How to Find the Right Mix of Inbound and Outbound Marketing
Inbound and outbound – two marketing methods you may have heard praised as the answer to lead generation for the 21st century marketer or disparaged as out-of-date in the content-driven digital world. One (inbound marketing) involves creating a place on the internet that people want to visit and then provide their contact information for more content. It takes time and effort, but the leads generated are quality – really interested in what your business can do for them. The other (outbound marketing) is about capturing as much attention as possible hoping that it might resonate with someone, somewhere.
The question is, which is best?
Inbound marketing refers to efforts made through your website to attract interested visitors and then convert them into leads and nurture them into customers. Inbound marketing tactics include SEO (search engine optimization), social media, content marketing, blogging and keyword targeting. The target audience is usually small but has a very high conversion rate. However, though much of inbound marketing is “free” to execute, it does take time and dedication to see ROI.
Outbound marketing is more of a “shout and hope someone will listen” method. Brands purchase commercials and billboards, print and send direct mail pieces and more try to capture as much attention as possible, with the hope that some of the people they reach will want to use their products or services. Though it may reach more people than in inbound marketing, the percentage of impressions to conversions in traditional outbound marketing is typically much lower, and most often comes at a price for production, placement and execution.
And while the nature of today’s consumers looking to search engines, online reviews and social media to do their research before buying is trending more toward inbound, businesses can’t overlook one of these methods at the expense of another. The best thing to do is to find a way to combine and balance the use of inbound and outbound marketing.
Striking the Right Balance
Every business, every campaign and every marketing goal is unique, so there is no secret recipe for the right balance of inbound and outbound marketing. However, there are some things you can do to help find yours:
- Understand your target audience
The very first thing any business should do before opting for any marketing technique is to understand its target audience. Who are they? What are their interests? Which websites do they visit most? What are their pain points and how can I help? Such questions will give you a better understanding of your prospective customers and allow you to answer “How best do I reach them?” For instance, if your target audience is mostly made up of a younger demographic, put more effort in inbound rather than outbound. They’ve gone completely digital and tend to fast forward through commercials, leave mass marketing emails unopened and pitch junk mail. Instead, create content you know they’ll find relevant and deliver it to them in the places they spend the most time, like social media.
- Set goals
Your end goals should also play a role in determining what type of marketing to implement. If you simply want increase conversion, inbound marketing should be your focus, supported by outbound advertising. However, if you want to increase brand exposure, outbound is very effective. If your business is just getting traction, starting with outbound marketing can create an easier path for the effective implementation of inbound techniques.
- Determine a budget
There’s rarely such a thing as free marketing – even inbound marketing, much of which can be done within the framework of your own website, can cost time, which is money. So it’s important to be realistic with your goals when determining how much money and time you’re willing to budget for your marketing efforts, both inbound and outbound. If money is tight, it might be a good idea to see what kind of inbound marketing you can do with elements already in place, like your website or social media following rather than paying someone to design, print and send direct mail pieces.
The Best of Both Worlds?
One marketing technique that perfectly combines inbound and outbound marketing is SEM or search engine marketing. SEM is a method of marketing in which businesses pay to get their websites ranked highly on search engine results pages – something that can happen organically via SEO, but SEM makes it happen faster and more reliably.
The outbound aspect of these two methods is clear – you are pushing out advertisements to your customers instead of waiting for them to come to your site. But already those people you are targeting are interested in your products. With SEM, people who searched for a keyword related to your business see your company listed at the top of the page. This is the inbound aspect – you are showing an already interested, highly targeted audience your marketing message, which leads to better quality traffic and leads.