Inbound Marketing: Are You Trying To Push a Rope Across the Street?


describe the imageA businessman stood and watched a man with a long rope in front of his office one day. The man with the rope would wait for the light to change and then grasp his rope tightly and pull it across the street behind him. He’d wait a few minutes and then—when the light changed again, he’d grip his rope and drag it back across the street. Then he’d start all over again.

After watching the rope man do this a few times, the businessman finally walked over while the rope man was waiting for the light to change. With a puzzled look on his face, he asked him, “Why do you keep pulling that rope across the street?”  The rope man gave the businessman a quizzical look and replied, “Have you ever tried to push a rope across the street?”

That may sound like just a silly story, but when it comes to marketing in today’s business world, it’s certainly no joke. The way business is done today—particularly with regard to marketing—has changed dramatically. Most businesses recognize that marketing tools have changed. Unfortunately, they’re trying to use new marketing tools such as social media in the same old way. And that’s like trying to push a rope across the street. It just doesn’t work.

It’s not just the tools that have changed. Business has changed and that means the way companies think about marketing has to change. Marketing used to be a “pushing” operation. Businesses had something to sell and they pushed the information about their products or services out to the public and told them why they should buy those things.

Today, however, customers have the ability to turn off that kind of “pushy” messaging. They hit the mute button on their TV remotes (or they record the shows they want and skip over the commercials). They stream the music they want. They have caller ID and have their names on “Do Not Call” lists. They have spam filters for email. They are in control of what information they receive—and how and when they’re going to receive it.

Guess what? Response rates for conventional marketing methods are down. And yet, some businesses still try to push that rope across the street. They may be trying new tools, but their blogs, their emails, and their Facebook posts still have the same approach: “Here’s what we think is good for you and here’s why we think you should buy it.”

Inbound marketing is about a lot more than deploying the latest shiny new app or social media tool. It’s about re-thinking the way we approach our customers. It’s about recognizing how—and where—customers seek out information and make purchasing decisions. And it’s about shaping the information we provide customers so that they get what they want.

Does that mean you have to abandon all of your “traditional” marketing activities? No. But you do have to recognize that the way your customers access information has changed—and that their expectations of the information they receive have changed as well.  For a more detailed look at that dynamic, download our free report, Inbound Outbound Marketing: Battle Royale to see why a combination of inbound and outbound marketing approaches can increase your effectiveness.  It beats trying to push a rope across the street!