Business deciding between inbound and outbound marketing

Inbound versus Outbound Marketing: A Guide for Business

by Kierstin Payne on January 20, 2020
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How would you describe the marketing strategy for your business?

Do you even have a marketing strategy?

Over a cup of coffee, one business owner explained, “Our strategy is really about growing the business – connecting with customers that need us.”

His earnest sincerity (and the good coffee) initially covered the flaws in his assessment. He wasn’t describing a strategy, but a goal. Every successful business needs to “connect with customers.” What business wants to “disconnect” from customers? A strategy is your plan of action. What are you going to do to reach those goals?

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Inbound and outbound marketing are tools, tactics, and strategies businesses like yours can use to reach goals and grow. The question for you – which tool is right for your business? When is it time to implement a new strategy?

Many businesses struggle with new strategies. They dabble in tactics, but quickly fall back on the familiar. This can lead to flat growth and missed goals.Elevate your Marketing. Resources and Expertise at your Fingertips.

Only by understanding how strategies work can you pick the right tool and the right mix of strategies for your business.

What is Outbound (or Traditional) Marketing?

Ever get a cold call from a business looking to help you with student loans?

Or sat through a commercial about teeth whitening, waiting to get back to your favorite TV show?

Or browsed an email from a company you’ve never heard of inviting you to a webinar for software you don’t need?

These are all examples of outbound marketing. Outbound marketing is a traditional marketing tactic that seeks to disrupt a potential customer and then push your marketing at them. The goal is to create a need, then drive the prospect to fill that need with the businesses product or service.

The goal of outbound marketing is to get that message to as many potential prospects as possible. You need to be disruptive, to interrupt your prospects normal schedule and demand attention. With outbound you’re reaching out to everyone and anyone. Later on you’ll figure out who’s qualified and who isn’t.

How to Make Outbound Marketing Work

Outbound marketing is a billboard on the highway. It’s a coupon in the newspaper. It’s a 5-second video before the start of a movie.

You need a big audience – many people – to find enough interested in your business to make the marketing worthwhile. You’ll need flashy marketing to cut through oversaturated and highly competitive media channels.

There are challenges to outbound marketing. As short as the modern attention span is, how can you get maximum exposure for your message? How can you get more people listening, and how can you make it both memorable and create a need? How can your business be both disruptive and brand positive?

That’s not the only challenge facing outbound marketing. It used to be the public was open and willing to listen to ads, but times change. Today, more than 65% of people skip online video ads. That number is even higher for TV commercials. It used to be the audience was hungry for a clever, well-written marketing. Today, outbound requires the most obnoxious shock ads possible. Outbound conversions rely on being the loudest voice in the room.

For many businesses, you’ll need to sink a lot of money into your outbound marketing campaigns to find a big enough audience and a powerful, attention-grabbing message. It can take time and resources to find customers – time and resources your business and budget may not have.

Outbound Marketing at a Glance

  • Reach the biggest possible audience with your message.
  • Pushes message out to customers to demand attention.
  • Messaging is focused on your product or service.
  • Can be expensive and relies on one-way communication to prospect.
  • Disruptive with diminishing effectiveness in the modern market.

What is Inbound (or Content) Marketing?

Where the focus of outbound is “pushing” your message at as many people as possible, the focus of inbound marketing is “pulling” potential customers to your business.

The carrot you use to “pull” prospects is content and information (the “content” in content marketing).

Customers have a need, and they have lot of questions. They have a problem that your product or service can solve for them, and they are going research possible solutions. Your goal is to help them. Give them the answers they need.

Inbound marketing is that how-to blog post on picking a paint color. It’s an ebook on starting a business, or a checklist for doing your taxes. Provide answers through blogs, social media posts, infographics, white papers, ebooks, and web pages. By building a relationship with the prospect, when it comes time to buy you are the first choice and most likely purchase.

How to Make Inbound Marketing Work

The goal of an inbound strategy is to provide prospects the best answers possible. Make sure your answers can be easily found using search engine optimization (SEO) and other tactics. If you have a great answer and the content is engaging enough, the prospect will read it, share it, and come back for more. All that goodwill you are building up will later influence the prospect when they are ready to buy.

The advantage for you, the business, is if you have done your research in building your buyer persona, then you know the people interacting with your content are potential leads. The prospect appreciates you aren’t trying to hard sell them. Your sales team can focus on qualified prospects, and stop wasting time on non-buyers. In the end, inbound is a better way to do business.

The problem many businesses face with inbound marketing is expertise and resources.

With inbound, you need to craft a buyer persona so you know who you are selling to. You need to create engaging content. It needs to be both informative and delightful. That content needs to be found using SEO tactics and channel marketing. It takes expertise to align all your work and keep the content pipeline full, often more than the business has available.

Getting your inbound marketing machine working can be difficult. It’s not something you can learn overnight. Creating content can be intimidating, and most marketers don’t have the time to develop all the regular content necessary for a successful inbound strategy. On top of that, because inbound relies on the normal buying process, collecting data and attributing action to the inbound strategy can be difficult.

Without the right expertise and resources, businesses will struggle to successfully launch an inbound program, driving the business back to ineffective outbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing at a Glance

  • Targeted content created for your buyer persona.
  • Better ROI with sustainable lead generation.
  • Focused on the needs of customer.
  • Can be difficult to measure effectiveness or success.
  • Requires expertise and resources to implement.

Comparing Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Today, technology and buying practices are reducing the effectiveness of outbound marketing. Buyers don’t want cold calls. They hate email spam. They’re wary of pop-up web ads.

After being inundated with a relentless wave of disruptive marketing interruptions, the modern consumer is better prepared to ignore you.  Caller ID, spam filters, streaming TV and more give power to the consumer – they can pick and choose the message they want to hear. The consumer isn’t relying on your 5-second ad for product information. They’ll look it up online, ask a friend, or read a review.

Outbound marketing is also expensive. Reaching a lot of people with outbound marketing is costly. Buying email lists can be expensive, and an overzealous spam blocker can keep your carefully crafted email video from ever reaching a potential customer. Many businesses need to burn through a lot of marketing dollars to find success.

Effective inbound marketing can also be expensive. Typically, you’ll need a copywriter, an SEO expert, graphic designers, and industry expertise. You need a well-researched and comprehensive Buyer Persona. You’ll have to set up conversion points, and design nurturing campaigns around the Buyer’s journey. Many businesses rely on an outside agency to set up inbound campaigns.

The good news? Inbound usually offers a much higher ROI than outbound. With inbound, the business is creating long-lasting, targeted content that will continue to find prospects and drive engagement long after the content launches. It becomes part of the business ecosystem, continually finding new prospects and building the brand.

The right choice for your business isn’t as easy as “picking” inbound or outbound marketing. Even though there are critical differences in both the strategy and execution of inbound and outbound marketing, many companies are utilizing both for their overall strategy. Done correctly, this hybrid strategy is delivering impressive results.

Picking the Right Marketing Strategy for your Business

There is no one-size fits all marketing strategy for business. Even though outbound strategies offer diminishing returns with the modern buyer, very few companies are relying on inbound tactics alone. Many businesses understand that inbound represents a shift in the market, and have at least begun implementing inbound strategies even as they continue to hammer the market with outbound ads.

Many businesses today are using a hybrid inbound-outbound strategy. These hybrid strategies are a great way to make the transition from primarily outbound marketing to inbound marketing. With a hybrid strategy outbound tools like email marketing and paid search enhance the inbound campaign. Your outbound marketing can drive prospect interaction and strengthen your inbound efforts, and your content can be exposed to a much larger audience.

Likewise, having inbound tools in place can aid in nurturing and conversion for leads acquired by outbound campaigns. Have your outbound ad drive a prospect to a useful inbound content. This provides a smooth transition from disruptive outbound tactics to the more customer-focused inbound tactics – building a relationship with the prospect even though you acquired them from a shock ad. 

A hybrid strategy allows for more agility and flexibility for your business. By collecting and analyzing data, you can continue to optimize your efforts and find the right mix of inbound and outbound tactics. Over time, as markets shift and buyer’s adapt, your business can better respond, staying a step ahead of the competition. After all, the only constant in business is change.

Managing a hybrid strategy can risk pulling your team in too many directions. Look at bringing on an agency partner to help. Programs like GO2’s 20/20 Marketing Execution Program can provide you on-demand expertise and resources, increase your speed in executing both inbound and outbound programs, while lowering the overall cost. Consider an agency partner as your marketing edge.

In the end, the best marketing tactic is the one that works for your business. Want to learn more, or see how a marketing program or an inbound program would work for your business? Contact GO2 Partners today and talk to their digital marketing team.

Topics: SEO and Digital Marketing, Inbound Marketing