When I first started doing content marketing, Hubspot’s courses and guides were everything.
They appeared to be single-handedly teaching the marketing world to drive search traffic to their site with guides, convert visitors to leads via their newsletter, and nurture these leads over time with courses.
Hubspot coined the term ‘inbound marketing’, and people actually said it.
Naturally, I copied everything they did, and so did everyone else. It worked, too. I got good results, and I still use a lot of these techniques.
But probably a victim of its own success, the Hubspot approach is becoming less popular. When you download an eBook and you’re put on a list, how many of the follow-up emails do you read?
We’re all more conscious - and less tolerant - of being in a sales funnel, so our unsubscribe trigger fingers are twitching more than ever.
To get the same results you did a few years ago, marketers need to produce more, higher-quality content. Most startups can’t keep up with the constant demand for new courses and eBooks, so they either give up or watch the quality of their output decline.
That’s why the past few years have seen frustrated marketers turn from ‘inbound marketing’ to ‘demand generation’. I’m paraphrasing here, but inbound viewed the customer acquisition funnel as a marketing-engineered journey from gathering an email address to becoming a customer, via offers of content and sales conversations.
On the other hand, demand generation sees marketers serve content to prospects where they spend time, with no expectation that they become a lead until they are ready to buy.
On balance, demand generation is closer to the true definition of a funnel. The journey from being unaware of software to buying it only really happens in your customers’ heads. Of course, clicks, page views, and content downloads all show something is happening, but these indicators can’t always be trusted to predict how - or whether - these folk will become customers.
Most marketers know this now, and the ‘demand generation’ label is probably just a way of saying ‘marketing, but not like we were doing it before’.
Unlike the popularity of labels like inbound or demand gen, the underlying principles that make content work will never change. That’s a good thing. It means we can focus on putting the right messages in front of audiences who are prepared to buy your software, instead of worrying about whether to turn our marketing plans inside out.
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Written by me, Alan*
*Everything on this site is! I focus on the full process behind growing software businesses with content. No skim-the-surface strategic recommendations or out-of-context tactical instructions. Only what you need to know.