I criticized the religion of Inbound Marketing in a previous post.
I complained that marketing folk were swallowing the dogma and failing to recognize the practical limitations of inbound (or content) marketing.
But what I didn’t address are two deeper points:
- Inbound vs outbound is a false distinction
- The inbound vs outbound discussion distracts from a couple of more important (but less sexy) considerations
Inbound Marketing is based on the idea that it is better for an organization to get its prospective customers to initiate the buying conversation than it is for the organization to initiate it.
So, cold calling is bad. But compelling a prospect to submit a form on a landing page and request content is good.
Well, it’s true that cold calling and driving landing page submissions are quite different activities. But it’s not true that they are fundamentally different. After all, in both cases, the organization is initiating the conversation. In the case of the landing page submission, the organization must have done something to compel the prospect to fill in the form. And that something most likely constitutes an advertisement or a promotional email.
So, at root, all marketing is outbound. In fact, if you have a marketing department that has a policy of not initiating conversations with your marketplace, I think it’s fair to say that you don’t actually have a marketing department!
If we turn our attention back to cold calling vs landing page submissions for a minute, I don’t think it’s even possible to argue that one is fundamentally better than the other. (Bear with me here!).
Cold calling is not 100% evil
Cold calling has a bad rap, undeservedly. If you consider the prospect’s perspective, what’s annoying is not that they have been interrupted—it’s that they’ve been interrupted for no good reason. In other words, their issue is with the content of the call, not with the call itself. After all, if prospects didn’t want to receive calls at all, they could simply disconnect their phones.
The good thing about cold calling is that it scales. I mean, the results don’t diminish with scale. They may not improve much, but they don’t diminish! If you sit down and call a list of 100 prospects, the outcomes from calling the last 10 will be roughly the same as the outcomes from the first batch of 10 calls.
Another plus is that you got to choose exactly who you were going to initiate contact with.
Landing-page submissions are not 100% virtuous
Compare this with landing page submissions. In order to get someone to submit a form on a landing page, you need to attract them to the page in the first place, and then you need to bribe them to submit the form with the offer of something appealing.
Advertising is expensive. And the more you do it, the more expensive it becomes. Furthermore, market segments get less responsive, the more frequently you put your ads in front of them. So the consequence of increasing cost and decreasing productivity is that you find yourself under enormous pressure to write the kind of hyperbolic ads that drive lots of submissions. (You’ve heard the term click bait, right?).
Here’s a visual representation of what happens.
In summary, inbound and outbound are not fundamentally different. And, at scale, even the quality distinction between cold calling and landing-page submissions becomes questionable. Continue reading “Marketing: Inbound vs Outbound is a False Alternative” »