Although “inbound marketing” isn’t dead, misuse of the term and deceptive claims as to its effectiveness have just about consigned the term to corporate buzzword bingo.
You can see Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss adopting the term to replace “lean thinking” or “Six Sigma” as part an effort to create a new paradigm while thinking outside the box.
Misuse of the term “inbound marketing”
Today, inbound marketing is thrown around to mean far more things than permission-based marketing. It’s become a way to refer to just about any act that isn’t outbound marketing.
Everything from reading TechCrunch (research) to sharing Grumpy Cat meme pics on Facebook and Google+ (social networking) is misbranded these days as permission marketing. The activities may be useful or merely entertaining but they are not inbound marketing.
The term has been corrupted primarily by those who never understood what it means in the first place.
Others misuse it as a means to escape accountability, claiming ephemeral brand-building or other generic positives that are difficult or impossible to measure through hard metrics, such as conversion rates.
Deceptive inbound marketing claims
Although there isn’t a language police to ensure inbound/permission marketing is used correctly, legal risks do arise when self-proclaimed gurus misrepresent the power of inbound marketing to sell related info products or services to businesses.
If someone claims to run a profitable business solely based on inbound marketing, you should be skeptical that you’re at best getting half the story.
Many inbound marketers started with outbound marketing
There are inbound marketing “experts” who actually grew their companies by using outbound marketing tactics, such as cold-calling, direct response mail, and traditional advertising on TV, radio, etc.
In other words, these inbound marketing messiahs actually built their up client bases as outbound marketers. Today, they’re enjoying the fruits of that past labor, consisting of repeat business and referrals from existing clients.
The inbound marketing content you see produced now by these “gurus” was never a critical component of their success as startups.
The failure to disclose this outbound marketing history is arguably a material omission or misrepresentation when selling the virtues of their inbound marketing products and services.
Hidden current outbound marketing
Even more obnoxious are the con artists who proclaim inbound marketing is the only way to attract prospects and clients but secretly use outbound marketing too in their companies. This goes beyond a material omission by treading into the realm of outright fraud.
When someone claims their inbound marketing service or product is all that you need to find qualified prospects that convert to clients, look behind the curtain. More often than not, the solution provider is actually using outbound marketing as well in their operations.
There are many marketing strategies and tactics that may benefit your business – but there isn’t a single one that replaces all others.
Sales puffery is one thing. However, don’t do business with those who misrepresent what they’re trying to sell you.
If you’re selling marketing-related products or services online, you should make sure you’re doing so in a legal and ethical manner. In addition to being the right thing to do, you’ll be reducing your risk of being investigated by the government or sued by unhappy customers. To learn more, schedule a phone consultation with Internet Lawyer Mike Young.