Inbound or Outbound Marketing: What Do You Prefer For Your Business?

Inbound and outbound marketing describe two categories of promoting your business.

They articulate the type of relationship businesses strive to have with their customers and how they work to engage them. Most often, the combination of outbound and inbound marketing activities generate the best possible results.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing tries to reach consumers through general media advertising as well as through in-person contact. Depending on the venue, the approach can be extremely broad (TV advertising), thoroughly personal (face-to-face meetings), or “impersonally personal” (cold-calling or blanket emails).

Outbound marketing is interruption-based marketing. Its premise is to find a medium with a large following and periodically interrupt that following with disassociated ads. The hope is that with some careful planning and a study of the demographics, a small percentage of the audience will listen to the interruption in the storyline and convert into a customer.

To make outbound marketing strategy more effective, a professional must make sure to draft strategic scripts. It’s important for a cold call or email blast to sound organic, natural and informative. If the script sounds too much like a sales pitch, it is more likely that the audience will view it as a telemarketing call or spam. The written copy should express a company’s brand with a few simple phrases and the right application of tone. This includes making the message personal enough that the receiver feels as if the call or email targets them and their lifestyle, but not so personal that the efficiency of the strategy depreciates.

Another way to gain the interest of an audience who has received a cold call or email that is effectively deployed by many businesses is the incentive offer. Companies that are able to improve lead generation efforts with outbound marketing do so by inviting an audience to participate in a contest or media promotion that has the potential to result in a reward. The opportunity to win monetary incentive often sparks the interest of anyone and the work or process they conduct for this potential reward results in greater engagement with a company and the products or services it offers. This interaction could be enough to encourage a potential customer to sign on for a trial service or purchase a product.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing focuses on the creation of quality content that drives people into your brand and business. Your targeted customers might be trying to decide if they really need your product or service, checking out your competitors, researching your industry, and searching for news online. So, the goal here is to convey your message through content that speaks to all these stages and scenarios of the buying process.

There are four stages of inbound marketing methodology. They are attract, convert, close, and delight. In this phase, you need to pull the right strangers to your brand and your website with the help of compelling and quality content that answers their questions. Blogging, SEO strategy, and social media help in achieving this.

You will turn these visitors into qualified leads in the convert phase with the help of compelling calls-to-action, forms, and optimized landing pages. In the close phase, you will work to convert these leads into new business with the help of tools such as vast lead intelligence, lead nurturing, closed-loop reporting, and lead scoring, paired with the best practices of lead follow up.

The delight phase is at times the overlooked element of inbound marketing and it ensures renewals and referrals. You won’t forget the person when he/she becomes a customer and will continue to share content in various forms that help them better utilize your services or product and delight them as a thought leader and a partner. You don’t follow this kind of process in outbound marketing.

Advantages of Inbound Marketing

The advent of inbound marketing marks a shift of power— now, the power resides with the buyer rather than the seller. The buyer isn’t dependent on the sales team to inform them about the product anymore. The internet brings them all the information they need, and they can get answers to their specific pain points without having to sift through tons of non-relevant information (or a sales pitch).

Inbound marketing is significantly less expensive than outbound, and it’s more effective. For example, an estimated 14.6% of SEO leads result in a close, while outbound leads have a 1.7% close rate. You can measure the success of your inbound campaign via A/B testing.

Another bonus of inbound marketing is its agility. If you determine that your TV ad isn’t garnering the results you hoped for, you’re kind of stuck. You’ve shot it, and paid for the time slots in advance— there’s not much you can do. If you launch an inbound campaign and find that it’s not as successful as you hoped it would be, you can rework it on the fly. Change the keywords, revamp the content, switch social media platforms — it’s significantly easier to switch things up when it’s all digital. (It’s also a lot cheaper.) You don’t have to wait until your budget is replenished, by which time you’ve probably lost a portion of your audience.

Disadvantages of Inbound Marketing

In spite of all of the advantages of this strategy, there are numerous drawbacks that companies should be aware of. The inbound marketing campaigns require a constant time investment to produce content that is of sufficient quality to be useful. The efficacy on an inbound marketing campaign only becomes evident three months after the campaign is established, and results may be more difficult to measure.

Also, inbound marketing requires a strong and diverse skill set, including web design, content writing, SEO and social media expertise. A small company with a tiny marketing team may struggle, as the expectation that one person will have all these skills is relatively unrealistic. Lastly, tracking return on investment can be difficult without the implementation of Web analytics to determine how effective an inbound campaign is.

Advantages of Outbound Marketing

The biggest strength of outbound marketing is its ability to get in front of a large number of people quickly and build awareness. If done correctly, you can launch an outbound marketing campaign, get seen by millions, and have new customers within a few weeks, however, the results are more dependent on the money you invest. It also gives more control over what your leads see and when they see it.

Disadvantages of Outbound Marketing

Most of the outbound marketing campaigns can cost more compared to the inbound marketing campaigns. It’s quite expensive to launch a TV commercial as compared to a blog, which you can be written for free. Measuring outbound marketing ROI (Return-on-investment) can be a daunting task. An advertisement for your brand, if designed poorly can turn more people away than it can attract. Also, an advertisement is stopped as soon as you stop paying for it, but a quality blog can be on your website forever.

Examples of Inbound Marketing
  • SEO (search engine optimization) plays a crucial role in attracting potential leads to your website through organic searches on search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. By choosing to set up business-specific keywords, you can optimize and build your website so that when a lead searches for one of your keywords on a search engine, your website pops up on the first few pages of Google. This may help a lead find your company, but you’ve got to present her with knowledgeable content in order for that visitor to go deeper into your website and keep coming back.
  • Social media is a great platform for you to share your voice and spread the word. There are many channels to choose from, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ and each one enables your business to build an organic following and attract brand ambassadors. Social channels are a great place to share your content, blogs, and other product or service-specific information, while also adding your brand’s personality to the tone of the message. Paid advertising on social channels enables you to collect lead information and get your message seen by many, based on specific targeting criteria.
Examples of Outbound Marketing
  • Event marketing is a fantastic way to generate leads, create lasting relationships, and engage with current customers for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Events often take the form of webinars, conferences, trade shows, or seminars and offer your company a chance to meet your leads face-to-face and form a lasting impression. This helps you cement relationships and top-of-mind when your lead is ready to make a purchase decision.
  • Email marketing often uses leads already in your database or leads from a list. By creating emails to promote content pieces, events, new product launches, and so on, you can create additional buzz and demand for your company. Email marketing attracts leads to your website, blog, social channels, events, and webinars, making it a fantastic channel to move leads through your sales funnel.
Finding the Right Marketing Strategy for You

To figure out what is right for your company, you must consider your market, your goals, and your brand. When it comes to considering your market, you have to consider who your ideal buyers are and how they normally shop for what you offer. Where do they go to learn more about the types of solutions you offer? To get a better idea, take a look at your industry as a whole and your direct competitors. What marketing tactics are most common and seem to be most effective?

Considering your goals, you must question yourself what you are trying to achieve. Do you want to build brand awareness? Drive traffic? How many customers are you aiming to get and what’s your timeline for that goal?

Inbound marketing is the best long-term strategy, but it’s probably not going to dramatically increase business in the first few months. Outbound marketing, on the other hand, can help you get customers in the door quickly, but it comes with diminishing returns.

More often than not, the best strategy is to combine a little of both, while taking an inbound approach to both – meaning you are measuring results accurately and you’re aiming for long-term brand-building alongside short-term growth.

Finally, you should consider how the marketing tactics you deploy will affect your brand’s image. Launching an aggressive cold-calling might get some sales upfront, but how will it affect your reputation long-term?

You only want to use marketing tactics that your brand can be proud of and that your customers would approve of if they knew how you executed them. More often than not, the truth comes out and it’s incredibly difficult to overcome a bad reputation.

It is better to follow an inbound-focused approach that also uses outbound marketing when appropriate. This means using outbound tactics to get your company in front of potential buyers while focusing more on helping than selling upfront.

For example, if you sold fancy men’s socks, you could run a PPC (pay per click) advertising campaign that promotes a free guide on matching fancy socks to your business attire, instead of promoting the product directly.

This works because people are more likely to engage in a brand that helps them understand the buying process, instead of asking simply asking for their money or let’s say, you were purchasing a booth at a local conference. You could use inbound tactics to gather leads and promote your presence leading up to the event.

While inbound marketing offers a number of attractive benefits, a marketing campaign that can creatively combine the two marketing strategies is one that will generate the most interest and provide the most potential leads. It’s easy to take the demographic information obtained from inbound marketing campaigns and use it to tailor advertising to people who want to receive it.

The content that is delivered via a blog can also be sent out to potential customers who are on a newsletter or an email list, To boost lead generation, attract prospects by highlighting e-book downloads, blog posts, videos and other available content in your ads, mailers, and emails. Also, instead of following up with a simple email thanking a prospect for his or her time, send a link to relevant content you created that relates to what you discussed in your meeting. All these practices provide an outbound outlet for quality content developed for inbound marketing purposes.

There is no right or wrong answer to deciding on the ratio of inbound to outbound marketing as it depends strongly on the industry, your company needs and the current market you are targeting. Having a healthy marketing mix of both inbound and outbound marketing is a must in today’s digitally driven ecosystem.

Examples Representing the Integration of Inbound and Outbound Marketing
  • Inbound marketing is all about drawing prospects in by creating and sharing useful and engaging content, for example, an e-book, blog or video. But, you need not stop here. Leverage the content you’ve created and distributed it using push strategies. For example, take your best 4 or 5 blog posts from a quarter and package them into a newsletter to be broadcasted via email.
  • Advertisements, email marketing, and hard copy mailers are all examples of traditional outbound marketing tactics that can be effective when done correctly. But, what makes them even more effective at generating leads are the Calls to action. For example, if you have the budget to advertise or send out hard copy mailers, don’t let them “stand alone.” Make sure you include an effective CTA that will draw prospects to the content you’ve already created through your inbound marketing strategies. Ask them to subscribe to your blog, download an e-book, or watch a video.
Conclusion

The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is subtle and often the lines between the two are blurred. For example, an inbound marketing program can be utilized as the first step in a long-term marketing campaign to capture lead data; whereas a related outbound portion would be used to nurture and educate those prospects to the point where they are ready to make a buying decision. Together they create a sustainable, long-term program that can produce a continuous stream of sales opportunities.

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