If you’re here it’s because you need a quick, clear definition of what inbound and outbound marketing is. Before this blog gets into the merits of either, here’s the definition in a nutshell...
Outbound marketing is a traditional method of marketing - it's the type of marketing messaging which you push onto potential customers. Think of activities such as trade shows and cold calling. Inbound marketing is a methodology that attracts customers to your business by creating relevant, valuable content which is tailored to your target market.
Here’s the more detailed version.
What is outbound marketing?
You probably are already doing outbound marketing. Outbound marketing is anything that someone on the street would consider ‘marketing’ - anything that is clearly an advert. Examples include: advertising through TV and radio; any print or physical ads such as leaflets, posters, magazines, and billboards; mailing lists or ‘spam’ emails; and PPC banners that are clearly marketing paid products. The debate around PPC being inbound or outbound is a little blurred, so I’ll come back to that later.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is less straightforward but often more effective. Inbound marketing is focused on the creation of content which makes a prospective customer more likely to come to you, and more interested in your product or service.
To a certain extent inbound marketing is a direct result of the internet, because it revolves around targeting people who are already looking for answers to a problem that your offering solves.
Inbound vs outbound marketing: which is better?
Let’s say you're a wedding photographer and you want to get the word out. If you were doing outbound marketing, you’d go out on the street and give out loads of flyers. Some of the people who take your flyer might be planning a wedding, or know someone who is, and you’d get some calls from prospects over the next couple of days or months. If you had budget, maybe you’d do a TV ad, or acquire some emails and send out a mailer.
Before Google became synonymous with ‘I don’t know, let me look it up’, this was a perfectly successful way to market. But earning the attention of your potential customers is getting harder and harder - because of the over-saturation of advertising in our daily existence, and the development of better technology to block out those ads. This makes the outbound marketing approach a lot more difficult. Why?
- Most people stream their TV shows
- Radio is dying
- Almost all email providers have aggressive spam filters
- Many people have PPC ad blockers on their browsers
- Everyone is so busy staring at their phones that even posters and billboards are less looked at.
This means you could be the most incredible outbound marketer ever, deserve several awards for your copywriting prowess, and still be having a tough time getting the leads you need and the ROI you know you could achieve.
This isn’t to say that outbound marketing doesn’t work, because it does! It’s just much harder than it used to be, and in the current climate of KPI-focused reporting, outbound marketers have a considerably harder time proving their ROI and demonstrating the importance of their work to the company.
The answer? Compliment your outbound efforts with inbound marketing.
What are inbound marketing channels?
Inbound marketing channels revolve around all things content. Your first port of call is your own site content, landing pages, CTAs and blog; and using search engine optimisation (SEO) to configure that content so you rank high on search engines (read: Google).
That’s not all though. Off-site content like podcasts, social media, consented-to educational email marketing, other blogs and review sites, these are all channels you can use for your inbound marketing campaigns. Even some PPC can count as inbound marketing, if it’s value-add and content focused.
So what defines an inbound marketing channel? The answer: it’s anywhere you can put out engaging and interesting content that adds value to your prospect.
In short, the nub of inbound marketing is getting yourself in front of people who need your product or service, freely educating them about why your product or service solves their problems, and then watching them come to you, enlist the help of your business, and tell all their friends how great you are.
How to implement inbound marketing
Let’s take our wedding photographer example from earlier. Using the Inbound methodology, the wedding photographer business owner would come up with some content ideas that someone looking for a wedding photographer might be interested in. To do this, they’d think about one of their buyer personas, the problems that person might have, and how they could fix them. They would probably identify wedding photo ideas as a key interest point for their clientele.
Next they’d plan their content. Instead of just taking a guess at what they’d search in Google, they would use a tool like Semrush or Moz to measure search volume for keywords like ‘cool wedding photoshoot ideas’.
A screenshot from Semrush showing keyword volume for 'wedding photoshoot ideas'
Then, they’d structure a really interesting blog around the phrases regularly searched for. They could sprinkle in some of their own work, and add a call to action at the bottom of the blog that provides a free 10 minute call to brainstorm some photoshoot ideas with their prospects, no strings attached.
This phone call would leave the prospect brimming with lots of useful ideas and feeling like they'd had a really helpful conversation with someone who was genuinely helpful. This is how you build up better business relationships and generate leads for your business because at the end of the day, people do business with people.
This is the power of inbound marketing. It’s all about contextualising conversations, being human and helpful, and letting that do the hard work for you.
Benefits of inbound marketing
Still not convinced? Here are the top 5 benefits of inbound marketing:
1. It’s easier to demonstrate ROI
With Inbound, you spend more time and budget on marketing activity that you know is going to be relevant and contextual for your audience. If you use a tool like HubSpot in tandem with your inbound marketing, you can track where your leads come from way easier than in outbound marketing. That makes it easier to see what’s working and what isn’t.
2. It costs less
You can get more for your money with inbound. HubSpot has calculated that inbound leads cost on average 61% less than outbound leads. Inbound marketing sometimes takes longer to pay off than outbound, but once you get started, the rewards are worth it.
3. It develops brand identity and builds trust
Instead of explicit marketing that is asking for something from your leads, inbound marketing is giving valuable content to your leads. This helps your prospects to see you as helpful and trustworthy, while still benefiting you!
4. It’s sustainable
By creating evergreen content and helpful resources for your audience, you can build sustainable long term growth. That way, your money keeps making money - versus, for instance, spending that same budget for a billboard that is only up for a week.
5. It generates warmer leads
Because you’re focusing on attracting people who actually need what you're offering, your leads will be more relevant - as you’re essentially pre-qualifying them. This makes sales’ job easier too!
So there you go! If you want to start implementing inbound marketing for your business - check out the free resource below.