The web is constantly evolving and with it, so is business. Many businesses are beginning to shift a higher percentage of their marketing budgets and resources from traditional marketing efforts to focus on inbound marketing. However, businesses must carefully evaluate their industry, current marketing ROI, and buyer behavior and demographics to determine whether an inbound or outbound marketing strategy will work best for them.
Before search engines and social media channels, products and services were promoted through traditional techniques known today as "Outbound Marketing". Broadcast, print, and outdoor advertisements, direct mail, email and fax blasts, trade shows, and telemarketing are all examples of traditional outbound marketing that typically “push” messaging onto the target market without their consent.
Conversely, Inbound Marketing for business is built on the premise of being “found” by consumers via search engines, social media channels, referrals, and sharing. In addition to being sought out by the consumer, inbound marketing for business messaging is often seated in relevant and useful content. Blogs, eBooks, podcasts, white papers, and infographics are a few examples of content utilized for inbound marketing. In general, inbound marketing for business should provide value to the consumer in the form of interesting, entertaining, useful, or educational information.
Inbound marketing works in a three-step process to generate qualified digital leads.
- The first step focuses on getting found. This starts with search engine optimization (SEO), a multi-layered process that includes on-page optimization, keyword research, content creation, and link building.
- After your prospects find you, they become a part of your lead nurturing program that is designed to guide them through your sales process.
- Finally, you should look back at your data and track and analyze your results so that you can fine-tune your inbound marketing efforts for optimal results.
Because inbound marketing is experienced as a result of the consumer’s actions, inbound marketing is often called “permission” or “pull” marketing. The power has been shifted into the hands of the consumer, who by completing a search request or clicking on a link, is in control of the inbound marketing for business experience. Because of this fundamental shift in consumer behavior, traditional outbound marketing has experienced a marked decline in efficiency.
Not surprisingly, outbound marketing has taken a lot of criticism in the wake of its declining reach. In fact, there are even “anti-advertising” groups that protest the intrusions of advertising, and shareware (free software) designed to eliminate paid messaging during online experiences. When directly compared to inbound marketing for business, outbound marketing has several shortcomings, including:
- Higher cost
- Difficult to track
- Increasingly blocked or ignored
However, companies that completely eliminate their outbound marketing programs may be guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Despite, or perhaps because, of its long history consumers have a high level of familiarity and comfort with outbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is delivered through multiple technology platforms that some consumers may still be struggling to learn and trust. Some prospects, particularly those belonging to an older demographic, expect companies to communicate the old fashioned way through traditional marketing channels. Although they are spending a lot of time online, ultimately consumers live in the real world.
Most companies will find that a mix of inbound and outbound marketing will deliver the highest number of leads for their business. In fact, outbound and inbound marketing for business can often work hand-in-hand to deliver maximum results. For example, special events provide the perfect opportunity for businesses to utilize a mix of outbound and inbound marketing techniques. In the end, the challenge is for businesses to utilize the right balance across all marketing channels.
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