Inbound" is but a portion of the overall marketing strategy. It does not succeed on it's own. However, as a part of an overall plan, it has its place in the big-picture. I'll be honest, I am not a fan of landing pages that require me to give you my information before you even tell me what you are offering or why it would matter to me. I'm seeing way too much of that approach lately. And that approach seems to be emphasized by inbound marketers. What you will end up by following such a tactic is a list full of unqualified leads who simply filled out a form, but only because they wanted the info to review first. I would much rather have a list of people who had the information and THEN submitted their information to me, as they would be more likely a lead that would have a better chance of actually converting. In the time that we have transitioned our marketing efforts to a more "inbound" approach it has resulted mainly in unqualified leads who only wanted more info. The rate of sales success has been very low. I could go on and on. Marketing is all encompassing: print, digital, tv, radio, outdoor, sponsorship, events, public relations, social media, etc. You have to both drive customers to you (outbound) and draw them in through inbound means. If they don't know you exist, how will they know what they are looking for? It takes both inbound and outbound strategies to be truly successful in your marketing efforts.
I think more than anything what bothered me about the comment was that HT seemed upset that Inbound is growing in influence and that HubSpot is happy to promote itself and the positive trends towards Inbound.

By the time that I saw the HubSpot post, comments were closed. So, here what I would have liked to have written to HT:

My question is, why wouldn't they? They are a leader in a rapidly growing market.

Just because a positive report on the state of Inbound Marketing benefits HubSpot, that does not make the report untrue. The reality is that customers have changed and Inbound Marketing is the best way to reach them and build profitable relationships.

I'm open to whatever comes after Inbound, but right now it's the best methodology available and until something better comes along, it's where marketers should be focusing and investing their time, resources and energy.

Inbound Marketing is a movement, not a fad. 

Inbound Marketing is not a panacea nor will everyone who tries it be good at it. The same is true of traditional marketers. For every masterpiece such as "here's to the crazy ones" there are thousands of examples of schlock.

I agree with you that too many websites ask for visitor info before telling you about their company or what they do. But then again, that is not really Inbound Marketing because it is not a customer-centric approach. Just because they use some of the tools or  techniques of Inbound Marketing does not mean that they are practicing good Inbound Marketing.

Do not confuse the use of Inbound Marketing tools with actually practicing Inbound Marketing as a discipline.  It's very easy to buy and throw in a tool.  The true value of Inbound Marketing comes from following the process and methodology.  The tools are there to facilitate, enable, and make those processes more efficient. You, as the marketer, still need to decide:
  • Who are your customers and what they are looking for?
  • How to communicate the value that your company and products offer to your customers?
  • What steps and characteristics you and your customer go through in the funnel?
  • Which calls to action, offers and content are most effective?
  • What are the hypotheses that need to be tested?
  • What is the right amount of content to provide, when, where, and how to push the prospect deeper in the funnel?
  • etc...
For your company HT, consider lead scoring or some other process for segmenting your leads so you are only spending time on those most likely to convert. Perhaps you are gating too much content on your website. Perhaps you do not nurture your leads to identify and separate the good ones from the bad.

I hope you find a way to Inbound success.

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