Imagine you’re in a market full of people and stalls.
You see someone shouting into a megaphone, telling you to buy their goods.
It will definitely pique your interest, but will you automatically choose to buy from that person?
On the other hand, you see a seller happy to strike up a conversation with potential customers. This seller is interested in your problems and asks if they can do anything to solve them.
Who are you more likely to pick?
This is a question that marketers are confronted with every day. You have a great product or service to offer, but how do you convince your customers in an environment of (often) tough competition to pick your company over another?
There are two broad approaches you can follow: Outbound and Inbound marketing. What do marketers understand under both terms, and which approach is better for your company?
The traditional Outbound Marketing
Outbound, often known as “interruptive marketing”, is about a one-way communication – pushing a message at any potential customers through print, TV, banner ads and cold calls.
Coming back to our little analogy from the beginning, it would be represented by the salesman trying to catch people’s attention through advertising his products vigorously.
With people being inundated with interruptions constantly, we see two problems emerge. Firstly, technology can be used to avoid outbound marketing tactics, using caller id, fast forwarding TV ads on pre-recorded TV, ad blockers etc., thus making them less effective. Secondly, consumers become somewhat blind to the constant barrage of advertising, especially advertising that is not directly relevant to them.
That’s not to say that outbound doesn’t work.
In fact, it can be very effective, depending on the product and audience. One of the best advantages of online and television ads is that they increase the chances of “first contact” with potential customers and initiates a conversation – although brought up by the company rather than customer. The critical pivot points for outbound advertising to work, though, is relevance and timing. If your advertisement is irrelevant to the people who see it, or is delivered at a bad time, it is just lost in the noise.
The new way – Inbound Marketing
Inbound, on the other hand, is interactive.
It’s about making yourself available to potential customers through providing helpful content, offering solutions to a customer’s problem, and engaging with your audience on social media. Rather than solely initiating one-way communication, it focuses on building trust, with the customer being the one initiating the conversation. You become the willing ear, listening to you potential customers’ problems, and gently guiding them to a solution on their own terms.
Inbound marketing has the advantage of being easily trackable, showing you exactly how your time and money invested paid off when generating new leads or winning new customers.
Its ROI is also significantly higher than in traditional outbound marketing: As CRM Daily reports, “nearly half of the companies that implement inbound marketing efforts see a 25 percent greater return on investment (ROI) on those programs than companies that do not. The survey found that inbound marketing channels can deliver up to 30 times the campaign conversion rate of traditional outbound direct-mail campaigns.”
That’s pretty amazing, right?
Instead of pushing a product, inbound suggests different solutions to customers, educates them on different challenges, and supports them in making well-informed decisions.
This is also known as ‘permission-based’ marketing.
Potential customers will subscribe to your newsletters or follow you on social media because they value your input and trust your advice.
Does that mean that Outbound Marketing is dead?
Some would say so – we don’t agree.
Inbound marketing reflects the change of customer behaviour in the digital age, but outbound marketing still has its place if used intelligently.
Often, a combination of both techniques is the way forward – which way you go and how you much you make use of each option depends on your product and target audience.
Look at the example of content contribution. You have decided to create a content for a new campaign, but how can you make sure it can be found by your buyer personas?
Doing it the inbound-way would imply you promoting your content through social media, which requires you to build an audience (not just an audience, but the right audience, actually. Learn more on how to do that in one of our blog posts). Through optimising both your website and blog posts for specific keywords relevant to your business, you can improve your company’s ranking in search engines and get a lot of organic traffic to your website.
Alternatively, you can combine inbound and outbound techniques.
This strategy can give you a greater chance at achieving your goals and reaching customers. A marketing campaign following this idea would be characterised by an “omni-channel approach”, i.e. coordinating activities in Paid Search, Search Engine Optimisation, and Content Marketing.
Brochures and banner ads on websites are effective at capturing the consumer’s attention, especially if well targeted and the product is something they’re really interested in. That’s not where you should stop, though: you need to maintain that attention by following through. You need to inform your visitors.
Is Inbound Marketing right for my company?
Both inbound and outbound marketing can be right for you – which option you pick depends both on your company and the audience you want to reach. As described in the above example, a combination of both is often the most effective solution.
One thing that is for sure, though, is: if implemented well, Inbound marketing works. It is a great way to attract new customers to your business, generate leads, and build up a thought leadership.
Inbound marketing also reflects the change in customer behaviour.
In the digital age, consumers are in a position where they can make decisions based on much more information – and companies have to follow up by showing their competence and problem-solving capabilities through educating customers on their challenges and available options.
Through providing your potential customers with the right information at the right time in their decision making process, you can support them in making a well-informed choice – and the clever ones will pick your company.