Paradigm Shift: Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing

Advertisements are annoying (I’ll show myself out now). Not a groundbreaking statement, but it’s true. TV viewers skip commercials with TiVo, blow past newsstands with smartphone in hand, and cruise down the highway listening to uninterrupted Sirius radio. This shift in consumer behavior has given rise to new strategies which aim to lure consumers by providing the content they now seek, rather than pushing your message to the no longer captive audience. As consumers change the way in which they consume, marketers must change the way in which they market. Let’s take a look at the differences between Outbound and Inbound Marketing, examine some pros and cons, and help you identify the best strategy for your needs.

Outbound Marketing

The old standard, outbound marketing is the process of actively pushing your message out to consumers, and typically involves casting the largest possible net in the hopes that your broad message will resonate with as large a segment of the viewers as possible. This usually consists of tactics like mass media ads, direct mail campaigns, cold-calling, and trade shows. While certainly still effective when employed correctly, these tactics may not be the right choice for your brand.

Pros:

  • Mass exposure: Reach a large audience quickly.
  • Low maintenance: Set it and forget it, without constant updates.

Cons:

  • Untargeted: Sure, you reach 3 million people, but how many of them were part of your target audience?
  • Untraceable: Of those 3 million people, how many of them went to your website, or visited your store?
  • Expensive: That ad seems even more expensive when you don’t know your ROI.

Inbound Marketing

The new(ish) kid in town, inbound marketing aims to attract consumers by providing them with the personal, customized content that they seek. Blog and social media content are key to luring your audience and giving them a reason to choose your brand over the competition. The ability to target and track your content means a boost in cost-effectiveness, but it also requires more time and energy from your team.

Pros:

  • Multi-Channel: Allows you to distribute your message through the mediums where your audience lives.
  • Personalized: By targeting your content, it makes consumers feel special, like you’re talking directly to them – not just to their demographic.
  • Integrated: Digital media analytics allow you to trace, analyze, and edit your content based on how it performs, on the fly.

Cons:

  • Smaller Exposure: You’ll be doing more work to reach less people.
  • Higher Maintenance: With great analytics comes greater need for content strategy.

There is no right or wrong answer for every brand, and a good mixture of inbound and outbound marketing should be utilized. The question becomes, what percentage of your marketing budget to allocate to which strategy? If you want to stretch your budget and get the best ROI, inbound marketing should get the lion’s share. Outbound marketing is your best bet if your goal is exposure. For those who aren’t sure, start small with targeted, inbound tactics and then scale up from there once you have a handle on your content and audience.