Broadly, there are two methods of marketing: outbound and inbound. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between the two, and you might find that both are right for your business; but, knowing the difference between them is an essential first step.
Traditionally, outbound marketing was the primary choice; inbound didn’t come around until about 2005. As consumers habits evolved, and the internet fuelled a shift in behaviour towards search-led research and self-education; inbound marketing became a more prominent choice for businesses.
In this piece, we’ll explore both terms, the different marketing activities that roll into each, as well as their pros and cons.
What is outbound marketing?
Outbound marketing is a more traditional method that is all about outreach and promoting your business in front of the eyes of potential consumers who might be interested in your services or products. It’s about pushing your business out, hence the name, and mostly relies on paid media and promotion.
Types of outbound marketing
- Display advertising
- Direct mail
- Social advertising
- PPC (pay per click)
- Trade shows
- Door-to-door sales
The spend on outbound marketing is usually quite high, but the return can be almost immediate. However, the return on investment (ROI) is much lower than inbound. This is because you don’t know who you’re reaching out to in most instances, so it’s not as targeted. Over time, consumers have also become less receptive to being sold to, preferring to take control of the buying process through more evaluated research.
While outbound is becoming less popular, if you partner it with a strategic inbound marketing strategy, you can yield successful results. Other advantages include:
- It’s great for new businesses or launching new products or services on the market
- It pairs well with inbound in more competitive or over-saturated markets It can provide a quick ROI
Consumers are inundated with outbound marketing techniques every day, which means they’ve become ‘banner blind’ and pretty adept at blocking calls, ignoring unknown numbers, and avoiding anything they believe has been promoted.
- It’s commonly seen as spam or junk
- It’s often overlooked or ignored by consumers
- It can be expensive
- The message is usually very general because you’re reaching broad audiences
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is about drawing consumers to your website; creating valuable content that is contextual and relevant so that traffic lands on your website as a result. It’s also more commonly associated with owned and earned media.
Types of inbound marketing
- SEO (search engine optimisation)
Inbound marketing is a typically inexpensive way to market your business to your desired audience. It allows you to be contextual and authentic with your copy so you can ensure you’re targeting each persona appropriately.
- It naturally fits with more modern research-led user behaviours
- It’s unobtrusive as consumers have to opt-in or make a choice to engage with it
- It can be more targeted and provide useful information as opposed to more general paid promotion
- The authenticity builds trust and credibility and therefore improves brand awareness and advocacy
- Once the content has been created, it’s there forever, so the long-term ROI is much higher and more sustainable than one-off outbound marketing campaigns
Inbound marketing has become more and more popular and has now caught on in most industries. This can make it more challenging than it used to be to establish your company name and execute a successful inbound marketing strategy.
- It can be challenging in highly competitive or saturated markets
- It relies on consumers finding your business through keyword searches or social media channels.
- Users may just be interested in your content as opposed to your services or products
- It can take a while to take effect, so it’s not a short-term win
When to use outbound marketing
If your business is just starting out or if you’re launching a completely new and innovative product or service, then you will need to use some form of outbound marketing. Without using outreach tactics, your potential consumers will never even know your product exists.
If you are using outreach methods online, we suggest trying to be as targeted as possible by doing your research first. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to target based on location, interests, job title and other factors, so this is a great way to ensure your outbound activity has more strategic thinking behind it. It’s also important to consider the copy of your ads and where they land when users click on them. For example, whether your advert is through social media or Google AdWords, you want users to be directed to a relevant location, preferably a specific landing page as opposed to a generic service page or your homepage.
Another reason you might be using an outreach method is that your target audience might not be online. Although most people do use the internet, there are still some demographics that aren’t very connected. Therefore, you may be better using outsourced marketing such as leaflet dropping, billboards and telesales as a means to communicate your offering with them.
Finally, you may also use outbound marketing if you’re in a highly competitive or overly saturated market. Again, we would suggest teaming this up with an inbound strategy too, but you might need a little outreach to raise awareness and boost your social standing.
When to use inbound marketing
If you have lots of valuable content, experience or opinion in your industry, then inbound marketing would be a great strategy. Content fuels inbound marketing, so if you already have a large amount or you have the means to create it, then you should.
It’s also an excellent choice for those that haven’t got a big marketing budget, as all it requires is time. Although inbound marketing is a slow burner, it helps you build credibility in the industry and can build the foundations for outbound marketing at a later date, should you choose to introduce it.
You might also choose inbound marketing if you’re not getting quality leads from outbound methods. In today’s market, consumers are ‘banner blind’. They’ve become accustomed to tuning out as a result of being constantly inundated with adverts. Unfortunately, this means that many of your outreach strategies get overlooked as users try to find their own answers with a Google search instead.
Building your strategy
Whichever route you choose, we strongly recommend considering both inbound and outbound marketing when it comes to your broader marketing strategy. While you might start with one, this will give you insights and experience which will be invaluable if you choose to introduce the other at a later date.
For example, if you have a strong content bank of ideas, creating blogs and videos is a great way to build a reputation with your audience and to understand and accommodate their needs. Combine this with a great outreach strategy, and you can expand this audience and build your brand in a much greater way than you initially thought, all while using the insights gained from inbound marketing to ensure your ads are relevant.
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