Somewhere along the way marketing strategies started competing with one another. Computers opened up a whole new way to reach audiences and inbound marketing was born. The comparisons began: inbound vs. outbound marketing, online vs. offline marketing, direct mail vs. email marketing, paid (SEM) vs. organic (SEO). The problem is, these generic comparisons are not a helpful way to decide on the best marketing strategy for your business.
In fact, why limit yourself to just one way or another? A combination of tactics might be exactly the right recipe for your business success.
If you’re just starting to think about marketing, we’ll explain what these “competing” terms mean and how they differ. Then, we’ll show you the smartest way to figure out where and how to spend your marketing dollars and actually get the return you want.
Inbound vs. outbound marketing: what are the differences?
Let’s compare inbound vs. outbound marketing in terms you care about: cost, timing and effectiveness.
Outbound marketing is broadcasting marketing messages to large, non-targeted audiences in the hope that they convince people to buy your product or service.
Outbound tactics such as radio and television advertising, direct mail, trade shows and telemarketing can be costly, hard to maintain, and hard to measure in terms of effectiveness. These days people ignore TV ads by fast forwarding or skipping completely, divert emails to spam folders, throw away direct mail without a glance, block ads from their web browsers, and rarely answer the phone if they don’t recognize the phone number. For these reasons, outbound marketing has declined in popularity for many types of businesses. However, there are situations when outbound tactics can be useful, especially when implemented in a more targeted way. For example, a new trend for premium content is to mail quality printed pieces to high level executives at their home as a way to cut through the clutter.
Inbound marketing is strategically putting out targeted messages on digital channels to reach very specific audiences throughout their buying journey. With inbound, you attract people who are actively looking for what you sell, and encourage them to engage with your business. Depending on the tactics used, inbound marketing is often more cost effective than outbound. However, sometimes inbound tactics can take longer to bring in business.
Over the past decade or so, inbound tactics like search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, calls to action, and email nurturing have become the new go-to marketing strategy. That’s because today’s buyers have taken control over their purchase decisions by doing a good deal of research before even talking to a solution provider. However, the effort to reach buyers with a variety of marketing content has now created a cluttered digital landscape where some are finding it even more difficult to get noticed.
As technology has grown and continues to evolve, both outbound and inbound ride the wave of popularity. How do you know which philosophy and tactics will bring results for you?
How to be certain about marketing choices: ask the right questions
Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Oh how true this is of marketing… nothing is ever certain. However, taking a smart and methodical approach to marketing decisions can greatly increase your chances of success. Instead of just rolling the dice and hoping the right numbers come up, you’re making informed choices based on real evidence.
That’s why comparing inbound vs. outbound marketing is the wrong question to ask. To achieve marketing success, these are the questions you should ask and answer instead.
1. How do your customers make decisions?
The first step in developing a solid, effective marketing strategy is to take the time to find out what your prospects and customers want and need, what they care about, and how they prefer to communicate. In other words, learn everything you can about their decision-making and buying journey.
Whether you are deciding between inbound vs. outbound marketing tactics, inbound vs. outbound sales, online vs. offline marketing, etc., etc., the insights that inform your choices should come from those you serve.
We uncover these critical insights with buyer persona research.
2. How do customers experience your business at every stage?
- How are you attracting new prospects — online search, blog content, paid advertising, referral?
- How likely are prospects to engage with you — are your salespeople equipped to prove your value and close the deal?
- Are your customers so delighted by your product or service that they come back for more and refer you to others — is your customer service outstanding?
Every one of these stages is essential for business growth. Are you are hitting it out of the park at each stage? Most likely there is room for improvement in at least one of these areas. Why not start where you can make the biggest impact and see the quickest wins?
And yes, marketing can and should help not only with attracting new business, but also supporting sales in engaging and customer service in delighting your customers.
3. How can we bring in the quick win?
Not long ago, a well-respected data research firm came to us wanting to implement inbound marketing to attract new leads. During discussions, we uncovered that most of their customers had purchased only one or two of the firm’s many product offerings. After performing interviews and research, it was clear that a plan focused on engaging the current clients was the quickest way to boost sales in the short term.
Learning that the firm’s customers found great value in informational webinars, we created a webinar series and not only sent email invitations but also printed direct mail invitations. Inbound vs. outbound marketing? Nope, smart customer marketing!
Don’t get me wrong, this firm can also benefit from a well-designed, customer focused inbound marketing strategy as well, but why not start with the lowest hanging fruit?!
Another company (a technology provider) thought they needed to increase the traffic to their website. Turned out they were already getting a great deal of visitors, yet little to no inquiries about their product. Their digital marketing efforts were somewhat successful in that they were attracting attention. However, they were not engaging visitors enough to request a demo or consultation. They were missing out on a great number of opportunities to pass along to sales.
After performing interviews and research, we uncovered what their buyers most needed, wanted and expected to experience when searching for a solution such as theirs. For a website to successfully convert visitors into leads, the experience they have while visiting must match their decision making. Adding content offers that support the buyer’s journey, and delivering them at the right time with a smart email nurturing strategy, was the quickest way to bring in more business.
So as you can see, it was not as simple as inbound vs. outbound marketing for either of these companies.
Eliminate the random acts of marketing
It’s very common for companies to jump into tactics such as trade show participation, paid advertising, email marketing, or search engine optimization without first taking the time to understand their buyers. These attempts often lead to little return and a lot of frustration.
The only way to eliminate random acts and choose the right combination of marketing tactics is to understand exactly what your buyers need and want from you throughout their entire life cycle (attract, engage, delight) with your company.
Inbound vs. outbound marketing? Nope, smart customer marketing!
Are you ready to get on the right path to marketing success? HELLO Marketing is here to help. For a free 20-minute consultation, call me at 973.214.5942 or email me at [email protected]