When Inbound Marketing Doesn’t Work

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Last week @agraber retweeted an article Inbound Marketing Deception Uncovered that cites a useful example of when inbound marketing doesn’t work. The general idea is that inbound marketing works for replicative businesses but not as much for innovative businesses early in the adoption lifecycle. Put another way, inbound marketing works if people are online actively searching for and talking about your category of product or service. If the category doesn’t have a name yet, or search/conversation volume is too tiny, you won’t see results using inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is still worth doing in this scenario so as to build up a cache of content and links to be in a strong position when the market grows. For this type of early adopter market, before the chasm has been crossed, the solution is to use outbound marketing including:

  • Online advertising
  • Email marketing
  • Cold calling

Outbound marketing is, and will continue to be, an effective form of marketing, especially for early adopter markets.

What else? What other times does inbound marketing not work?

7 thoughts on “When Inbound Marketing Doesn’t Work

  1. Mostly agree. Inbound marketing is much more effective in categories where there’s some existing demand — either directly or tangential.

    Though outbound marketing certainly can work, it takes a fair amount of capital, and it’s still inefficient. If a startup has the money, it’s certainly a quicker way to get there. But, most startups I know would likely be better off using their limited capital towards inbound marketing. Not just because it works, in the long-term, it also builds good habits.

    It’s a little bit like bootstrapping vs. raising capital. If you have access to capital at reasonable terms — awesome. But not everyone gets to make that choice.

  2. Inbound is reflective of a strong brand and industry leadership. Outbound is a follower position. I am not a believer in outbound, but in creating a brand that customers seek which minimizes reliance on expensive outbound sales expenses. Personally, I hate sales people and organizations that disrupt me, solicit me and just plain ignore me.

  3. I agree that inbound marketing isn’t going to provide a return until buyers are searching for solutions or education.

    I think outbound marketers should take an “inbound marketing” approach by always providing value to prospects when reaching out. Sending industry news, white papers, case studies, etc. can be a great way to build relationships with prospects.

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