Is inbound marketing effective? It depends partly on the situation, and partly on your definition of what constitutes “effective.”
What is Outbound Marketing?
Today’s marketing world can be divided into two broad categories: inbound and outbound.
Inbound marketing refers to techniques such as SEO, content marketing and social media, which are all designed to get people to find and contact you when they are interested in your product or service. It is “inbound” because the leads come to you.
Outbound marketing includes traditional advertising, cold calling and direct mail. It is designed to reach a large number of people in the hope that some of them will be currently interested in what you have to offer. It is “outbound” because you are pushing the message out to consumers.
Changes in Outbound Marketing
For a long time, outbound marketing was by far the more prevalent of the two. It has only been in recent years that inbound marketing has surpassed it in importance, with more sales leads coming from inbound and more marketing dollars being allocated that direction. The reason for the shift in focus is partly because outbound marketing has become less effective.
The reasons why outbound marketing has been losing its luster include:
- The fracturing of mass media advertising channels, such as the hundreds of TV channels today versus the handful of networks available in the past.
- DVR technology allowing TV viewers to skip commercials.
- A large and continuing decline in readership of newspapers and other print media.
- The National Do Not Call Registry, which makes most phone numbers offline to telemarketers.
- The rise of the internet and mobile devices, which makes it possible for people to find whatever they want whenever they want it—which is the way most people prefer to make purchasing decisions.
These factors have definitely made outbound marketing less effective, but that doesn’t mean it is not effective at all. And there are some situations in which outbound marketing can hold certain advantages.
Where Outbound Marketing is Effective
Outbound marketing tends to be more effective when you need fast, short-term results.
Let’s say you have a new product and you want to reach 100,000 people tomorrow. Literally tomorrow. With inbound marketing, that is going to be extremely difficult, and largely out of your control (you can only reach people with inbound marketing if they are looking for your product, and there may not be that many looking).
With outbound marketing it is possible, if you have the money to pay for the advertising or the army of telemarketers required. There is no guarantee that any of them will buy, but you can reach them.
Outbound advertising can also trump inbound marketing if you are focused only on the amount of effort involved. Setting up a Google AdWords Express campaign, for instance, takes little time at all. And if you have the budget to pay for it, a single, simple text ad could reach a huge number of people. It will almost certainly cost more long-term than getting the same results through inbound marketing, but it won’t require as much work.
Where Outbound Marketing is Not Effective
As a long-term strategy, outbound marketing can still get results, but it is generally not going to be as effective overall as inbound marketing.
For instance, outbound marketing will typically be less cost-effective in the long run. Outbound marketing is an expense: if you want to continue getting 100,000 ad impressions each day, you will have to pay for them anew each day. If you ever stop paying, you will also stop getting new outbound customers. Inbound marketing, in contrast, is an investment; the work you put in today will continue to pay dividends indefinitely.
Outbound marketing is also less effective when it comes to closing customers. Inbound leads are interested, warm prospects. Most of the people you reach with outbound marketing are not going to be interested in what you have to sell, at least not on the day you reach them.
Finally, outbound marketing is less effective from a customer satisfaction standpoint. People don’t like to be interrupted by commercials, or bothered by sales calls for products they don’t want. Actually, most people would prefer not to be bothered by sales calls for products they do want, because that is not how most people like to buy. Consumers prefer to shop and buy on their own timetable, in a method of their choosing—in other words, through inbound marketing.
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