I’ve seen a few articles pop up in Google Alerts lately, prophesizing the end of inbound marketing.
The most recent one, published by Tobin Lehman on Business 2 Community, describes The Slow Death of Inbound due to a saturated digital space and disdain for media among consumers.
Although I haven’t seen any evidence that suspicion of “fake news” is impacting our work, I think we all can agree the glut of content out there is creating a challenge for the marketing community.
Lehman, along and other marketers out there, point to paid traffic as a big part of the solution. They think if you can’t get in front of people through organic channels, you’ll just have to buy your way there.
I’m not against paid promotion, but doing more of the same -- and spending a lot more money doing it -- seems like an expensive mistake.
Marketers love to bemoan the loss of organic reach.
They’ve been complaining about it for years, and I guess they’ll continue for many more. Content saturation is a challenge – believe me, we are feeling it too – but these predictions of paid promotion as the answer just don’t seem realistic to me.
Paid traffic can be very helpful in moderation, especially if you are trying to maneuver in a saturated market. But let’s be clear – ads will not make your brand a success. Those days are long gone.
If marketers start buying reach for every important piece of content they make, two things are going to happen:
This trend is already happening on Facebook, and it is not sustainable.
Consumers have told us loud and clear they have no interest in ads whatsoever. And what is the response from the marketing community? Let’s show them MORE ADS! This just doesn’t make sense.
The real problem is marketers are living the definition of insanity: They are doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.
When HubSpot got started years ago, they created a movement out of inbound by pouring resources into the greatest professional learning platform for marketers ever created – the HubSpot Academy. These certifications cover all aspects of digital marketing in amazing detail – from blogging, to email, to social media, and website development.
These tutorials have taught millions of people everything about best practices. The result? They are all doing the same things to succeed...over and over and over again.
Most people, especially agencies, treat inbound methodology like a prescription that cures all ailments:
“Is your business sick from a lack of leads and sales? Write four to eight blog posts a week, record a couple videos a month, and push them out through email and social media. Call me in six months.”
This is basically what marketers are doing, and now, as an industry, we’ve reached a predictable impasse where we are struggling to achieve the results we want.
I’m not saying blogging and social media don’t help generate business. They absolutely do, but if marketers are pinning their hopes on SEO dominance and social media virality, they are in for a world of hurt. The internet is simply too big to accommodate us all.
If B2B companies want real growth, they have to prioritize the customer experience in their marketing. That means we have to make buyers want to do the selling for us. Let’s talk about what that looks like.
Trust is the most precious resource in business today because it’s so hard to earn.
Buyers are more skeptical than ever of advertising and branded content. When they are looking for a solution, they turn to their colleagues for referrals. Not Google. The Buyer Persona Institute has done thousands of interviews with buyers across dozens of industries, and they told us people rarely name Google as the place where they found the vendor they chose.
That is disheartening news for marketers who believe their business lives and dies by SEO performance, but if you think about it – this knowledge can be empowering as well.
Dominating organic search results is nearly impossible for all but the most entrenched brands out there, unless the service category is very niche. User-generated content, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on the whims of Google’s algorithm. You don’t have to worry about Facebook’s ad costs. All you need is a strong network of supporters who spend time on social media or write reviews.
For example, we have a client that makes high quality nutritional supplements for integrative health practitioners. Our team helps them create blog content by interviewing their customers, capturing real stories from people on the front lines of patient care. This approach accomplishes several goals:
Like my friend and Expert LinkedIn Marketer Chris Williams says, the key to success today is not selling to your own connections. Instead, we should focus on building a network of people who would refer you to anyone.
Inbound is not going away. What needs to change is our understanding of how to apply these principles in today’s business environment. We need to stop thinking of marketing in terms of tactics, and start thinking more about the people we want to connect with.
Do they want more ad-driven content crammed in their faces every day? Or can we serve them better by giving them a voice and a say in we do?
We have a culture problem in the workplace today, and it's causing us to miss great opportunities.