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3 Reasons “Inbound Marketing” Needs to Go Away

let's kill inbound marketing
Summary: Inbound Marketing is a branded term used to make B2B selling of CRMs easier. Except it doesn’t. Because it confuses key influencers and decision makers by conflating SEO, UX strategy, social marketing, and lead nurturing. The term inbound marketing needs to go away for good. Use content marketing instead. You’ll thank me later.

We’ve Got Inbound (Marketing)

I’m sure you’ve heard it, and you may have even had serious FOMO. That hot martech approach that will help you grow your business a bazillion-fold, make your marketing team instant geniuses, and maybe even butter your toast? I’m talking about Inbound Marketing, of course. Except that it’s just a repackaging of the conversion optimization part of any good content marketing plan. And every business owner should go into it with a clear understanding of the pros and cons of investing in so-called inbound marketing.

Here are 3 key warning signs that should make you run away screaming if someone is pitching you an inbound marketing plan.

  1. They want to put your blog on a subdomain. For example: blog.yourdomain.com. This is bad because search engines see that subdomain as completely separate from your primary domain. So, any SEO love you earn on the blog by producing great content, earning solid backlinks, etc. only earns it for the subdomain.
  2. The want to dynamically generate the URLs for your blog posts. This is great for tracking & lead nurturing (even if it’s clunky and lends itself to bad UX). It’s terrible for SEO. There are more than two dozen factors that should go into it and  any good SEO agency will tell you the URL is just part of that. But it’s part of it. And you don’t need dynamically generated URLs to personalize anyone’s experience. You need a solid backend. What happens when your SERP rankings take a nosedive and you no longer rank for your target keywords? No more people to consume your content.
  3. They are pitching you an inbound marketing plan. The end. Seriously. If they’re pitching you lead nurturing, cool. Funnel optimization, cool. But if they’re focusing on their proprietary system to capture and convert leads by automating that outreach process to the detriment of generating those social fans, site visitors, and form fills in the first place? Nah.

Here are 3 good things about inbound marketing content marketing and lead nurturing.

  1. Defining personas. Understanding the daily trials and triumphs of your target audiences is always a good thing. Where most personas fall short, though, is on the empathy building. Don’t just list demographic and psychographic line items. At Cement, we use a technique we call Storyselling. You take all the research and use it to write a short narrative from each persona’s point of view. This helps lock in their voice and is easier to create the empathic understanding needed to develop great strategies and killer creative.
  2. Creating purposeful content. Don’t just blog to blog. Don’t just post to social because you feel like you have to. Now that you understand your target audiences better (thank you, Personas), you have a better idea of their daily trials & triumphs, what motivates them, what they’re curious about. And you can create content that celebrates the triumphs, avoid the trials, and is genuinely helpful.
  3. Establishing a conversion funnel and measurable goals. Content marketing is absolutely worthless if you’re not always trying to identify prospects, help them self-select, and move through the marketing & sales funnel. All too often, we’ve seen folks producing great content, but then they don’t have back end measurement set up, such as goal tracking. (We fix that, of course)

Let’s try an analogy

The idea that if I just buy in to this special—proprietary—system, leads will suddenly start falling into my lap like ripe apples from a tree in a late September orchard sounds amazing. Except that it’s a walled garden, and it ignores almost everything before the harvest. To wrap things up, let’s go with this analogy for a sec. Consider what it takes to get to a healthy apple orchard with delicious apples, ripe and ready to pick in the fall. Years. It takes years of hard work, persistence, patience, and making wise investment decisions. First, you decide on a location: soil, climate, ease of access to transportation, to name just a few things. Then, you have to invest in the land. And the seeds/saplings. And the labor to water, prune, and care for the trees as they grow. The outreach needed to spread the word to the public—both consumers and wholesalers/retailers/restaurants—about your amazing apple orchard. It’s only once you’ve done all of those things that you need a way to harvest the apples. “Inbound marketing” only deals with the watering and picking of the apples. It completely ignores everything that comes before—and after—that. To mix metaphors, it puts the cart before the horse.

Content Marketing for the win

Lead nurturing is great. Conversion optimization is awesome. But repackaging them as “inbound marketing” and pretending it’s a magic bullet ignores the rest of what every business needs as part of a solid content marketing plan: SEO, social marketing, and solid web design & dev. You have to generate leads in order to nurture them.