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Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

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Monday November 5, 2018

The debate around inbound and outbound marketing is gradually shifting towards the use of inbound marketing tactics. But is it a good choice to stop your outbound marketing? Should your marketing team be solely focusing on building your SME through inbound marketing? To help you decide which marketing techniques are right for your business, we take a closer look.

What is inbound and outbound marketing?

You are probably aware of the concepts of traditional outbound marketing – it has been around for a long time. By outbound marketing, we mean the high budget television, radio, billboard, newspaper and magazine articles. Recently, a new phrase has been coined to describe this type of marketing – interruption marketing. This type of marketing is designed to make people stop and look; it is designed to get their attention.

Inbound marketing is a relatively new concept. The phrase ‘inbound marketing’ was first used by Hubspot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan in 2005. Inbound marketing is about positioning your business in front of people when they are searching for the services you offer; it is about earning peoples’ attention organically rather than interrupting them. There is a high chance your business is already using some inbound marketing techniques, such as search engine optimisation (SEO), public relations, blogging, social media and content creation.

"Before the internet existed, people would usually reach out to a business and speak to a sales person. Today, it is more common for a person to use the internet to research a product, company or service"

How does outbound marketing work?

Outbound marketing is about reaching out to specifically targeted potential customers. The aim is to convince someone that they require your product or service. It is more of a hard sales approach which relies on persuasive techniques to generate new leads.

The theory behind outbound marketing is that by sending out enough blasts of information and advertisements, some customers will respond. Traditionally, a large portion of the marketing budget would have been allocated to outbound marketing campaigns, however, in recent years, this trend has started to shift.

The aim with outbound marketing campaigns is usually to close a sale. The idea is that the advert will be so persuasive the customer will not look elsewhere for the product or service you are offering.

How does inbound marketing work?

Inbound marketing is about attracting potential customers to your business by earning their attention, rather than paying large sums from your marketing budget. The process works when there are large amounts of digital interactions, mainly through content publication in emails, blogs, podcasts, white books, infographics and organic social media campaigns. The aim is to produce interesting content, which readers will share, leading to an increase in search engine rankings and referrals, which in turn results in potential leads.

The aim is to engage with potential customers who are already seeking information about the products or services your business offers. Customers will make contact with you because of the benefit it offers to them. For example, if they are looking for information and you have a blog which provides it, they will be getting something valuable to them by visiting your website. Social media is an excellent way to build up a conversation about your area of expertise – if a potential customer has a question, use your knowledge to answer them.

There are three main components which make up inbound marketing: content, search engine optimisation and social media. To be successful, you need to have all three in place. There is no point producing great content if people cannot find it either through a search engine or your social media channels.

There are a series of steps to take when implementing inbound marketing to ensure you cover all three components. The first is to attract the right people, find out who your potential customers are and publish content which they are looking for, and in the places they are looking in.

The next step is to convert these people into leads, encourage them to contact you once they have finished reading some content you have offered. This could be through online forms, thank you pages and calls to actions at the end of your blogs or articles.

Finally, you need to close the sale, but remember that it is important at this point not to bombard them with too much information, such as emails or phone calls. Try not to be short-sighted in your marketing instead by using smart tactics such as targeted emails, which send them information and offers they will find useful. This should continue after a sale, so the customer feels valued and your business remains in their mind.

Why are marketing techniques changing?

Before the internet existed, people would reach usually reach out to a business and speak to a sales person. Today, it is more common for a person to use the internet to research a product, company or service. Consumers look for reviews, cost comparisons and a company’s reputation often before contacting a company.

It is a known fact that 57% of a buyer’s journey is completed before a customer even talks to a salesperson. This means that the way a customer makes decisions has drastically changed in recent years. According to Hubspot, only 29% of potential customers want to talk to a salesperson – 62% would rather consult a search engine. It is expected that by 2020, customers will carry out up to 85% of their business purchases and relationships without talking to a human.

With the increase in new technology and increased access to the internet, inbound marketing is increasingly seen as a more effective way to attract customers. In 2012, Google updated its Panda algorithm, which resulted in content marketing really taking off.

When discussing the two marketing techniques, marketers say improving their SEO and growing their presence organically is their top inbound marketing goal. 60% of these marketers put creating blog content as their number one marketing priority. In fact, figures show companies publishing blog posts receive between 3.5 and 4.5 times more leads than companies with no blog.

What is the cost of inbound and outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing does cost more. This is because it has been found that outbound marketing represents a low return on investment in comparison to inbound marketing tactics. Potential customers respond better to the two-way traffic which is established in inbound marketing. Hubspot estimate inbound leads to cost 61% less on average than outbound leads, which results in a saving of more than £1 for each newly acquired customer.

How much time does inbound and outbound marketing take?

By time, we don’t mean how long it takes to create a marketing campaign; we mean how long it will take before your business feels the benefits of your marketing efforts. When an outbound marketing campaign is a success, the results are immediate. This means it is also very clear when a marketing campaign flops.

An inbound marketing campaign can take time as it relies on search engines recognising the new content and putting it in the eyes of your potential customers. Inbound marketing paves the way for your customers to get to know you, this can take time. The time you spend nurturing relationships with your customers will ensure the quality and longevity of your business relationship.

What are the pros and cons of inbound marketing?

While creating content for inbound marketing is time-consuming, the return on investment in high. It costs 61% less per lead than outbound marketing. As the content is shared, the reach of your business gradually increases. The content you produce will lead to better brand recognition – people will associate the products or services you offer with your business name. Digital inbound marketing is 100% measurable – every action your customer takes with your content is measurable. By far, the biggest benefit of inbound marketing is the relationship you build with your customers. it provides a longevity which you will be able to continually capitalise on.

If inbound marketing is a new concept for your business, it is likely that an overhaul of your website will need to take place. You will need functionality such as a blog, newsletter or email subscription. Inbound marketing does take time, search engines will not pick up your new content overnight and your social media channels will not have a large following instantly. Inbound marketing techniques are so popular that there is already a lot of noise. Most businesses are already making an impact with their inbound marketing campaigns, which can make it difficult for businesses new to inbound techniques to stand out. In the last year, the number of marketers which used inbound marketing grew from 60% to 85%.

What are the pros and cons of outbound marketing?

There are some significant reasons why outbound marketing is still popular. Some companies report excellent results from cold-calling. However, this will only work for some businesses. Outbound marketing has traditionally been used during a business’s quiet spells to give an immediate lift in business. It is a bit like turning a tap of business on, but as soon as the advertising stops, the business usually dries up too. The biggest benefit is being able to mass deliver a single message. For many businesses, a small concise message delivered to a large audience can have huge benefits. Coca Cola is a brand which is famous for its effectiveness in this, although they do have a huge marketing budget.

Outbound marketing makes it difficult to attract the return on investment, which can cause problems when marketing budgets are being squeezed. Over time, as technology improves, consumers are beginning to use ad blockers to ensure they are not bombarded with unwanted advertising. According to Hubspot, 91% of people say ads are more intrusive than they were two years ago and 64% of ad blocker users do so because they find adverts annoying. Many of the types of outbound marketing campaigns do involve a high cost and it is not predictable as to whether this will pay off. It is also very difficult and time-consuming to establish exactly how your customers found your business.

Is your business ready to join the world of inbound marketing?

If you have been spending a large amount on outbound marketing and are struggling to see results, or if you do not have the budget to spend, inbound marketing techniques are a great opportunity to market your business with less. In recent years, the UK has started to embrace inbound marketing, however, there are still many businesses who are nervous about stepping into the digital world and its inbound marketing techniques. There are excellent growth opportunities available, however, the marketing techniques need to be right for your business and the type of campaign you are running. There are times when outbound marketing still has its place.

Get on board with inbound marketing

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