Inbound: The Era of Small and Free is Over

October 16, 2014 | Business, SEO, Social Media

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Recently, I spent some of my time at the FutureM / Inbound conference(s) in Boston, MA. The two conferences were run jointly, sharing Key Note speakers and allowing participants to all mingle together.

There were thousands of people deeply involved with marketing, on both the agency or in-house side. As with any good conference, I was introduced to new ideas  and strategies and brushed up on some techniques. I tried to walk away inspired, but honestly, I felt a bit saddened as I realized that the door has slammed close on an era of the free, level playing field in the areas of social media and some forms of content marketing.

The idea behind inbound marketing is one I stand behind 100%. If you have not read the book, I encourage you to do so. (Note: At the conference, the authors announced a new version of their book and I have not read that version, yet). In quick summary, the idea of inbound marketing is that rather than spending money on paid avenues like advertising or traditional marketing, put your efforts into creating content and offers that people will discover on their own. In short: If you create great blog posts or webinars or infographics, people will discover them through search or referrals and learn about you and your business.

I love this idea. I create thoughtful content to promote both Visible Logic and for our clients. I like the idea that helpful, well-written, professionally designed content can attract prospective customers. I like the notion that big businesses cannot just buy their way into everything.

Is the era of free inbound marketing over?Money buys attention

Unfortunately, the dollars have begun to win once again.

Social media giant Facebook is no longer feeding content from pages (ie businesses) into people’s news feeds, even if your customers want it. You have to pay to play either with ads or paying to promote your content.

Even at a conference focused on the idea of inbound marketing, I could clearly see that marketing automation, big data, increasing fees for social media and the over abundance of weak content has put small business owners and startups all back in a situation we thought we left behind with the internet revolution: Fighting the big guys with big budgets.

The content bubble

We’re headed for a shakeout. Not everyone can be a thought leader. Face it, not everyone is thoughtful or wants to be thoughtful. You can teach people that writing a blog sends more traffic to your site, or creating an info graphic gets readers engaged, but when everyone is trying to do this, and few have anything meaningful to say, we’ll end up back with traditional, disruptive marketing techniques.

My hope is that the bubble bursts and those who are really creating great content survive and thrive.

What do you think? Can inbound techniques be effective even with small budgets?

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