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Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

Inbound vs. outbound marketing: do both

Today’s marketing must integrate both inbound and outbound strategies

Why? Because today’s audiences still see ads, billboards, fleet graphics, brochures and mailers (all outbound marketing tactics). Yet most people also start their search for answers, products, ideas, solutions, ratings and more online, where inbound marketing thrives.

Quick review:

inbound vs outbound marketingOutbound marketing is traditional marketing, focused on getting the word out … “shouting from the rooftops” to a broad audience who might be looking for what’s being offered. Advertising, publicity, direct mail, trade shows, brochures, catalogs, etc. Can also be called “push” marketing as messages and ads are pushed towards audiences to grab attention, tout benefits and draw response.

Inbound marketing vs outbound marketingInbound marketing is primarily online, and designed to reach those who are already looking for what you offer. The goal is to engage them online and then cultivate a relationship. Some call it content marketing because it’s based on delivering content/information to help searchers learn more and decide. It’s also pull marketing, because audiences are pulled in based on what they’re seeking.

One doesn’t replace the other

When choosing inbound vs. outbound marketing, take a hard look at your sales process. Where do your target audiences make a decision? Choose to move forward or to look at another option?

As you can see by the chart below, the elements of inbound vs. outbound marketing are analytics, automation, email marketing, social media and content management. Marketers are increasing their spend in these areas. But that doesn’t mean outbound marketing should be replaced.

2014marketingstatsInbound and outbound can fit into a different part of the customer journey. Each has a different influence on a decision.

Depending on the business and industry, whether B2B or B2C, there are different steps and stages. An inbound or online strategy could be more dominant at the inquiry stage, but a more face-to-face strategy might be more effective at the final decision.

For example:

In a B2B sales process, a demo at a trade show (outbound) may pique interest and awareness, but the recommender or buyer will likely do more research online. White papers, diagrams, reviews and more can help move a buyer towards a decision. And today, on average, a B2B buyer is 60% towards a decision before they contact a vendor directly. So when the seller offers valuable information that helps a buyer evaluate, they’re helping the buyer choose.

inbound vs outbound marketing poster

This high school visit poster is designed to attract attention (outbound) but also fulfills with a specific URL and QR code that drive the viewer online for details.

Or if a high school student is starting his/her search for a college, they may read industry publications or see a poster, (outbound) talk to friends and a college counselor to get general direction.

Once they have a feel for a few options, they’ll go online to look further (inbound). That’s where a college has a chance to ramp up inbound marketing to capture and cultivate interest and differentiate their college from others.

Inbound marketing is effective for the Millennial audience (today’s youth) because it’s focused on telling stories, providing information, being authentic … online. And that’s what millennials are looking for. They don’t want to be “sold.”

 A few more tips … 

Inbound marketing is a good fit for a company or product that has education or evaluation as part of the buying process.

It’s not a good fit for many consumer products or impulse buys. In other words, if you’re selling cookies, it’s your cookie packaging that’s going to make or break a sale, not an inbound marketing strategy.

Need help evaluating and choosing a strategy? Talk to us. We’re grounded in traditional marketing and optimized in inbound marketing. We evaluate based on your audiences and where they choose.

Learn more about the principles of inbound marketing here. Or download our overview below


About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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