Is Inbound Really Better than Outbound?

We get that inbound marketing is "all the rage" these days, but does it truly perform better than outbound strategies? Let’s breakdown outbound marketing and see its effects versus inbound.

Digital_Marketing_Inbound_vs_Outbound.jpgHubSpot has completely overhauled the marketing industry by introducing the theory and practice of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is a strategy that is intended to bring qualified leads to you by allowing them to find your business instead of you going out and finding them.

Inbound marketing has been incredible for small businesses that don’t have the money to do a lot of marketing. These small businesses are able to write blogs, create ebooks and manage social media accounts to rank higher in search engines and provide information that their target audience is searching for.

There’s no doubt that inbound marketing has its advantages, but outbound sure gets a bad rap these days.

In my mind, there are two categories of outbound marketing: let’s call them interruptive and passive. The main difference between these categories is how in-your-face a strategy is and how consumers have accepted it.

For example, think about what you find annoying from marketers: emails from companies you don’t know, text messages, large pamphlets in your mailbox. These interruptive campaigns force consumers to take some form of action and it’s easy to see why consumers find these tactics frustrating. Pamphlets fill up your mailbox and waste paper, text messages and emails aren't difficult to delete, but you have to go through the process of doing so when you wish you had never been contacted in the first place. (Thank goodness for the spam folder!)

Passive outbound marketing strategies are ones that we as consumers seem to have accepted as part of our daily lives. Advertisements in our social network feeds, paid content, paid search ads – we don’t find them as annoying because we don’t have to do anything with them. These outbound strategies are put in our face, but we can choose to ignore them or acknowledge them.

Here’s what’s difficult about inbound marketing: it’s slow and takes a lot of time. A professionally done SEO campaign can take 4-6 months before any results are seen, and even though you’re blogging and updating on social every day, it doesn’t guarantee that consumers will find you. Not to mention your competitors are also trying different tactics and you could end up in an intense, slow-moving war to rank above each other on Google.

Interruptive outbound strategies are still probably the most common way businesses are marketing themselves and it needs to change. The ROI of an interruptive outbound strategy is almost always horrendous and businesses can avoid wasting money and annoying their potential consumers.

Passive outbound strategies are increasingly becoming more effective than they once were. Targeting options continue to get better meaning you are able to reach more qualified leads. Passive outbound strategies don’t need to cost a lot of money either. You can choose to pay-per-click on your advertisements meaning you’re paying for actual results. (If your goal is to put your company’s name in front of more people and build awareness, you have the option to pay for impressions as well.) In search engines, you’re immediately put at the top, so you don’t need to wait six months for your SEO work to be effective.

The sad truth is that if you have an entirely inbound strategy, unless a piece of your content goes viral (please don’t count on this), your results can only get so high. For many small businesses, those numbers are enough and if that’s you, great. If you really want to grow your business, you should consider adding a passive outbound strategy.

Now while a passive outbound strategy sounds like a great way to get fast results, it’s not a sustainable strategy that will work in the long-run. A passive outbound strategy will absolutely not work if you are not working on an inbound strategy as well. Consider this: you can have a great advertisement that people will click on, but if the landing page is subpar, your website is confusing or you can’t make it clear why a lead should be interested in your business, leads may not be willing to convert.  

There is a lot of magic and good that inbound marketing strategies produce for businesses, but please don’t overlook the benefits of a great outbound strategy as well. Before you start spending time and money on marketing, think about your timeline and what you want your results to be. Don’t annoy people, just get them thinking and make them aware.


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Christy Laubach is an inbound and content marketer at Greenroom Interactive. A graduate of Babson College, she has a degree in Business Management and has worked with companies such as Constant Contact and WGBH. Marketer by day, trivia host by night, Christy was once voted most likely to spontaneously combust from enthusiasm.

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