It is commonly said that today is the age of inbound marketing, but what does that truly mean? Inbound and outbound marketing aren’t just some jargon phrases that marketers use to sound smarter. They represent two opposite strategies of finding and approaching your potential customers, and to choose which of them suits better your marketing needs, you must understand how they differ.
Outbound marketing is what we call “traditional marketing”, or simply just “marketing”. In a nutshell, it is a marketing strategy where a company initiates the conversation with potential customers using different kinds of mediums. The most common are TV and radio ads, posters, billboards, telemarketing, and newspaper and magazine ads.
Outbound marketing was very efficient for decades and brought success to the multitudes of companies. However, as the years went by, people became more and more irritated with unwanted cold-calls, TV commercials that interrupt their movie nights and dozens of brochures and pamphlets jumping out of their mailboxes every day. We all hate them, but they’re tough to avoid. You, too, know that frustrating feeling, don’t you?
So, what happened is this: people simply started ignoring those ads. This caused a major shift in the entire concept of how marketing works, and inbound was born.
Inbound marketing (a term coined by a HubSpot’s co-founder Brian Halligan in 2005) is the new marketing concept the goal which is not to bother your audiences, but to let them find you themselves. Instead of being pushy and interruptive, inbound marketers aim to offer value to their potential clients, help them with their needs, and in that manner attract them to their products or services.
The most common inbound tactics are content marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and SEO copywriting, social media, and influencer marketing.
Let’s dig in some deeper.
Major differences between inbound and outbound marketing
1. What marketers need vs. what customers need
Traditional marketing is very marketer-centric. It focuses on chasing customers whether they like it or not. It is commercial and salesy. On the other hand, inbound marketing puts customers first. It lets them approach first, when and how it best suits them. Inbound aims at getting found by the customer, not the other way around.
This difference between inbound and outbound marketing reflects best in their goals. While outbound seeks only to sell, inbound seeks to educate, entertain, and add value. It aims at attracting prospects with relevant information, answering their questions, and helping them solve their problems. Once the rapport is built, the next step is to turn them into a regular customer and brand advocate.
2. One-way vs. interactive conversations
First and foremost, the outbound methodology is focused on the product. Content that is used in outbound is there to present the product or service and highlight its features and advantages. Honestly, it’s not talking to the audience, it’s more like talking at the audience.
Conversely, inbound makes use of interactive content to find out more about prospects and build trust. It tries to engage the audience and includes them in the whole process. Social listening and monitoring are important aspects of inbound as well, as an inbound marketer will adapt their campaign according to their prospects’ needs and habits. If done properly, the audience won’t even notice there’s a sales pitch hidden underneath it all.
Inbound and outbound differ in one more conversational aspect, and that is the style. Outbound messages are sent to massive audiences and usually use plural pronouns. On the other hand, inbound is far more personal and uses a lot of I’s and you’s. It is more sincere and looks to build long-lasting relationships with clients.
Take a look at some of the newsletter emails in your inbox. For some of them, you can probably clearly tell that they were sent to thousands of people, as they lack personality and focus on the company. Those emails are an example of outbound marketing. On the contrary, you can recognize inbound emails because they use your first name and talk mostly about you and how they can help you.
3. General audience vs. targeted audience
Outbound messages usually reach the general public, regardless of whether the recipients are actually interested in the topic or not. It pushes everybody and hopes that someone will like the product.
Inbound, on the other hand, is very targeted. Inbound marketers first get to know their potential customers well, they study their habits and preferences, and based on that research, they create campaign. Yes, the scope is much more limited compared to outbound, but the impact is significantly greater.
Social media networks recognized this targeting potential and responded with multitudes of features, such as lookalike audiences and retargeting.
4. Big budget vs. time and effort
Their approach to the audience is not the only difference between inbound and outbound marketing. Namely, they require different kinds of resources.
Let me say this straight: outbound marketing is quite pricey. TV and radio ads, billboards, event – marketers must plan and allocate their resources smartly in order to afford the best placements.
Inbound, however, is far cheaper. Creating content, communicating with prospects and customers, and using features like Facebook Ads in an inbound manner are as effective as traditional marketing, and yet more affordable. Actually, according to Hubspot research, inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound!
On the other hand, the inbound method requires much more time and effort. It includes lots of research, analysis, social listening and monitoring, and constant presence online. It also takes time to write effective content that will convert your prospects or nudge them down the sales funnel. Also, while it’s long-term results are superior to the outbound, it’s short-term effectiveness is hard to measure. It takes time to assess the real success of any inbound campaign.
5. Lack of data vs. detailed analysis
Its analytics options are a great advantage that inbound has over outbound. When it comes to outbound, yes, you can measure the total results, but there is no way for you to know whether it was your TV ad or a billboard that converted your new customers.
As inbound is mostly based in the digital world, it has myriads of analytics options. Inbound marketers will analyse metrics such as the sources of their website visitors, their behaviour on the page and follow the trends. Accordingly, they will adapt the campaign or allocate more resources to the most effective sources or strategies.
Furthermore, if you don’t see any progress in your campaign, it’s easier to identify the problem for inbound than outbound.
Why you need to use the inbound method in 2019
Now that we’ve covered the main differences between inbound and outbound marketing, let’s see what this means for you.
Outbound marketing did its job well in the past. However, it’s time is over. As today we have a greater control of which information we receive. it’s become easier to ignore anything we find uninteresting.
On the other hand, customers respect the inbound marketing process that doesn’t push but pulls them magnetically instead. This way, they get the information they want and need, when they want to, and in their preferred format. This approach will attract them to your website, help you build a relationship with them, engage them and convert them into loyal customers and brand promoters.
So it all adds up to this: inbound marketing is mutually beneficial, to both the company and the customers.