Inbound marketing is widely regarded as one of the most effective forms of marketing. The term first emerged as a buzzword in the midst of the online marketing frenzy, as marketers started to realize fully the value of the digital world in attracting leads, nurturing prospects, and even generating conversions without the hard-core sales methodologies of the past.
While some may believe that inbound marketing is just another one of those passing Internet fads, it's anything but. The concepts, methods, and best practices that comprise the core of inbound marketing aren't going anywhere as long as there's a need for marketers to reach prospects and buyers at critical junctions and touch points throughout the buying journey to influence decision making.
Consider the fact that consumers are increasingly tuning out traditional advertisements and the importance of inbound marketing--in which marketers engage consumers with relevant, intriguing information that educates or entertains, earning their interest instead of buying it--and the importance of inbound marketing becomes pretty clear. In fact, 84% of 25- to 34-year-olds bounce from websites when they encounter an intrusive or irrelevant advertisement, and 86% of people skip over television ads, according to an infographic by Voltier Digital.
Despite the growing importance of inbound marketing, there continue to be myths permeating the industry about what inbound marketing is, its effectiveness, and how it works. Let's examine three of the most prominent myths about inbound marketing.
1. Inbound marketing is free.
While it's true that inbound marketing can be more affordable than outbound marketing, it's not entirely free. You won't be paying for advertisements, but you'll still need to pay professionals to produce top-quality content, manage your social media presence, organize and host webinars, design compelling infographics, research white papers, and the like.
You'll also need to invest in tools such as inbound marketing automation software, CRM systems, and other tools of the trade that increase marketing productivity. In fact, Raka points out that "companies that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451 percent increase in qualified leads," and companies that automate lead management processes "see a 10 percent or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months."
"Yes, there's an investment required to do inbound marketing. But if done well, brands will see a return on that investment that can last for a long time. Unlike outbound marketing, where a paid advertisement lives only for a short period of time, inbound marketing has a longer shelf life. It's an investment that provides much higher returns over the long term," said Navin Nagiah, President and CEO of DNN Software. Inbound marketing is a complex function that encompasses multiple marketing channels and strategies, from SEO to content marketing, social media, and more; arming yourself with the talent and tools to get the job done is half the battle.
2. Quantity trumps quality.
In the early days of SEO, it was possible to produce an abundance of (let's be honest--crappy) articles stuffed with target keywords and rank for your desired terms in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Those days are long gone, yet the notion that quantity is more critical to success than quality still permeates the inbound marketing industry.
Of course, inbound marketing is more than just content marketing, and it's more than just SEO. (According to the Content Marketing Institute's 2016 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends--North America report, B2B marketers are using an average of 13 different content marketing tactics--and that's just content marketing alone.)
But the belief that the best way to realize inbound marketing success is to do simply "more" of it couldn't be further from the truth.
Today's consumers are savvy. It doesn't matter whether your business is B2B or B2C; your audience knows when you're putting out poor-quality content or posting updates on social media for the sake of creating "more." Your audience wants quality; they want something valuable that engages, educates, and entertains--something that's so good that it compels them to share or hand over their email address just to get the rest.
It's like the, "If you build it, they will come," mentality common in the early days of the web. You simply can't skimp on quality in inbound marketing; you have to bring your audience to you and to do that you must stand out from the hundreds of other companies attempting to engage the same target market. Whether you're designing graphics, creating slide decks, or writing industry reports, cutting corners is the surest way to alienate your audience.
3. You can't measure the ROI of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is one alternative to the traditional outbound advertising methods such as billboards or radio advertising. Interestingly, one of the common beliefs about inbound marketing is that it's not measurable, yet it's really radio, billboards, and similar traditional advertising methods that make proving ROI a challenge.
In the early days of digital marketing, we didn't have the advantage of Big Data, but today practically any action you take online is measurable. Thanks to tools like Google Analytics, you can determine how many visitors arrived on your landing page and then converted to leads or paying customers. You can determine how many attendees participated in a webinar, how many users engaged with a Twitter chat, how many Facebook users watched a video, and even how many recipients clicked on a particular link in an email marketing message.
Everything is measurable, and that means ROI is easy to prove although the factors that one business uses to determine ROI may differ from the equation relied on by another. That's why it's critical to determine your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) before launching a campaign and identify the metrics used to evaluate performance.
Inbound marketing isn't free, but it can be incredibly effective for both B2B and B2C companies. However, if you're prioritizing quantity over quality or you're not measuring ROI, you're doing it wrong. Focusing on quality coupled with clearly defined goals and performance metrics, along with the tools to measure results, is the surest path to inbound marketing success.