Which Direction Should You Take? Inbound Vs. Outbound Marketing
Just when you thought digital marketing was complicated enough with all its terminology, acronyms, and endless digital platforms, here comes another concept to consider for your marketing strategy - inbound versus outbound marketing and understanding which direction you should take. *sigh*
But how can you decide which direction to take if you don't know the difference between inbound and outbound marketing? Or why you would choose one or the other?
Fear not! We've outlined below the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and when you might use one or the other to suit your marketing requirements.
What is Inbound Marketing?
"Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them." - HubSpot
Put simply, inbound marketing is a content-focused, customer experience driven marketing strategy that pulls customers in to your business when they are actively seeking information, products or services.
Examples of Inbound Marketing
Examples of content-rich inbound marketing activities that pull prospective customers to your business include:
company website utilizing search engine optimization (SEO),
lead magnets such as document downloads & E-books,
newsletters & opt-in subscriptions,
blogs, news articles & RSS feeds,
podcasts & video series,
business listings / profiles, and
organic social media posts.
Benefits of Inbound Marketing
Generally speaking, inbound marketing is more cost-effective than outbound marketing as you don't have to "pay to display" your content (with the exception of nominal digital platform hosting or subscription costs).
In most cases inbound marketing content is hosted on your owned or earned media channels, allowing you to not only perpetually display your content free of charge, but also allowing you to have better control over it. With inbound marketing you can control the timing, placement, engagement, and direct monitoring of the results.
The ability to instantly review audience reach and engagement metrics provides enhanced situational awareness on the effectiveness of your inbound marketing efforts, allowing you to optimize your content to gain better results.
Of all the benefits inbound marketing affords, arguably the greatest benefit to your company is the quality of the leads you generate from your efforts.
Because inbound marketing works to attract an in-market audience - meaning the audience is already "in the market" and seeking something your business provides - the leads generated are usually primed and ready to convert to paying customers. This translates into higher conversion rates from your inbound marketing efforts - a formula you can replicate and continue to take advantage of.
Drawbacks of Inbound Marketing
Content creation and planning requires more resources and time, not only to produce the material for your inbound marketing channels but also time for the content to start taking effect. And because "time is money," inbound marketing requires a longer-term investment to produce results.
SEO is a perfect example of this. Even though SEO is one of the greatest tools available in your inbound marketing toolbox (81% of consumers use search engines to conduct research prior to purchase), it is an endeavor that requires a long-term commitment of monitoring and updating before you start to see results.
In addition to its somewhat time and resource-heavy nature, inbound marketing may also require an outbound marketing campaign so your audience can initially find your company and kickstart your inbound marketing flywheel.
What is Outbound Marketing?
"Outbound marketing refers to any kind of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience." - WordStream
Put simply, outbound marketing is a slightly more aggressive marketing strategy designed to seek out prospective customers and push influential content from your brand, regardless of whether or not the audience is actively seeking information, products or services.
Examples of Outbound Marketing
Examples of forward-facing outbound marketing activities that push your message to prospective customers include:
television & radio advertising,
direct mail campaigns,
Benefits of Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is ideally suited for reaching a new audience when your company hasn't established itself yet. Because inbound marketing requires your audience to seek you out, outbound marketing can be a better alternative and an integral first step in generating brand awareness when you're new on the scene.
Outbound marketing can also generate faster results than inbound marketing, as your message is communicated the instant it's released to the audience (and sometimes having an anticipatory or influential effect).
For example, if you're a roofing company that sends flyers through a direct mail campaign, you may influence some home owners into considering new roofs before they would come to that decision on their own. And because your message "got there first", your company will be top of mind with these prospective customers when they weren't already aware of your business.
Drawbacks of Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing has its share of drawbacks, however; most outbound marketing channels are "pay to play", which translates into greater expense and less control when displaying your messaging. And unlike inbound marketing content that can be displayed on your channels for as long as you want because "the internet is forever", outbound marketing messages tend to only be visible while you're paying for it.
With outbound marketing it's much harder to determine your Return On Investment (ROI) or Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) as many outbound activities use Offline marketing or traditional marketing methods. In an absence of digital tracking data, it's much harder to know exactly where a lead came across your brand and which message inspired them to purchase.
It's also much harder to get in front of your target audience and get your messages seen with outbound marketing, as market saturation has led many prospective customers to skip, ignore or block paid ads.
When Should You Use Inbound or Outbound Marketing?
Even though outbound marketing can be used during any stage of the customer journey to promote a product or service, it might best be used at the initial brand awareness stage to attract new customers to your business and add more leads to the top of your sales funnel.
Inbound marketing activities can also be used effectively during the initial brand awareness stage - particularly so with SEO - however these activities might best be used during the consideration stage of the customer journey. Inbound marketing is perfectly suited to nurturing leads and providing timely content to help inform prospective customers' buying decisions.
"While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have." - HubSpot
So what's the general consensus? Inbound and outbound marketing methods each have their own benefits and drawbacks - the trick is deciding how and when your business can take advantage of them to get full effectiveness as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
If you need help developing your inbound or outbound marketing strategy, send us a note - we'd be happy to lend a hand!