I was meeting with a sales professional last week and we were talking about the differences between inbound and outbound marketing. Our conversation wandered into a discussion about how to scale from a from a single craftsman, tradesman or consultant into a salable business model. That’s when it hit me and I realized what the killer feature of inbound marketing really was.
Working as a solopreneur can be a great experience. As the saying goes, you can work 80 hours you want! And therein lies the rub: When you are the business, the business only makes money while you’re working. If your revenue stream is tied to billable hours, there is a built-in limitation to the amount of cash you can generate. Furthermore, there is no external value to the business. Except perhaps for the customer list, the business doesn’t exist without the proprietor’s expertise.
The solution to both of those problems is to “make money while you sleep.” In other words, put a system together that does not rely solely on one person’s billable time. Whether that means creating products that can be sold (e.g. books) or some sort of knowledge library (e.g. online webinars) or hiring and teaching others to perform your service, the goal is to perform an action once and then make money from it repeatedly. This will create a business model that is scalable and salable.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Let’s use that same paradigm to compare outbound marketing and inbound marketing. Here’s a list of traditional outbound marketing methods:
- Advertising: Only effective as long as the advertisements are running, which is to say, “As long as you’re paying for them.” As soon as you stop, the brand awareness may linger but the lead generation stops cold.
- Direct Mail: The benefits of a direct mail campaign only last as long as the materials themselves. Once the last flyer has found its way to the circular file, the lead generation stops.
- Cold Calling: Cold calling can only be effective as long as there’s someone working the phones. Stop the calls, and the lead generation stops.
I’m not arguing that these methods aren’t effective, just that they don’t work unless someone is executing the tasks. Once the effort stops, the benefits die off quickly.
Conversely, inbound marketing keeps on working long after the content is created and the Tweets are sent. The blog post lives on, finding its way into search engines and always collecting traffic. The ebooks and presentations continue to be downloaded and embedded across the Internet. In fact, great content spreads geometrically; one Tweet gets re-Tweeted twice and each of those gets re-Tweeted twice more, and so on. A single Facebook Like is seen by several dozen sets of eyeballs. Your content will continue to work at spreading your ideas and your brand day and night, without any additional effort or expenditure on your part.
And that’s the killer feature of inbound marketing: It keeps working when you’re not.