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Inbound versus outbound marketing: what’s best for your business?

Inbound and outbound marketing are different approaches to reaching audiences and growing your business. Both are effective but they have different end goals and benefits. 

So, which one is best for your business?

According to Finances online, 75% of marketers see inbound marketing as effective while 25% think it’s not. When asked about outbound marketing, 62% of marketers believe it’s effective while 38% say it’s not. 

It’s important to understand why more marketers rely on inbound marketing rather than outbound marketing. Learning the differences between the two can help you understand which one suits your needs best. 

What’s the difference between inbound and outbound marketing?

As the name suggests, outbound marketing pushes general messages out to a broader audience to find potential customers. Outbound marketing can include trade shows, seminars and cold calling. 

Outbound marketing is a traditional approach that uses channels such as: 

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Advertisements
  • Cold calling
  • Email lists 
  • Billboards

Outbound marketing is also known as the ‘push’ or ‘disruption’ method because businesses show their products without your permission. Think about all the ads you see on TV or online that disrupt your favourite program. The outbound strategy is costly to maintain because you need to pay for ads to be displayed, so these campaigns can have a shorter lifespan. 

As the internet and mobile devices have grown in popularity they have offered new and creative ways of advertising and paved the way to inbound marketing, a term coined in 2005. 

As the name implies, inbound marketing focuses on creating educational and relevant content within the business so that it can potentially pull in an identified target audience. There are different strategies you can use for inbound marketing, but many of them will allow you to engage an audience that’s more easily qualified as prospective customers. Key indicators of a successful inbounding marketing strategy will include organic traffic to your website, increased leads and more interest in your products and services such as copywriting services

These are the key differences between outbound and inbound marketing:

  • Generic vs specific: Outbound marketing campaigns tend to have generic messaging to appeal to wider audiences, whereas inbound marketing will focus on specific topics and themes to target specific prospective customers
  • Short vs long content lifespan: Outbound marketing content will usually run for a shorter amount of time – ranging from several days, weeks or months. With inbound marketing, the content will range from educational blogs, videos or even infographics, allowing it to be evergreen and relevant for a longer period. 
  • Short-term vs long-term outcomes: Outbound marketing campaigns and paid advertisements will allow you to see results immediately as soon as prospective leads click the ad. With inbound marketing, you’re creating a long-term plan that will gradually produce results as more time passes. 
  • Interruptive vs permissive: Outbound marketing can be interruptive because the content “interrupts” the audience from what they’re viewing or listening to. Think of short ads in between long-form videos you watch on video. Inbound marketing is permissive because the audience will most likely have clicked on that content after searching for it, as they are consciously looking for answers or even products and services related to that topic.

3 reasons your small business should invest in inbound marketing

Small to medium businesses have greater success when investing in inbound marketing. Not only is it more relevant in today’s social media age, but it’s less costly and more effective.

Instead of casting your net far and wide in the hopes of getting that needle in the haystack, the inbound strategy works better for these 3 reasons:

1. Inbound marketing has a holistic approach to using content

Inbound marketing takes a holistic approach to the content you create by ensuring that every piece of content builds on each other. 

The way to do this is through content atomisation which involves breaking down big ideas into more focused and unique pieces of content. 

For example, if your overarching theme is ‘leadership’ then you can atomise that to several specific topics such as: 

  • ‘What are the top traits of a leader?’
  • ‘What is the difference between a leader and a boss?’
  • ‘How to motivate people as a leader?’

This creates multiple pieces of content that are distinct, but come together to build on an engaging theme. Content atomisation also allows you to publish different types of content on different mediums and platforms. You can start with a blog and branch out by creating videos, podcasts, infographics or ebooks to expand the content “atoms” and boost your brand visibility.

Rather than having a big idea that is general and vague, content atomisation allows you to maximise the usefulness of your content by creating specific, unique content. 

People search for solutions to their problems and by atomising, you can provide step-by-step solutions. 

2. Inbound marketing is a cost-effective and long-term strategy

Pay-per-click ads can cost you a lot of money and might not get the traffic you want. These ads can interrupt what people are doing and are more likely to be pushed away because it’s disruptive, even if it can be potentially helpful to them. 

Ad campaigns are usually short-term because of the costs in maintaining them on platforms such as Google or Facebook. Due to their spammy and cluttered nature, they can also easily be removed by internet users with ad blockers. 

So instead of blindly distributing your services to anyone, implement an inbound marketing to really hone in your content and identify your target audience. This will allow you to present your content in front of leads that are actually ready to buy. 

Since potential customers are searching for your services, the content you create needs to target your buyer’s persona. The more your content addresses their needs and pain points the more likely they are to become a customer.

Consistently creating content does take time, so it’s important to remember that inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re setting up a long-term strategy. 

A potential customer may be following your posts and reading your blogs for some time before they make an informed decision to use your services. But trust is being created, which sets you up for long-term relationships with your customers. 

These customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and lead to new customers. This lead-to-lead inbound marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and at the same time is more effective. 

3. Inbound marketing allows you to leverage the advantages of content marketing

Content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing. Or, in other words, inbound marketing leverages the advantages of content marketing. 

Success relies on both, so take advantage of the entire spectrum of both content marketing and inbound marketing practices.

Both practices require particular skill sets that can cross over but expertise does exist outside the scope of each role. 

Content creators usually know how to utilise SEO writing so that your content can increase your visibility. Writers use keywords and phrases that search engines identify and rank higher on a results page. 

Google ranks quality content and can drive more traffic to your website and generate more leads. Content creators can also use images to boost their SEO.

What content marketers may not be familiar with are the technical algorithms needed in SEO, the backend processes, the interactive tools involved and the data analysis.

Similarly, inbound marketers may not know the art of creating story-driven content in its many forms – blogs, videos, podcasts and social media.

Content creators know how to keep up with relevant trends and updates within your industry, so that you’re positioned as an expert that your audience can trust.

Inbound marketing is not only the trendier way to market your business, but it’s the way to get noticed for less. Outbound marketing may have dominated previously, but it also left out a lot of smaller businesses because of its costly nature. Now, you too can be seen, or better yet people want to see what you have to offer. Contact us if you’re ready to build a content strategy with inbound marketing.

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