Let me get this straight off the bat: I love inbound marketing. I’m one of inbound marketing’s biggest fans. If inbound marketing were an amusement park, I’d have a season pass. If inbound marketing were a musician, I would make it my lead singer (I’d be on guitar, of course).
But no matter how much I love inbound marketing, or how much I can prove its value, there are definitely some hidden disadvantages and misconceptions that can make you fall out of love if you aren’t ready for them. Translated to professional business speak: while the ROI of inbound marketing is almost universally positive when executed effectively, there are some serious obstacles and downsides that require further examination.
Basically, if you are now or plan to soon adopt an inbound marketing strategy, face these 10 harsh facts before they come up to bite you:
- Results never come right away. Inbound is a strategy that takes time to develop. Nobody can get you results overnight—or even in the first month. It takes months of effort before you start seeing a return, almost invariably.
- Inbound is expensive in the beginning. You’ll have to put lots of time and money into this strategy if you want it to work. Since you won’t be seeing much in the way of results early on, that means inbound is especially expensive at the beginning of your efforts (though it will start paying for itself soon enough).
- Things you thought would work won’t. That brilliant idea you had for a post might end up fizzling—even after all those hours you spent researching it and developing it.
- Things you thought wouldn’t work will. Some random post on a competitor’s site is going to go crazy viral on social media, and you aren’t going to have a damn clue why. Content and social media can be tricky things.
- Inbound can’t fix a branding problem. If you don’t have a consistent brand, or brand voice, or if your brand is at odds with your target market, an inbound marketing strategy can’t fix it (and it’s going to be less effective, too).
- There are rarely single root causes of issues. Let’s say you drop in search ranks mysteriously overnight, or your follower counts decline without warning. Sometimes, you can pick out a single reason for these rare occurrences, but most of the time it will be a combination of hard-to-find factors working together. With no finger to point, all you can do is work on recovering.
- Automation only takes you so far. Automation is a solution for making marketing easier and more cost effective, but it can only take you so far in the inbound world. You need human minds connecting with other humans if you want to be successful.
- Reliable partners are hard to come by. There are too many shoddy writers, cheap agencies, and manipulative hacks roaming around this industry. I like to think I’m one of the “good guys” because I’m very honest with my clients, but even so, it’s hard to find reliable partners you can count on in the content/SEO realm (whether you’re looking for an agency, a freelancer, or an in-house team member).
- Metrics can easily mislead you. You have a high follower count and lots of traffic coming from search engines, but what does that really mean for your business? Are those followers and visitors actual potential customers? Are they buying anything? It’s easy to have your judgment clouded by these metrics, but don’t forget what they actually measure.
- The ROI is hard to measure accurately. Much of the return you see in inbound marketing is intangible—greater brand visibility, a better reputation, greater chances for repeat business, and so on. It’s hard to prove the full value of an inbound campaign beyond just onsite conversions, though conversion increases alone generally yield a positive ROI within a few months.
Inbound marketing may be effective, but it isn’t always fun—take it from a professional inbound marketer. Still, pretty much every marketing strategy has some nasty disadvantages, and for most businesses, inbound is still king when it comes to ROI. If you’re interested in learning some more specifics, drop me a quick line—I’m always open for a conversation.