Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: Which is Better?
By : Alexandra L Watson -
It can be helpful to distinguish inbound marketing from outbound marketing when crafting a digital marketing plan. There are many ways in which you might spread awareness of your brand and develop and nurture business leads. Some methods are simple and free, such as sharing a personal testimonial or referral with a friend. Other methods are complex and costly, such as producing and airing a television spot to a mass audience. Generally, any marketing efforts fall into one of two major categories of marketing that have the potential to attract traffic to your business: (organic) inbound marketing and (paid) outbound advertising.
Inbound Marketing Defined
Inbound marketing efforts seek to pull your audience in with valuable content. These efforts respect a buyer’s time and attention by addressing a need or answering a question, helping a business to get found by those that are looking for information. Inbound marketing techniques deliver unpaid, natural results in search engine result pages. The results are earned, not bought. Search engine optimization, content publication, social media usage, and email marketing are all forms of modern inbound marketing. Why? Because they deliver something of value outside of a paid advertising message. Inbound (organic) marketing can be labor-intensive and slow to return results. It requires strategic planning and ongoing resources. It takes time to develop and publish original content and to engage and interact with consumers online. But it’s a strategy that builds thought leadership, authority, and trust as it nurtures buyers through their purchase journey and beyond. It can be an effective long-term growth strategy to merit continual traffic to your website and build your brand awareness and reputation.
Outbound Marketing Defined
Outbound marketing methods, on the other hand, seek to gain attention by being disruptive. They push a message out en masse in the hopes that it will resonate with a small percentage of recipients. Traditional paid advertising tactics are, by and large, methods of outbound marketing. They depend upon paid efforts that deliver a high volume of impressions and reach in order to return results. This includes trade shows, television ads, billboards, print ads, direct mailers, cold calling, and more. Outbound methods require more up-front expense but can also be a shorter-term strategy to deliver information quickly and garner immediate results.
The Importance of Inbound Marketing Methods
The widespread adoption and usage of the internet, social, and mobile have created an “always-on” media mindset and an increased expectation that brands will be publishers as well as advertisers. Consumers are tired of having overt marketing messages pushed on them in an interruptive way. Mass media is impersonal, generic, and often times annoyingly disruptive. However, we are consuming information online nearly 24/7. That’s precisely what makes inbound marketing appealing. It provides value to consumers. It’s marketing that doesn’t specifically “sell”, but rather opens the door to conversations and interaction. Rather than pushing your business onto them, it pulls them in by being relevant, useful, and attractive. It builds the long-term reputation and authority of the brand and fosters the customer relationship.
The Advantage of Outbound Paid Advertising
Paid advertising comes in many forms. There are text-based ads, display ads, audio ads, as well as video ads which may also contain audio or simply employ text as subtitles. Besides these varying formats, there are a myriad of channels and targeting mechanisms that can be used to deploy paid advertising. Targeting can be accomplished geographically, by demographics, by interests, internet behaviors, and even contextually by corresponding with content surrounding the ad.
But why invest in paid advertising at all? If you have a strong content plan that is search engine optimized, a robust email list, and you’re active on social media, is that enough? MAYBE. IF you have a VERY robust presence as a content creator and you’re so popular online that those with influence (expertise and/or a lot of strong connections) take it upon themselves to share your content you may be blessed to garner “word of mouth” or “earned media” attention for free. That MIGHT be enough to bring in website traffic or physical store leads, and then you’d still have to get those leads to convert. But that’s a high bar to set, especially for a small business or startup. So most likely, you’ll need to consider supplementing your inbound strategies with paid advertising to get enough exposure and name recognition to cultivate leads and sales. A paid ad may promote content to a wider audience to gain visibility and awareness, offer information to aid purchase consideration, or close leads into conversions (including new and repeat sales).
In essence, whatever format taken, and whatever tactics chosen to deploy the paid advertisement, the purpose of investing in a paid ad is to guarantee exposure. However, exposure does not equal attention or action. The quality of an ad and the relevance of the channel and targeting determine if the advertising can & will successfully move the consumer along in their journey to purchase. Don’t waste your money on paid advertising if it’s low in creative quality (design and/or copywriting), or if it’s untargeted, unfocused, or not measured. You’d be throwing money away, and that’s bad marketing as well as bad business. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in the consumer’s position. Don’t create ads that are irrelevant, spammy, annoying, or that would in any way degrade the quality of your business.
A Well-Rounded Marketing Plan
Though inbound marketing tactics have gained in popularity and credibility in recent years, the reality is most companies use a blend of both inbound and outbound techniques in order to bring customers to their business. A well-rounded marketing plan will use integrated tactics and measurements to gain exposure to the intended target audience with frequency and relevance, across all touchpoints of the buyer journey. That typically equals a mix of inbound and outbound marketing methods.
For more information and instruction on creating a marketing plan suited to your unique business needs, contact us at Digital Measured for a consultation. Or, go the DIY route by purchasing the new ebook, Strategic Digital Marketing Survival Manual- A Practical Field Guide for Small Businesses and Startups, from Amazon or Kindle Unlimited.