Inbound Marketing or Outbound? Which is the Winner?

Inbound Marketing or Outbound? Which is the Winner?

The marketing industry has been buzzing about the rise of inbound marketing and the decline of outbound marketing over the last several years. With the rise of internet-empowered buyers, inbound marketing has helped vendors take control of the initial pieces of the buyer’s journey. But are marketing teams really migrating away from outbound marketing? According to a 2016 Demand Metric survey, the answer is a resounding no.

The report found that 84% of marketers agree that both inbound and outbound marketing drives business. The report also found that inbound and outbound marketing account for nearly equal amounts of leads, budget share, and revenue. Top performers are choosing to use a balanced approach that incorporates both inbound and outbound marketing.

Modern Definitions of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing (as practiced with new online capabilities) is still a relatively new concept, but the definition of outbound has evolved in recent years. At its core, inbound marketing is really about getting your customers to come to you.

Inbound is commonly referred to as a pull strategy because you are using tactics and great content to pull the attention of your prospects to your brand. Advertising did this in the old days, but digital marketing has changed the game a thousand-fold, creating a much lower barrier to entry and leveling the playing field.

Outbound can be classified as push marketing; you proactively push content to those you consider to be potential buyers, or to existing customers. You can control the message and timing.

That same new modern technology that has made today’s inbound marketing possible has also changed outbound. It gathers, distills, and provides access to behavioral data, and makes it possible to automate the delivery of personalized marketing messages, saving a ton of time and effort. This has changed the way marketers plan and deploy outbound campaigns.

Historical Definition of Outbound

Tactics used to push your marketing message to mass audiences, in hopes of reaching potential customers or prospects. Think direct mail: all those postcards and catalogs piling up in your physical mailbox. Think billboards, placed where travellers and commuters might see them at the most advantageous time. Think radio: you’re in your car on the way to work, at a stoplight, looking at a billboard, when an ad for the same product comes on the radio.

Modern Definition of Outbound

Speaking of online outbound, it started out focused on email, and it used to be “batch and blast.” Today, it’s all about learning about your prospects and what they want so you can develop personas that represent them accurately. Now we market to personas, pushing timely, relevant messaging and content that addresses their pain points and interests. We’re building relationships, one automated touchpoint at a time, to educate the buyer, build trust, and stay top-of-mind in the decision making process.

A Balanced Strategy is A Winning Strategy

According to the Demand Metric study, most marketers use a healthy mix of both tactics. On the inbound side, social media, SEO, and blogging have become important pillars. On the outbound side, marketers are investing heavily in email, events, PR, and even direct mail.

In a nutshell: you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) choose between inbound and outbound. The two are, in fact, better together.

Today’s marketers are using a balanced combination of inbound and outbound programs across the buyer’s journey to win big. The object of the modern marketing game is to build a twin-engine marketing machine that builds brand, drives demand, and expands customer relationships.

Build an Ecosystem for Conversation & Relationship Building

Creating a balanced marketing strategy is no different than a conversation with a friend over coffee. In order for it to work, both sides must contribute. You have to be accessible, listen when it’s time to listen, and speak up when you have something valuable to say.

The trick to creating a well-balanced marketing strategy is to map out the five stages of your customer journey, and ensure that you’re prepared for a two-way conversation at each stage.

The wheel represents the customer journey and the stages of engagement they go through.

At every stage of the customer journey, make sure that you:

  1. Actively reach out to prospects to give them the information they need to progress to the next step
  1. Make it easy for people to find the same information on their own

How Inbound Marketing Made Us Better Outbound Marketers

The rise of inbound marketing requires marketers to do three important things:

1. Map out their buyer’s journey

This includes understanding the different stages your buyer will go through, and what exactly they are looking for at each stage. B2B sales cycles can be long and complex, mapping out your buyer’s journey will allow you to more easily deliver targeted, relevant content to your prospects and customers.

2. Develop a deep understanding of their buyer personas

Developing your buyer personas takes a little bit of legwork, but the results can be outstanding. Segmenting your buyers by persona allows you to deliver a more personalized experience to them. To help you create buyer personas without fuss, we’ve put together this toolkit for you.

3. Create content that helps educate and engage these buyers

Lots of people can create content. But an effective content marketing strategy is focused on creating content that is engaging enough that it entices buyers to convert. Not only does the content have to be valuable to your audience, but it also has to be interesting and engaging. Check out our blog post on creating content that converts.

These tactics have now become standard practice in most marketing teams. Every content marketer is now a professor and every brand is now a publishing house.

And guess what? Outbound marketing programs are the unintended beneficiary of these new content best practices, here’s how:

  • Marketers now have libraries of engaging content designed to attract the right audiences early on the purchase journey.
  • These content libraries can fuel outbound marketing programs and enrich audience interactions with “push”
  • These outbound campaigns leverage targeted content that is meant to build trust before pushing for a sale. For example, a sales rep can send an outbound email suggesting a prospect read a new blog post about a hot industry topic, or an outbound advertisement can offer up an educational eBook instead of extolling the benefits of product features.

Technology + Good Content = Killer Inbound and Outbound Programs

The addition of inbound marketing to the mix has brought balance to our collective marketing brain. We understand the buying process more holistically, we give more power and control to our prospects, and we publish timely content that’s meant to address buyer pain points and interests. But inbound alone is not enough.

The outbound side of the marketing conversation is still equally important. New technology and the rise of content marketing has made outbound marketing more effective, and more productive for both buyers and sellers.

Not sure if you’re strategy is balanced? Here’s where you should start: Check out this interactive assessment to see if your marketing efforts are balanced across inbound and outbound tactics.

eBook: Inbound Marketing Effectiveness Report

About

Nathan is an award-winning freelance content marketing producer (words, video, audio, strategy). He also was an award-winning newspaper reporter. He has an MBA and a BA in Editorial Journalism. He is a past director of SEMpdx's digital marketing conference. He has two great kids, likes to sail, ride his road bike, and make beer.