Inbound marketing has gotten a reputation for being the sexier, less intrusive marketing solution that brings about magic results. Sure, it’s exciting to see how many people have “liked” your hilarious YouTube video, but traditional marketing is still around, and it continues to be effective.
Before you give up on TV, email, and direct mail to throw all your resources into creating the next viral dancing cat sensation, consider using a combination of inbound and outbound marketing tactics.
When I say “outbound marketing,” I’m talking about what we usually think of when we think about marketing: buying ads, making phone calls, and sending direct mail or email. By “inbound marketing,” I’m referring to getting your customers to come to you through producing content like blog posts, viral videos, or whitepapers that capture the interest of potential customers.
I used to rely heavily on inbound marketing. I tweeted, wrote blog posts, joined LinkedIn groups, and answered Quora questions. After a couple months of frustrating results, I realized that I wasn’t reaching our ideal customers. When I finally bought ads that targeted people who had searched for products like ours, steady interest and leads began pouring in.
The Appeal of Inbound Marketing
Many businesses like the idea of inbound marketing not “bothering” customers with unwanted messages. And it’s true that inbound marketing has amazing potential. A video that goes viral is cheaper and reaches more people than traditional media. Likewise, a personal email between friends, with a link to your blog post, is obviously better than a banner ad no one notices.
Take Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series. The brand’s video showing an iPhone in one of its blenders has garnered nearly 16 million views, and the series has increased sales by 700%. But as amazing as these Internet sensations can be, inbound marketing as a whole can be clumsy, hard to predict, and inconsistent. Indeed, 52% of marketers cite difficulties in accurately measuring ROI as their biggest source of frustration in social marketing.
It’s also difficult to continuously create good content that your customers appreciate. Even the most inspired writers or video producers can’t crank out a hit every time. If you’re counting on content to bring in customers, you can’t guarantee if or when you’ll be successful, and when you are, the leads often flood in at once.
A Winning Combination
Despite the hype, many businesses (including Web-based companies) continue to use a combination of inbound and outbound marketing. There’s a reason why outbound marketing hasn’t been abandoned: its outcomes are much more predictable, and these advertising methods get results in virtually every market.
The Internet has also changed how customers interact with traditional outbound channels. Nielsen research shows that 57% of TV viewers use the Web simultaneously. This means that viewers are interacting with their friends, favorite TV shows, and advertisers online, and inbound and outbound approaches can complement each other.
A poll by Ipsos for Reuters showed that 61% of global Internet users research products online when they’re thinking of buying. Even if a customer sees your product on TV or in a magazine ad, she will probably find you online to browse, compare prices, and find answers to her questions.
Knowing Where to Place Your Bets
Whether you’re working on an inbound or outbound marketing campaign, you need to fundamentally appeal to your customers’ sense of value. For inbound, that means entertaining or informative content that pulls people in. With outbound, it’s finding a way to deliver a clear, honest, and appealing message.
If you’re still trying to decide whether an inbound- or outbound-focused approach will work for you, consider your customer base. Here are some cases where inbound marketing works well:
- If you have a broad market — almost everyone needs, wants, or can use your product. Most general consumer products are good candidates because they have a wide audience. When customers share your content, it will naturally reach other people in your market.
- If your users know each other. Use inbound marketing if your customers are already well-connected or part of the same social group (whether online or in real life). Great content that reaches a few of them will be passed along to the rest.
- If your customers are social media addicts. Inbound marketing will be more effective if you’re reaching out to a demographic that regularly uses social media.
Use outbound marketing to the extent that it pays for itself. Track your advertising stats. Keep paying for tactics that create customers. Buy select keywords on Web searches, hire people to make calls, or purchase banner and TV ads.
To maximize your outbound advertising effectiveness, figure out what your potential customers value. Do they have a hard time deciding between you and your competitors? Have your salesperson offer them a free trial. Are they frustrated by poor customer support from your competitors? Advertise with a quote from a customer about how excellent your service is.
No matter which tactics you choose, offer your users something of value. A positive experience with your brand will resonate across all channels, and ultimately, your reputation for offering value to your customers will always be the best strategy.