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I’ve been reading a lot about “inbound marketing” these days.

You’ve heard the term too, I’m sure.  It’s been embraced by social media practitioners who like to call it a new approach to marketing.

Inbound marketing, they say, is an indirect form of marketing in which your prospects take the action of contacting you about your product or service.

Outbound marketing is a more direct form of marketing in which your sales people take the action of reaching out to find new business.

I see this all very differently.

I believe all marketing has both – (1) an outbound marketing investment of time or money, and (2) a measureable inbound response of visitors, leads and orders.

Direct mail costs money to reach your prospects.  Social media costs time to reach your prospects.

Direct mail generates response via multiple response channels.  Social media generates response via multiple response channels (although most via links).

I would agree that having prospects contact you for business is highly preferable than having to go out and find business.   We all want this.

But there is nothing new about it.  Consultants and other executives have long used public speaking and article writing to build their name recognition and reputation.  Their belief was that if you can become recognized as an expert, business will come to you.

It’s a good strategy – one that puts you in a position of strength when prospects call you.

But this strategy isn’t free.  It takes a lot of time to prepare presentations, find speaking opportunities and doing presentations.  Article writing also takes time to write and then find publishing opportunities.

Clearly, one of the most appealing elements of social media, blogging and SEO is that they are free.  Or they seem to be.  There’s no money involved but I dare someone to add up the time and attach a dollar value to it.

I give credit to the social media folks for coming up with this differentiating strategy.  It’s pretty clever, but I don’t buy it.

Marketing can be measured very simply when you calculate your  response total against your marketing investment.   Don’t ignore the marketing investment of time.