The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is like comparing David to Goliath.
If inbound marketing is agile, tactical and highly effective, outbound marketing is imposing, clumsy and invariably misses the target. Not only that, but inbound generates more leads and has a much better return on investment.
Webbit would not be the business it is today if we’d focused on outbound activities – in fact, it probably wouldn’t be here at all.
Safe to say, everyone should know the differences between them.
So, here’s a short and sweet explanation that goes through the definitions, main differences and introduces the inbound methodology.
What is outbound marketing?
Think of outbound marketing as the traditional way of raising awareness and advertising.
Outbound marketing pursuits are pushed to an audience and interrupt what they’re doing. In other words, a person sees the content whether they want to or not.
The main outbound marketing activities are:
- Newspaper and magazine ads
- Cold calling
- Radio ads
- Contextual ads
These kinds of sales methods have fallen out of favor because they don’t work very well anymore. Nowadays, display-type advertising is generally ignored, most of us don’t take cold calls and everyone ignores spam.
A culture shift occurred with the onset of the internet and the subsequent development of devices like the smartphone. This took us into a new era where information is no longer created and controlled by larger organizations.
Any individual can share their opinions with the world these days through a variety of digital mediums. Moreover, it’s these opinions that we turn to for influence the most.
People are fed up with being sold to and won’t stand for crap content about things they’re not interested in anymore.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is the opposite to outbound. It focuses entirely on being found by people who are already seeking solutions to their problems.
Where outbound marketing interrupts people, inbound marketing connects with them through helpful and valuable content.
Such content can take different forms, like:
- Blog posts
- Guides, tutorials and online courses
- Email newsletters
- Social media posts
- YouTube videos
When a business connects with its target audience through content, it’s called content marketing.
Both inbound marketing and content marketing are terms that are often used interchangeably. This is because they pursue the same thing – attract and engage people through valuable content to build meaningful relationships.
It’s all about respecting and valuing potential customers by empowering them to overcome their problems and reach their goals. There is no sales pitch or direct advertising involved at any stage – everything is driven by content.
What are the differences between inbound and outbound marketing?
Think of both approaches as being opposites to one another, as summarized here:
|Pulls people by generating interest||Pushes people regardless of interest|
|Written for potential customers||Written for product sales|
|Drives content consumption||Disrupts content consumption|
|Utilizes blogs, podcasts, videos, emails, and social media||Utilizes billboards, magazine ads, TV ads, and display ads|
Which is the best approach?
Inbound techniques make so much more sense to any business wanting long term customers who come back for help again and again. Outbound methods make very little sense nowadays.
Do people appreciate being cold called? Who jumps on the phone to make a purchase after watching a TV ad? Do companies that push sales at people come across as trustworthy and genuine?
Unsurprisingly, the statistics back this up too:
- Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads
- Inbound marketing is 10X more effective for lead conversion than outbound
- 74% of marketers worldwide use inbound as their primary approach
- Content marketing is the most effective inbound tactic
- Organic search results can generate leads 5.66 times better than paid search ads.
[Source: 99 Firms]
Having said that, outbound techniques are not completely dead.
For example, retargeting ads can be used very effectively within an inbound marketing strategy. Business’s use content marketing to find and build their target audience, then advertise things these people are likely to want.
This kind of strategy requires specialist knowledge of running retarget ad campaigns though. Otherwise, it can be both costly and ineffective just like most other impression-based advertising.
The inbound methodology
The goal of any business should be to attract new prospects, engage with people authentically, and then delight them as customers.
The following three strategies at each of these three stages will drive sustainable growth and long term success.
Ever searched Google for a solution to a problem?
Everyone does, so the most effective way to attract people is through creating and publishing valuable content.
This is how an inbound relationship begins – when a piece of content helps someone towards reaching their goals. As a result they’re likely to return for more, which over time sees them view the creator as their go-to expert.
Once that happens, there’s an ever-increasing chance they’ll convert into a customer at some point.
Blogging is the tried and tested method of using writing for content marketing. It’s where solutions to problems are detailed in blog posts that are relevant to a target audience on an ongoing basis.
To give a post the best chance of being found in Google, it needs Search Engine Optimization (SEO) performing on it before publishing. There’s no point creating content that stands no chance of being read because it can’t be found.
Summary – the attraction phase is all about, creating well-optimized and valuable content that’s found by prospective customers in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Attracting people through content takes the most time and effort out of the three activities. So, when it starts to happen it’s vitally important prospects are engaged in the right way to make them want to build a relationship.
To make this happen, all communications should focus on the value existing customers receive. Describe the features clearly but always explain the actual benefits to a customer in simple terms.
For example, a plumbing business doesn’t sell boilers; they provide warm homes. A landscaping company should shout about ambient garden parties, not raised beds and flat lawns.
Take a little time to identify the exact benefit(s) that are provided to customers for when enquiries begin coming in.
Customers who are happy, satisfied and feel well looked-after will become delighted as a result. Becoming an advisor, expert and trusted party to them that’s consistent and ever-present is how this will come about.
For this reason, be prepared to assist customers at any point throughout their journey – before they purchase, during service delivery and beyond. Nothing they need should be too much trouble throughout their customer journey.
Survey their thoughts and feedback to gain valuable insight about possible improvements. Get the timing right, though. There’s no point doing a satisfaction survey a day after delivery when customers haven’t had time to experience the benefits.
Social media followers often provide feedback or ask questions over their favourite platform. For this reason, it’s important to listen out for them by staying alert across all profiles.
Respond with respect by handling all interactions, big or small, with care whether it’s commercially valuable or not. This imparts an ethos of genuine care and authenticity.
All this effort goes a long way because delighted customers make for the best brand advocates which is where the flywheel gets its momentum from.
Customers for life
If your content delivers value by enabling people to overcome real-life problems, it will stimulate interest in what you do. Even better, if you raise awareness of problems your target audience doesn’t know they have, then delight them with brilliant solutions, they’ll become customers for life.
You’ll be the authority because you helped them before anyone else did.
On the other hand, if your content misses the mark you’ll spend a whole lot of time generating nothing but words.
This is why it’s vital to take the right steps in the right order so you don’t waste time, especially when you’re starting out.
If you want to learn more about this subject, it’s worth checking out:
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