Direct Response Copywriter on the Problems with Inbound Marketing

About 4 years ago, the big buzz-phrase in my space was “Inbound Marketing” due, primarily, to the book by Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah, and David Meerman.

As with 99% of marketing books, Inbound Marketing provided nothing really new. The book was mostly an advertisement for HubSpot, the company that Halligan and Shah ran. Perhaps they still run the company. I don’t really care. But the book is really just a repurposing of common marketing knowledge.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing a book that provides information AND promotes you and your services. I actually think it’s a great marketing tactic. But the concept of inbound marketing is flawed.

Here’s the premise of the book…from the Amazon description.

Traditional "outbound" marketing methods like cold-calling, email blasts, advertising, and direct mail are increasingly less effective. People are getting better at blocking these interruptions out using Caller ID, spam protection, TiVo, etc. People are now increasingly turning to Google, social media, and blogs to find products and services. Inbound Marketing helps you take advantage of this change by showing you how to get found by customers online.

From my perspective as a direct response copywriter, I disagree with the premise of the book and the premise of Inbound Marketing.

If you have a restaurant, you have two primary ways to get business.

  1. Wait for people to walk in the door. And deal with anyone and everyone.
  2. Find the people you really want to walk in the door, tell them you want their business, and encourage them to return and spend more.

#1 is 'inbound' and #2 is 'outbound.'

Even with only modest SEO traffic and almost no social media, I get plenty of inbound leads. Many of them are serious marketers with good budgets. I’m not complaining. My website has helped me get great contracts and that’s partly the result of all the work I’ve put into my website.

Let’s go back to the restaurant.

The restaurant never really knows who is going to walk through that door. The diners could be cheap and looking for deals. They might not drink much wine or beer…vital to the financial viability of most restaurants.

But the restaurant could…get this…advertise to the people in more affluent neighborhoods using a direct response campaign starting with a list of people who make globs of cash.

These people would spend more. They would buy steaks instead of hamburgers and order bottles of wine instead of ‘water with lemon.’ A $20 ticket becomes a $65 ticket.

The major problem with inbound marketing: the people you really want to do business with will likely miss you. They’re not always looking for new vendors. Plus there's an insane reliance on social media.

Marketing tactics are complex but strategy is really pretty simple.

  1. Define financial goals.
  2. Find the clients and customers who will help you reach those goals and who value what you provide.
  3. Pound away at those potential clients and customers.
  4. Keep those people happy and keep them coming back for more.

Generally, my worst experiences in direct response copywriting have come from inbound marketing and from responding to online ads for copywriters.

When you have identified the ideal clients and customers, a direct response copywriter can help you get them in the door…and keep them happy.

Yes...inbound marketing is a good concept and it can help but the best results often come from outbound, even though it's not fashionable.


I'm a direct response copywriter. I specialize in providing direct response copy for the direct marketing environment for clients around the planet. I specialize in sales page copy, landing page copy and copy that persuades readers to pull out their credit card and buy. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here if you have a project you'd like me to quote.

I'm also a Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers.

Disclaimer for the above.

The Dan Kennedy Copywriter for Info-Marketers Certification is awarded to professional copywriters who have successfully completed a course of study of preparation for such copywriting.  This Certification has not been provided by an accredited education institution.  It does not constitute endorsement of or liability for any individual copywriter by Mr. Kennedy or any companies or organizations affiliated with Mr. Kennedy. The client's relationship is solely with the individual copywriter retained via any agreement.