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What performs better, inbound or outbound marketing?

4 min read

Back to Blog

4 min read

What performs better, inbound or outbound marketing?

Posted in Marketing on 12th July 2017 8:45 am

 Imagine two scenarios. In the first case, someone walks up to you in the street and tells you that they’re amazing. In the second case, a friend tells you that they’ve met a fascinating person, and that you really should go and check them out. Put simply, that’s the difference between outbound and inbound marketing.

The term ‘Inbound Marketing’ was originally coined by HubSpot and combines content marketing, SEO and social. Whereas traditional outbound marketing has companies setting out to tell consumers how great they are, much like the example above, inbound marketing flips things around, with the objective instead of having the consumer approach the company. By offering something of value (such as tools, guides and tips), the inbound marketer can engage potential customers and create a relationship of trust and respect.

As David Meerman Scott, the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, said, “Instead of one-way interruption, web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that the buyer needs it.”

A marketing strategy for the digital age

All in all, this makes a lot of sense. In the digital age, consumers are inundated with hundreds or thousands of outbound marketing messages every day. So, instead of competing for consumer attention with interruptive advertising, spam email or even cold calling (tactics which are increasingly blocked or filtered), the inbound marketing approach earns the customer’s interest and allows them to opt in – thereby separating the signal from the noise. In effect, they’re qualifying themselves as a warm lead for the business.

The inbound approach not only builds high-level brand awareness but it also plays the role of widescreen thought leadership – and rather than being a one-way conversation, it welcomes the possibility of dialogue and community interaction. The goal of an inbound marketer is to present their business as a leader in its field and a source of trust and reliability. Furthermore, inbound marketers don’t expect consumers to buy their products immediately – a nurturing process is usual in which the individual is drip fed content across blog posts, email newsletter and eBooks. The business will, of course, reach out to these leads, but as they are from a self-selecting audience they are likely to come with a vastly higher hit rate. And, once these consumers have bought into the platform, they’re then much more likely to stick with it and to become brand advocates within their own networks. All of this can only be of benefit to the business – after all, there’s nothing more persuasive than a recommendation from a personal contact.

The Inbound arsenal

The inbound toolbox begins with content. By creating material that the customer will value – whether articles, guides or videos – the company is able to develop credibility. Social media can then be used to promote this content, while an effective SEO strategy can draw in users looking for just this material (whether now or in several years time). In other cases a white paper or eBook might be offered as a download in exchange for an email registration – the customer gets a free item of value, while the marketer adds them to their email list. Taking a (literal) larger stage, a digital strategy can be complemented by events and conferences, bringing members of the target market together to meet, network and share expertise. Naturally, Hubspot, which provides a sales and marketing platform geared around the inbound strategy, also hosts the annual ‘Inbound’ conference. And while the strategy might lend itself to online businesses and software-as-a-service companies, it could just as easily be applied by a law firm or a retailer of geeky merchandise.

The place of inbound in the marketing mix

All of this isn’t to say that traditional marketing is entirely dead, however. Different strategies are appropriate for different brands and different audiences. Coca-Cola might create music streaming services and host their own extreme sports events (which are fundamentally inbound strategies), but they’ll continue to pay for TV ads and sponsor football teams – they want to build extremely broad brand awareness, after all, and reach the widest possible audience that they can.

For forward thinking brands, though, and particularly for companies with niche audiences, inbound marketing clearly offers significantly more value than traditional outbound approaches. After all, when was the last time that you deliberately clicked on a display ad or that a cold call got your attention? Indeed, instead of taking a fire hose approach and hoping that something sticks, inbound efficiently and economically draws in customers and adds value over the long term – making it a smart strategy for almost every line of business out there.

If you are interested in learning more about inbound marketing, read our blogs about content marketing – How I Reached 1000 Page Views a Day on my Blog and Is your content making an impact?

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