Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: Which is Better?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2016) and other statistical sources, marketing and advertising is nearly a $90 billion a year industry and is projected to continue to grow at a strong pace. There’s a good reason for that – marketing works! However every business must be mindful of how it spends its precious dollars and especially so if you are a small to mid-size business or just starting out.
So what does $90 billion have to do with you? So glad you should ask. Marketing makes the difference between your potential customers buying from you or your competitors (Yours truly, Captain Obvious). All kidding aside, marketing is serious business for the life of your business. And yes, it can be costly and complicated but no, it doesn’t have to be. Before we dive into Inbound vs. Outbound marketing tactics, let’s first take a high-level refresher on what marketing actually is.
So what is all of this chatter about inbound versus outbound marketing, you ask? Great question. Before we talk about that, let’s review some of the basics. What typically comes to mind in relationship to marketing is advertising; but that’s only part of the story. Marketing Mix also known as the 4 P’s of marketing consist of Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. In other words: what are you selling, how much does it cost, where can I find it, and how will you drive sales (this is where advertising goes). But before you invest in promoting or advertising you should already know what you are selling, who you are selling it to, why they want it, where they shop, and how much they are willing to pay for it. Make sense?
Unfortunately, a lot of time, money, and resources can get wasted when the cart gets put before the horse. This is where integrated marketing strategies centered around your customers are far more beneficial than any single tactic alone.
Let’s double-click on the Promotion P of marketing. Simply put, this is where you will communicate your value proposition to your potential customers. This could look like incentives, special bundles, ad campaigns, fliers, social media, landing pages, SMS, email, TV, Radio, websites, newsletters, direct sales and the list goes on. I’m oversimplifying it a bit but as you can see there are several moving parts. At the end of the day, it is all about communication: what, how, when, what, and why you will communicate to who.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Okay, so I think we’re ready to talk about Inbound vs. Outbound marketing tactics now. The question is: which one is better? Let’s first get a high-level understanding of what inbound versus outbound marketing is. Inbound has to do with what gets communicated to potential customers who are looking for you and are able to find you. Outbound has to do with what gets communicated to potential customers after whom you are pursuing.
Elements of inbound marketing include search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) also known as PPC or pay-per-click advertising to essentially help potential customers find your business when looking for the types of products and or services that you have to offer. Take for example, you own a small repair shop in Fayetteville, GA. There happen to be dozens of repair shops that will show up when a would-be customer initiates an internet search. Truth of the matter is that most customers do not make it past the 5 listings let alone past the first page. The question is: where your business rank on the list? Number 13? 47? Page 3? You can have the best widgets in the world but it does little good if your potential customers find your competitor’s rather than your business.
Other elements of inbound marketing have to do with your potential customer’s experience once they have found you. Is your website optimized for your type of business? Is your information up to date or stale with last year’s breaking news? Are buttons where people expect them to be? Can prospects easily find what they are looking for? Is there a clear and desirable call to action? And that’s just one channel of communication. What about when they call your place of business? Is the experience consistent with the perceived brand?
So in a nutshell, inbound marketing has to do with what and how you communicate with your potential customers who are actively seeking out your type of product or service.
Outbound marketing is more aligned with what most people would equate with more traditional advertising tactics. This is where marketers proactively try to reach communicate with their potential customers whether to inform, persuade, or call to action. Fortunately and unfortunately the “traditional” channels of communication have evolved quite a bit over the recent decade. If we were to equate marketing to fishing, inbound marketing would be like setting nets in the water near where the fish naturally pass through. Outbound marketing would still be like casting a net into the water but now adding bait to entice them detour from their charted course.
Examples of outbound marketing include TV ads, Radio spots, email blasts, disruptive banner ads, telemarketing, and so on. Essentially, anything where potential customers are given information that they did not necessarily ask for in an effort to inform, persuade, or call to action. Outbound marketing tactics typically reach a broader audience – even millions at a time in some cases. But at what cost or ROI (return on investment)? Sure, it’s a numbers game – the more people you can get in front of the more opportunities you have to convert them into customers, right? Well, kind of…it really depends on what it is that you are trying to accomplish.
So we talked about the differences between inbound versus outbound marketing and how it all ties into the general marketing mix. Yet, the question remains. Which is better. The honest answer is, it depends. It depends on your goals, timeline, budget, and how you define better. Inbound marketing tactics generally have a lower cost of acquisition compared to inbound tactics along with higher conversion rates. Alternatively, the organic nature of inbound marketing generally operates at a lower overall volume compared to outbound tactics which can greatly accelerate growth when applied effectively. The bottom line, an integrated marketing strategy that includes the must-have benefits of inbound marketing tactics along with the accelerated growth opportunities afforded by the outbound tactics is the way to go.
Consult with an Expert Today!
There are plenty of tools and resources available for those do-it-yourself’ers out there. The experts at Profit Now Solutions, LLC are here to help you as much (or as little) as you’d like from self-service to hands-free concierge and marketing automation services. Our experts can develop with you a powerful integrated marketing strategy to connect with your customers in meaningful ways to help you meet your business objectives.
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