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The Battle: Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Inbound? Outbound? They’re two words that get thrown around in marketing circles a lot. If you aren’t a seasoned expert, they just sound like meaningless buzzwords.

In a changing marketing world, the distinction of inbound vs outbound marketing is actually of huge importance.

So what’s the difference?

The simplest way to describe the difference between inbound and outbound marketing is this: with outbound marketing, you go out to talk to customers, but with inbound marketing, they come in to listen to you.

Outbound marketing involves you telling people what they should do or what they should buy. This, for example, could be through print advertising, TV or radio, or display ads on web pages.

To a certain extent, outbound represents what we would know as the traditional form of marketing – and that, in a way, has become its undoing.

People have become so saturated by and resistant to these forms of communication that they don’t work nearly as well as they used to.

Physical advertising is often ignored by the modern consumer, while display ads reach ever-diminishing audiences as ad-blocker software become ever more popular.

Such is the fall in popularity of outbound that a third of marketers say that it’s now the biggest waste of time and resources in marketing.

So what makes inbound marketing different?

Well, inbound means piquing a consumer’s interest about your company and products with some content that they are attracted to and want to explore. The range of content this applies to is vast: blogs, infographics, eBooks, whitepapers, emails, social media posts, videos, animations… I could go on!

The trick to inbound is that it’s not a direct sales pitch. You’re engaging the interest of a potential customer very subtly, and gradually getting them towards the point where they make their own decision to convert/buy. And all the time, they feel like they’re in control of their own destiny?

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

But what are the key differences and benefits of inbound compared to outbound?

Four reasons why inbound marketing makes sense

1: it’s more effective. When you actually compare the figures head-to-head, inbound marketing based around content delivers significantly better results.

Research from the Aberdeen Group has shown that content marketing can increase website conversion rates sixfold and nearly double email click-through rates.

2: it’s more positive. Inbound marketing means you’re able to create a wide variety of content that is, for the most part, only marketing your products indirectly. This gives you much more flexibility to take a friendlier, more personable approach to how you communicate with your target audiences.

Through the likes of blog posts (which have proved to be particularly successful as an inbound tactic), you can give your marketing some warmth and personality that is much harder to achieve with outbound.

3: it’s cheaper (or at least, it can be). Think of how much it would cost to place a commercial on TV, or to put a full-page ad in a newspaper. Then think how much it would cost to put a series of posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

OK, I admit that’s a slightly unfair comparison, but the point still stands that inbound marketing generally costs less than outbound. This is mainly because there are minimal costs attached to the creation of your content, and because (unless it’s a paid ad) posting them to your chosen platforms or website is free.

4: it’s more focused towards your target audiences. The great thing about inbound marketing is that you can make sure that the right information is seen by the right people. This works in two ways.

The first is by creating content with specific keywords and themes in mind that will resonate best with your most likely customers and rank better for SEO. The second is by posting it on the platforms where those customers are most likely to reside, e.g. LinkedIn to business audiences, Instagram to younger consumers and so on.

Four tips to getting inbound right…

1: don’t neglect paid search for the sake of SEO. Just because SEO means you can get your content on the first page of Google searches for free doesn’t mean that there is no place for paid media.

The biggest advantage of retaining a paid element alongside your inbound strategy is that you can meticulously refine your readership. Whereas organic social posts and blogs will be seen by a general demographic of interested people, paid media allows you to really nail down a specific type of customer to aim for.

2: lead the customer towards your desired action – carefully! Don’t forget that all this content you create and post has an endgame – getting the reader to convert.

So during the creation stage, always bear in mind how the piece of content fits into the grand scheme of things. Generally speaking, you want to be more general when trying to attract new readers, and gradually become more direct about your product or service as they become more engaged.

3: measure right. As with any type of digital marketing, there are a million and one different ways of measuring and quantifying success. Ultimately, it’s important to set out your goals at the start and work out which metrics are most relevant to them, and work everything else out from there. This blog is excellent further reading about measuring inbound marketing.

4: be creative with content. Remember that you won’t be the only business in your sector that’s going to be exploiting the opportunities of inbound. The chances are that at least some of your competitors will be, too.

That’s why it’s critical to go the extra mile and stand out from the crowd with your content, from copy and messaging through to visuals and design. If you don’t have the time or resources within your own organisation to do this, then engaging the creative services of an external agency would be a smart move.

Creation Agency are inbound marketing experts with the ability to craft the right content and get it in front of the right people in the right places at the right time. Take a moment to find out more about what we do and how we do it.