The Ugly Truth About Inbound Marketing

2015-11-19-1447964799-8132684-StevenPicanza.pngSteven Picanza, Founder of Latin & Code, is an entrepreneur and brand strategist with a core purpose centered around connecting people, products and organizations with their core audience. With 10+ years experience, it's his "glass half full" type attitude coupled with his sheer candor and entrepreneurial spirit that drives him to bring authenticity back into the industry, serve as a catalyst for progress and inspire the next generation to do the same. Follow him at @Picanza.

The state of marketing has changed, thankfully for the better. I recently was able to enjoy a truly awe-inspiring Inbound 2015 conference, which is HubSpot's version of rallying their troops and making loyal fans out of users. I can't help but believe that while the conference was a total sales tool for HubSpot, they have managed to spark change in the way marketers act, think and produce marketing campaigns. And in my opinion, not a moment too soon.

Overall, the conference was filled with the celebrity keynote speeches and open bar shenanigans you would expect from an industry event that combines marketing and technology. Old friends and new relationships mix and mingled in what was dubbed "Club Inbound," a large room consisting of startups showcasing their brands' latest innovation. Below are my takeaways from the summer weekend in Boston.

The Truth: Inbound Marketing Moves the Needle 

For most brands, a marketing budget is just that: a budget. Inbound marketing on the other hand strategically places your brand in front of its most important customers at the right time in the buying cycle.

This is imperative in today's modern marketplace as brands of all sizes are fighting for customer dollars. No longer are advertisers and brands just throwing money at out-of-home or TV ads, hoping for a return. They are being smart with their media spend. They know that it isn't advertising that brings new customers through the door -- it's building a mutually-beneficial relationship.

The Lie: Anyone Can Succeed if They "Buy" Into Inbound Marketing

Nothing replaces a well thought-out business plan with a quality and innovative product and/or service. There must also be a well-crafted brand that truly understands their market, audience and position within the market. Often, marketing initiatives fail because the brand isn't aligned.

This begins with company's brand strategy. Are their core beliefs aligned with their day-to-day practices? Does the brand know who their customers are and what they want? How to message to them? Sure, inbound marketing can be successful if you don't have a brand strategy, but that's as good as driving a car with a broken gas gauge and a mirror giving you a wrong reflection. It isn't recommended and it probably won't last very long.

The Lie: All Inbound Traffic Is Good Inbound Traffic

Having an inbound program is great, but there are many nuances to ensure the success of the campaign. From having the right brand strategy to understanding your personas and audience, the ultimate success of the program doesn't depend on the content (although great content helps). Rather, it's in the hands of the strategist who is able to make course corrections and change the strategy to ensure maximum effectiveness.

While there is no such thing as bad PR, you could be causing your brand to lose equity should you have a strategy that isn't right for your customers and doesn't align with your ultimate goals. You should operate this strategy in short iterations instead of the traditional longer cycles. Brands don't have time to waste on poor inbound tactics, so ensure your strategists have the brand's goals clearly defined and articulated.

The Truth: Get On Board ASAP 

Inbound marketing is the new marketing. Brands: embrace the change. Agencies: learn to become effective and passionate about content.

A version of this post originally published on Advertising Week.