Do you know how many advertising messages the average person interacts with in a day?
About 4000-10,000 ads — if you count digital ads on the internet, TV, radio, and outdoor signage.
With consumers being constantly bombarded with advertising messages, they’re finding new ways to opt out of ads they’d rather not see. And since there are millions of brands pushing out marketing content every day, the competition for consumers’ attention is more intense than ever before.
Such an unforgiving digital marketing landscape has forced marketers to rethink their strategies. This has left many wondering whether the traditional approach (outbound marketing) can cut it in the modern market.
But is inbound marketing any better?
Here’s a detailed inbound vs. outbound marketing analysis.
What is Outbound Marketing?
Also known as “push” marketing, outbound marketing involves sending out advertising messages to a large pool of prospective customers to get them to buy your product. Here, tactics such as cold calling, TV/print/radio advertising, email blasts, social media marketing, and direct mail are used to distribute marketing messages to a large audience.
A distinguishing trait of outbound marketing is the lack of consumer targeting. Advertising messages are usually distributed to a large group of loosely-targeted customers. The customer pool includes people who may not even be interested in the marketer’s product. It’s a one-way conversation that solely focuses on describing a product and the reasons why consumers should buy it.
Shortcomings of Outbound Marketing
The biggest problem with this type of marketing is the lack of personalization. For your advertising messages to resonate with a large audience, they must be general.
Such generalization eliminates one of the biggest tools of digital marketing — personalized content. It makes it impossible to create content that addresses the individual needs and pain points of your target audience.
Besides, there are other reasons why outbound marketing is no longer effective:
- Many consumers opt out of email subscriptions if the content they’re receiving is irrelevant. That’s not to mention the amount of direct mail that gets ignored.
- 86% of consumers don’t watch TV ads. With the emergence of DVR capabilities and TV streaming services, consumers can now fast-forward TV ads they’d rather not watch. It’s impossible to advertise to an audience that skips your marketing messages.
- Listeners are avoiding radio advertising through satellite radio and digital music streaming. By the end of 2018, Spotify had over 180 million active users. Considering that there are other channels with a similar—if not larger—following, it’s clear that radio advertising isn’t as effective as it used to be.
- Most people will leave websites that have annoying or intrusive ads.
- The response rate for some of the paid advertising (banner ads, for instance) isn’t worth the cost.
- Indeed, pushing out advertising messages randomly isn’t effective anymore since consumers have tons of ways to avoid them.
So, why are some marketers still using outbound marketing?
Benefits of Outbound Marketing
The main advantage of outbound marketing is its familiarity factor. Unlike in inbound marketing, this medium of communication doesn’t get in the way of marketing messages. This is because they’re delivered via technologies and platforms that consumers understand and trust.
For example, many people are accustomed to radio and TV ads, for example. Other people look forward to the daily newspapers for their news feeds and ads.
Such non-threatening familiarity makes outbound marketing indispensable. This is especially true for businesses trying to market their products to an older demographic.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Also known as “pull” marketing, inbound marketing in SEO focuses on attracting, engaging, and delighting consumers while building a business that offers value builds trust.
While outbound marketing sends out advertising messages to a pool of uninterested audience, inbound marketing leverages audience personas to attract people who are actively looking for the products and solutions you’re offering. But selling isn’t the sole focus of inbound marketing. Building trust and credibility by adding and offering value in every single stage of the consumers buying journey is equally important.
At the core of inbound marketing is great content. Blog posts, videos, podcasts, and downloadables such as guides, ebooks, whitepapers, and checklists offer value to prospective clients by helping them address some of their pain points. This builds trust and credibility, which translates to better lead generation and higher website conversions.
But to achieve such a feat, content marketers need to develop content that aligns with the specific stages of the buyer’s journey:
- Stage 1: The buyer is familiarizing themselves with the problematic issue and potential solutions.
- Stage 2: They’re well aware of their problem and are comparing potential solutions.
- Stage 3: The consumer has identified a potential solution and is deliberating on a final decision.
There are particular types of content and topics that align well with each stage of the buyer’s journey. By crafting and delivering content that resonates with each stage, you meet your customers’ information needs at every point of their journey.
And since most B2B purchasing decisions begin with a generic search, your prospects will find relevant content from the very beginning of their buying journey.
In addition to creating good content, inbound marketing also requires effective communication. Unlike outbound marketing, the strategy is built on the principle of two-way communication. As such, you need to make deliberate efforts to ensure effective communication between you and your clients.
This might involve using social media platforms to gather feedback about your content, as well as your products and services. You can also make your website more interactive by including a comment section at the end of every post. Doing this shows your clients that you value their input, and in so doing, increases user engagement.
Great content and effective communication will help you build a strong following on the various online platforms.
But when it comes to converting leads into sales, you’ll need an extra edge. That’s why you can’t ignore the value of incentives in inbound marketing.
Incentives can be anything from limited offers and discounts to special deals tailored for your followers.
And if you’re not feeling generous enough to offer discounts and special deals, you can offer exclusive content by linking your social media page to your landing page. To make the most of it, be sure to include a sign-up page where your prospects will need to submit their email address to get the incentive.
Inbound Marketing Examples
Here are a few examples to demonstrate how inbound marketing works:
Joe, the facilities manager of ABC Company decides to purchase a brand new conveyor for his businesses’ product line. The first thing he’ll do is research online so he can understand the available options. He Googles “best performing conveyor systems” and comes across an eBook named, “10 ways a cylindrical conveyor increases output”.
Upon clicking the link, he’s redirected to the supplier X’s blog where he reads the post. At the end of the eBook, he’s offered downloadable content that’s also related to conveyor performance. To get the downloadable content, he gives his email address via the supplier’s website.
At this point, he is converted into a lead in X’s system. Supplier X can now send extra content to his new lead so he can push him down the sales funnel. Joe, on the other hand, looks forward to engaging with X because he’s found the supplier to be credible. He also appreciates the useful information X offered him as he assesses his options.
Evidently, X leverages useful content to get a prospect’s email address, which he can then use to target Joe with relevant content. Having offered value to the client through free content, chances are Joe will prioritize buying from supplier X when he finally settles on a particular option.
You’re the manager of XYZ clothing company. You notice that your Facebook page has reached 5000 likes. You know that that group of followers contains a mix of past clients and people who’ve never bought from your company before.
To convert those leads into sales, you can use an incentive such as a limited time offer to give your prospects an incentive to start shopping. Chances are many people will try to make the most of the offer and buy some items they might not have bought otherwise.
Yes, you’ll sell at a cheaper price, but you’ll get new customers who might even refer some of their friends if your products are top notch.
Advantages of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing has the following benefits:
- It has higher conversion rates compared to outbound marketing since it targets customers who are already looking for products you’re selling.
- It allows you to build long-term relationships with clients since it’s based on a two-way communication. You can use your clients to improve your marketing campaign by asking them for feedback about your content, services, and products.
- Being content-driven, it allows you to build a reputation of authority and credibility in your industry. This increases brand awareness.
- Since you own the medium in inbound marketing, you have all the freedom to customize it to deliver your messages better. It’s also cheaper than TV, radio, and billboard ads.
Disadvantages of Inbound Marketing
Despite its advantages, inbound marketing has several drawbacks:
- It requires a diverse set of skills. You need to be well-versed with content writing, social media marketing, web design, and SEO to make progress with inbound marketing. Since it’s unrealistic to expect one person to have all these skills, a small startup may struggle with the cost of assembling a marketing team.
- It has too many moving parts. You need to do a lot to get your inbound marketing campaign up and running. In addition to creating a content marketing plan, you also need to get a domain name, design and build a website, create content, get a server for your site, set up Google analytics, master the tools you’ll use to capture information about people who visit your website, open a social media account and build a strong following, among other things.
- It has a limited scope since you can only reach people who have expressed interest in your content.
Inbound Vs. Outbound Marketing: What’s Best for Your Business?
Inbound marketing takes the day when it comes to the push vs. pull marketing debate. Modern marketing is all about empowering buyers and offering value through great content. But, having a clear winner in the inbound vs. outbound marketing debate doesn’t spell the end of outbound marketing tactics.
You can combine the two by putting an inbound spin on some of the outbound tactics. For instance, instead of publishing TV ads that solely focuses on urging your consumers to buy your products, you can include a short story that entertains your target audience while encouraging them to engage with your company or brand.
For more on the latest content marketing tips and tricks, check out our content strategy and planning page.
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