When most people think of “marketing” they think of traditional marketing strategies such as telemarketing, print advertising, bill boards, and direct mail. In the past, marketing was not targeted to a specific audience; rather a product or service was advertised to everyone.
In outbound or traditional marketing – like direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows – you seek out your customers with one-way communication. You don’t seek to educate them about anything but your product or service.
With widespread use of the internet, consumers are more in control of the marketing messages they receive and what channels they receive them through. They don’t like to feel intruded or invaded by ads.
In inbound marketing – like white papers, eBooks, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, infographics and social media posts – communication between companies and customers is two-way.
While it may seem like traditional marketing is a thing of the past, it may still have a place in your marketing strategy. Perhaps it’s time to look at your company’s needs and decide which type of marketing is the best for you, if you’re exclusively utilizing outbound marketing and not achieving the results you want. Outbound marketing can still be effective, but it’s best when these efforts are combined with inbound marketing so that your marketing strategy is comprehensive and strategically designed with your audience in mind.
Outbound marketing, in essence, is a tactic you use to carry your message to a broader audience in hopes that you can connect your brand with new potential customers. The goal is to find an audience and make them aware of your company’s products and services. Outbound strategies include:
Outbound marketing has been around forever, and there’s a good reason. Many companies have found success using traditional marketing tactics. While some tactics, such as cold calling and newspaper advertisements have fallen by the wayside, especially when marketing to millennials, many are still generating valuable leads.
Take trade shows for instance. Trade shows and corporate events are a fantastic way to network and promote your products. They also offer something most other marketing tactics don’t: the impact of an in-person meeting. This gives you the opportunity to display your brand and connect with potential partners and leads, without wasting your marketing budget on an audience that isn’t likely to turn into a potential customer.
The main problem with outbound marketing is that many audiences are desensitized to it now. People are no longer paying attention to traditional advertisements. More and more are placing themselves on do-not-call lists, and using ad blockers to prevent banners and pop-ups from ever reaching them. Interruption-based advertising is growing less and less effective. If you’ve found that this is true for your company, it may be time to make the switch to inbound marketing.
While outbound marketing focuses on broadcasting your products and services to a large audience, with inbound marketing, prospects come to you. Rather than you telling them how great you are, they make up their own minds about your company. With this strategy, it’s no longer all about you; the focus is on them and their interests. You write and share topics that will educate them about your industry in general, not just your product or service.
Inbound marketing covers a variety of marketing tactics such as:
With so many placing themselves on “do not call” lists and finding ways to opt out of advertisements, oftentimes the only way they can learn about products and services is by researching them online. Luckily, there are several online tools you can leverage to make your company more visible in these search results.
Like it or not, customers these days just aren’t as responsive to intrusive advertisements. In fact, many are opting to pay more for premium streaming services so that they don’t have to be interrupted with ads. A lot of them aren’t interested in being bombarded with products and services they don’t need. They know what they want, and when it comes time to purchase something they need, they will go out and find a company they want to buy from.
Inbound marketing understands this business dynamic, and puts the effort into where it matters: leading prospective customers to them by building trust and offering valuable, consistent, and visible content. Whereas outbound marketing casts a wide net hoping to find a few prospects among the crowd, inbound casts a lure for likely prospects who are already looking for services.
Inbound marketing acts as a tool you use to draw customers in. This tool can be many different strategies or a combination of each. From having an optimized website, to developing an impressive content marketing strategy, companies are putting more effort into proving to their potential customers that they understand and recognize their needs, pain points, and interests, and are focusing on helping them in ways that go beyond selling them something.
Maybe your company is still stuck on ineffective outbound marketing strategies like cold calling or newspaper advertisements, and the higher-ups could use a little convincing to switch to inbound marketing. Or perhaps you are a B2B company, and are looking to utilize social media to showcase your corporate culture and the personalities on your team. Without a strategic marketing plan, it can be difficult to know which strategies are best for you. The truth is that all of them can be effective, but in order to know which strategy is most effective, you first need to take a look at your target audience, and really get to know what they care about.
The first thing you should do is make sure your website is fresh and optimized for a better visitor experience. If your website takes a long time to load, or isn’t compatible with mobile devices, visitors are less likely to stay on your site and learn anything more about you. You also want to make sure that your website showcases your brand identity to make a lasting impression. You don’t want a visitor to remember an interesting blog post, but forget which blog they read it on. Your website acts as your online business card, so it’s important that you integrate it into your inbound marketing efforts.
Once visitors are on your website, you want to provide valuable, informational, and engaging content like blogs, eBooks, white pages, and case studies, that helps your target audience. The content you provide shouldn’t always be focused on selling your products and services, rather it should be positioning you as an industry thought leader with fresh and intelligent ideas that you want to share. This shows prospects that you have a deep understanding of the industry and have solutions for the problems they face daily. It also offers you a chance to showcase your specializations. Having consistent, relevant content is a crucial component to an effective, long-term inbound marketing strategy.
Now that you’ve provided content that website visitors find engaging, how will you go about converting them into leads? You accomplish this by making sure you have the right calls-to-action to go alongside your content. These are what inspire your visitors to engage with you and share their contact information. Sounds simple, but a lot goes into making sure they are effective at motivating people to give you their information and learn more about your company.
Even the best, most relevant and informational content, with the perfect calls-to-action, posted on an attractive, user-friendly website won’t do any good if nobody can find it. This is where search engine optimization comes in. Knowing how to spot low-hanging fruit when it comes to keywords with medium to high search volume and low to medium competition is critical to effective inbound marketing. Not only that, but you have to then focus on having the right keyword density and building the best internal linking structure with your cornerstone content, and blogs. And since SEO best practices are always changing, it can be tough to stay on top of it. By leveraging the right content management, you can make sure you are ahead of the game.
Many businesses have a love-hate relationship with social media. It’s a great way to connect with your audience, but with your interactions being visible to the public, it leaves no room for error. This thought tends to scare a lot of business away from utilizing social media as an inbound marketing tool, but as long as you avoid a few big no-nos, you can start slow and build your social media following the same way you would build your email database. Begin by looking at companies who run a successful social media campaign, and see what you can learn from them. Most importantly, look at any insights on your demographics. Learn more about your audience and share information that aligns with their values and interests. Social media is a place for you to make real connections and show the human side of your company.
Success comes from working smarter, not necessarily harder. Inbound marketing follows this approach. There’s nothing wrong with hard work, and outbound marketing certainly seems to require that, but if you aren’t seeing the success you want to see with your current marketing strategy, it may be time to re-evaluate your methods and see which areas could be improved upon so that you are making online work for you by being easy to find and hard to forget.