Businesses today are obsessed with the concept of inbound marketing. In its nascent years, inbound marketing enabled many businesses to quickly reap unprecedented business growth and profit.
But like a black hole imploding under its own weight, the ever-accelerating popularity of inbound marketing will likely lead to its decline or even downfall, sooner rather than later. That will send unprepared businesses scrambling back to the drawing board, searching for ways to refocus on outbound marketing.
Here’s why: the number of websites in the world reached 1 billion in 2013. This year, it’s expected to reach 2 billion, doubling in roughly 2 years. That’s one website for every 3.5 people on the planet. How do you expect that consumers will continue to find your content so easily?
Marketing 101 speaks of the concepts of push marketing versus pull marketing. Pull marketing – also known as sell-through – is generally associated with traditional marketing such as newspaper ads, billboards and TV commercials. These marketing efforts require channels – such as newspapers, outdoor advertisers, and broadcasters – to generate demand, and drive that demand back to sales.
Inbound marketing is little different than traditional pull marketing, simply dressed up in new high-tech distribution channels. Today’s digital content also depends on channels for dissemination. Search engine marketing, social media, and email marketing are merely the web-based successors to print advertising, billboards, and TV and radio ads.
A handful of genius companies that sell inbound marketing solutions have pitched the idea that inbound marketing is something new, something infallible, and replaces all marketing that came before.
The fast rise of inbound marketing was fueled primarily by the advent of search engines. There is a very unique and valuable magic in the ability of delivering exactly the right content, at exactly the right moment.
And the advent of digital has created an ever-broadening spectrum of platforms to reach audiences. This is especially true with the rise of mobile: today virtually everyone on the planet has in their hands or pockets a platform for marketers to reach them, right now.
However, the ever-accelerating avalanche of data will lead to an information meltdown. The amount of data in the world in 2020 is expected to be 50 times greater than in 2010. This is leading to accelerating consumer fatigue, and a growing possibility that consumers will just tune out.
Another factor is the fragmentation of marketing communication channels. There are more than 60 marketing channels today, up from roughly half a dozen only 50 years ago. Marketers will be increasingly challenged to find an effective balance among a baffling array of options.
Many businesses today sell directly, with no intermediary distribution channel. A prospective customer engages directly with a salesperson. For these businesses, their distribution channel is their salesforce.
Thus despite the fanfare around inbound marketing, outbound marketing will become increasingly essential. Even inbound evangelists such as HubSpot have conceded that traditional outbound marketing and sales are still required to generate business.
Conclusion: inbound marketing has seen strong growth in recent years, and will likely continue to play a role in business. But it’s essential to hope for the best, plan for the worst. The most successful companies of tomorrow, will be those that focus on both inbound and outbound today, and find a healthy balance between them.