Inbound Marketing and Laser Printers: “We Mean No Harm!”. Too late.

Inbound Marketing is a great concept with a fatal flaw.

Inbound Marketing, like other technology developments, often promises the prospect of something meaningful. Inevitably, things go horribly wrong.

Cheap Printing

When affordable desktop printers were first developed, there was a notion that people were able to print great looking documents. In practice, what has happened, is that this has not resulted in a higher standard of thinking or presentation in printed material. The ease of printing means that people often print multiple copies of a document, print things for the sake of it, print crap. Looking around the office I sit in now, there is evidence that several perfectly decent trees have been sacrificed to print stuff that has no value, will never be read, will likely sit on a desk until one day it gets thrown away.

The very thing that made desktop printing an attractive proposition: affordable, quality printed documents, is the thing that has led to its value being discounted to almost nothing.

Inbound Marketing

The principle of generating content that enables potential customers to seek you out promises the prospect of lower advertising budgets, annoying prospects less, establishing your organisation as a leading authority on something – recycled tyres, artisanal chocolate, brain surgery, snack foods etc.

The initial premise of Inbound Marketing companies (the term was first coined by Hubspot I think), was that Inbound Marketing allowed marketing to be less annoying and better value than before. Technology made it relatively trivial to distribute great content widely.

The Big Problem

Technology also enables really crappy content, (really crappy content), to proliferate. The Internet had enough crap in it already. My inbox, and probably yours, has enough unsolicited, value free, ‘information’ clogging it up already. Quite simply, marketing automation software has made it too easy for people to generate content. They then have to distribute it (often using paid advertising techniques that sort of defeat the whole point in the first place).

Now because everyone is doing it, the cost of doing it can easily approach or exceed the cost of more traditional (less invasive) techniques. Like Adwords, SEO, Facebook advertising and all sorts of other AdTech related breakthroughs, early adopters can achieve big gains fast but the world catches up fast. Very rapidly, the benefits of using these ideas to secure a significant competitive advantage are over. The AdTech industry gains as more people pile in spending more money in areas where the benefits diminish rapidly.

The Inbound Marketing juggernaught is too easy for idiot marketeers to drive. 

Inbound Marketing did not set out to be this way.

Like Withnail, it meant no harm. (Contains very strong language).

That doesn’t mean it will end well.


I vaguely considered setting up a tumbler of egregious inbound marketing material I had received and ask people to contribute. Googling “terrible inbound marketing” for some examples. The problem that Inbound Marketing is creating is well illustrated.

  • Not a single one of the results for, “terrible inbound marketing”, give me any examples of “terrible inbound marketing.
  • EVERY SINGLE RESULT on the first page of Google led to a Hubspot web page with tips and tricks to improve your Inbound Marketing campaigns and success.

(Note, this is NOT an anti-Hubspot point even if they did invent the term. They are simply the best company in the sector. There are plenty of other examples.)

Christmas Appeal

Marketers: have some standards. Stop sending out all the crap. You know it’s nonsense so why do it?

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