Inbound marketing is a dangerous concept. There. I’ve said it.

Combining pie in the sky, fantasy, delusion, and something like reckless lunacy, it panders to the misbegotten fantasies of every organization that thinks SEO and social media are latter-day substitutes for fundamental brand establishment, outbound communication, personal contact, and relentless hustle. They aren’t.

Communication channels may have changed. The world — and human nature — have not.

Nothing happens without an established brand presence. No one will find it if they don’t know what it is. If they don’t know what it is, they can’t trust it. If they don’t trust it, they won’t buy it. And they certainly won’t be inbound.

Marketing folks suffer first. After their infatuations with organic SEO, targeted keywords, optimized websites, blogs, forums, social media platforms, and content marketing with e-books, white papers, and everything else they’re sure the world wants, the crickets are deafening when the world doesn’t show up. The only thing sadder than their disillusionment is their surprise.

Sales folks are next. In the absence of brand awareness, they start feeling the heat and ducking the flying shrapnel. The Sales VP is ticked when the phones don’t ring off the hook. (Why did he think they would?) The sales reps are ticked when they don’t get any leads. (They’re also not doing anything to generate them.) And the CEO is ticked because he’s keeping marketing and sales departments afloat for inadequate returns. (“Tell me again: Why am I paying those guys?”)

Inbound marketing is just the latest rhetorical iteration of the traditional push/pull strategies that always have been part of the marketer’s arsenal. Yes: Social media changes the way we market and sell. Social communities attract affinity groups. Those affinity groups sometimes precipitate sales, particularly for consumer brands. And B2B brands that effectively build social communities of like-minded members can increase their word-of-mouth exposure.

But the notion that an unestablished, unknown, unrecognized, or untrusted brand will generate meaningful levels of inbound activity, especially in B2B marketing, is preposterous. The good news is it already has a theme song.

It  comes down to a simple truth: Inbound marketing is no panacea, no matter how many times you click your heels.

By dbking, via Wikimedia Commons