(Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing)
The goal of this post is to explain the difference between Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing and give valuable information on the correlation to between the two.
To set the table, I have an advertising degree and have spent the greater part of three decades in some type of "traditional marketing" environment. I worked for media companies since 1988 (unfortunately, that's not a misprint). Newspapers, internet, TV, magazines - all examples of companies whose core purpose is to "interrupt" what you are doing with advertising messages in which you may or may not have an interest. This approach (and you can throw direct mail, radio and billboards into the mix) is called "outbound marketing".
Is there anything wrong with outbound marketing? I'm not in the "either/or" camp on this topic. Outbound marketing has a place, but its effectiveness has been in a continual slide for years.
The chart above (courtesy of marketingcharts.com / source StrongView) graphically shows marketing spends for 2014 and which sources are expected to see an increase vs. a decrease.
Think about your own experiences with traditional media
Do you zoom through TV commercials on recorded shows? Do you throw most of the direct mail you receive away (unopened)? Do you flip the channel on your radio so quickly when commercials come on that you could enter into an Olympic event? The reality is that "traditional marketing" PUSHES products or services on to YOU. There is no systematic process for these sources to know whether you have an interest in the product or service. There's no concept of where the person being interrupted has a particular problem they are trying to solve or a challenge that might translate to the advertiser. Other than high level "targeting" (i.e. radio ads on sports radio are male oriented, TV ads on "The View" are female oriented), the approach is very much like a fire hose (or to be more accurate with dwindling audiences, a garden hose).
Push vs. Pull (Outbound vs. Inbound)
At its simplest form, outbound marketing "pushes" and inbound marketing "pulls".
Inbound marketing is permission based
Inbound marketing allows a company to utlilize its website and various web assets to provide "content" (which can be numerous types) to help potential customers solve a particular issue, problem or challenge. There are a myriad of tactics to achieve this (SEO, blogs, webinars, permission-based email communication, ebooks, slideshows, videos) but in each case, the customer is in control. The medium is permission based. By definition, the audience or traffic is much smaller than with "mass media", but the difference is that it's targeted to a specific audience, an audience that is self-selected and has a specific need.
Think about your own experiences with inbound marketing
How did you find your last car? Find your last apartment or home? Find information about a medical ailment? Do research on any particular topic? Depending on the source, the percentage of people who start online for various purchases or research is (on the low side) at least 80%. The image below shows that over 2 billion Google searches occur every day. Think about your own experiences. When you are initially trying to figure out a problem, you could care less about brand names or ads - you're trying to figure something out. If you haven't found what you were looking for then you'll do additional searches with various keywords and phrases until you do. In some instances you find what you are looking for and you engage with those websites, you read further, you might download an Ebook or click thru to watch a video to expand your knowledge on the topic you are researching. And at some point (if it's a purchase decision), you perhaps go back to sites you previously visited and/or do additional searches for comparison purposes between particular brands. In each case - YOU were in control of what you were exposed to.
(image from internetlivestats.com)
There is an art and a science to the strategies for inbound marketing. The overarching concept makes a lot of sense because you are familiar with your own habits. Having a company's content appear to the right audience (their "buyer persona") at the right stage of the "buyer's journey" - and offering compelling calls-to-action to allow some of your visitors to engage more deeply - will ultimately result in a positive ROI for the investment. Take the next step and download a Free Ebook to learn more.