Why inbound marketing costs inevitably increase over time

Mark Schaefer
4 min readAug 31, 2023

One of the tenets of the inbound marketing movement is that using content to attract qualified leads is the most cost-efficient marketing system around.

But with the inbound marketing movement now approaching 15 years, I am seeing certain trends among companies who have been in this awhile that show that inbound marketing costs may go up, not down, over time.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Let’s unpack this economic truth today.

More friction, more cost

The fundamental idea behind “inbound marketing” is that creating helpful content on your website attracts customers auto-magically as they find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media. At least in theory, the cost of this type of marketing is supposed to be very low compared to traditional “outbound marketing” of advertising and sales calls.

This model is running into a number of problems and is not the route to easy street many people have hyped over the years. I’ll discuss one of those problems today.

Let me introduce a simple chart that depicts what can happen to inbound marketing costs over time:



Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!