Inbound versus Outbound – Part Three
This is part three of a three-part series pitting inbound marketing against outbound. Keep reading to see which comes out on top or start at the beginning and learn all about inbound and outbound marketing.
The strengths of inbound
As described in the previous blog on inbound there are some undoubted strengths to this methodology. The core advantage of inbound being that it’s an inherently customer-centric approach to marketing. The more we think about the customer when developing a marketing strategy and choosing our tactics, the more likely our approach is to succeed.
Another strength with inbound is that, when correctly implemented, it builds long-term brand value.
The final core advantage of inbound marketing is that it has a relatively low barrier to entry. Inbound can be implemented by small local businesses, start-ups and challenger brands and can easily be scaled as money and resources grow.
Hubspot may be biased, given that they invented the term and sell inbound marketing software, but it’s still well worth reading their take on inbound marketing. If you have the time you should also consider completing their inbound course.
The weaknesses of inbound
The primary weakness of inbound marketing is that it takes a long time for inbound marketing tactics to work. This means that you must be willing and able to invest in the longterm, and confident that your content is hitting the mark.
In addition, within the last ten years, we have seen a rapid uptake in inbound and content marketing. Marketers have been publishing vast amounts of in-depth, informative online content. Social media has become overrun with fascinating and diverting videos, news articles and more. This oversaturation has led to audiences expecting higher quality content.
The cost to create the high quality, in-depth and relevant content which audiences have come to expect has increased.
Traditionally, social media has been one of the primary channels for distributing content marketing. However, over the last ten years, social media organic reach has plummeted. Facebook, in particular, has become a pay-to-play platform.
The other primary channel for content marketing distribution is search engine optimisation. However, recently more and more answers to peoples’ queries are shown directly on the search engine results page – zero click search is here. 😮
In part one we detail some of the most typical outbound marketing channels. But what are their advantages? And what are the strengths of an outbound marketing approach?
The primary advantage of outbound marketing is that it drives immediate short-term measurable results. For big businesses, this means that the investment and the return on investment (ROI) will remain within the same fiscal quarter. Thus keeping accountants, senior management and shareholders happy. 😉
For small businesses with no capital and a narrow profit margin short-term ROI is not a choice but a necessity.
Another perhaps less obvious advantage to outbound marketing is its familiarity and honesty. Honesty and advertising may seem incompatible but the reality is that sometimes people want to know that they are being sold to.
The final strength of outbound marketing is its simplicity. Pushing a message out to an audience has a clear and simple mandate. This makes outbound marketing easier for the marketer to create and easier for the audience to understand.
Outbound marketing does have some significant weaknesses, the primary one being that it can be very expensive. This is particularly true in competitive markets and segments where you can spend a lot getting leads that lead nowhere!
A secondary weakness of outbound marketing is that it can be incredibly wasteful. Within the last couple of years, many major brands have pulled back on their digital advertising. This article from Business Insider gives a good overview of why.
The final weakness of outbound marketing is that when poorly handled push marketing can damage brand reputation. Consumers today are a lot savvier than they used to be and they are the ones who want to call the shots.
So, which is better inbound marketing or outbound?
The easy way out of this question would be to say both. Both approaches are valid within the right circumstance. You should use a combination of inbound and outbound adapted for your business and marketplace.
But that wouldn’t be any fun…
If a gun were put against my head, or I was just asked in a sharp tone 😉 , well then I would level with you.
Outbound wins hands down.
Sure, I love the challenge of SEO and content marketing makes me feel warm and fuzzy. They both really, genuinely do help sales. BUT, if my own buck were on the line – I’d choose outbound every time.
The thing is that often outbound marketing in considered synonymous with traditional marketing. However, this does not have to be the case. Improved targeting, personalisation and the advance of AI mean that outbound can very effective.
But it’s not all about the tech. Outbound marketing needs a human element to succeed. Think about the psychology of your customers, their needs, their wants. Then decide how you are going to push your message out to them.
The final reason I would bet on outbound over inbound is that the first-mover advantage of inbound has long since passed. In 2020, I’m betting that a customer-centric approach to advertising will win the day.