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Whilst it’s most certainly true that in 2016 inbound is unequivocally reigning supreme, it’s important for all marketers to take all approaches into account. So let’s today consider outbound marketing and whether or not it still has a place in the modern world.
Outbound marketing, aka “traditional marketing”, refers to the old ways that companies went about making connections with customers.
Perhaps it’s best to contrast outbound marketing with inbound marketing – the latter being what most of us are more familiar with these days.
Inbound marketing is the process of creating various content, usually for the web – blogs, eBooks, videos, whitepapers, even websites themselves – in order that your potential customers may find you.
Outbound marketing, by contrast, is all about a company initiating customer connections and conversations itself, sending messages directly to a targeted audience.
Examples of outbound marketing include:
In short, outbound marketing tries to reach potential customers through traditional media advertising and in-person contact. The purpose is to generate sales leads, which are then passed across to internal sales representatives.
When compared to inbound marketing, outbound marketing is very much the aggressive approach – but does it still work?
Outbound marketing, generally speaking, is being increasingly regarded with more and more caution by many modern-day marketers – not least over concerns about its costs.
TV commercials, trade show stalls, newspaper ads, cold call initiatives – all of these things are highly expensive endeavors, and require huge amounts of resources to complete.
The other problem with outbound marketing initiatives is that they often have only a short shelf-life. A TV commercial may last 90 seconds, and then it vanishes into the past. Newspaper ads suffer from the same problem – nobody reads yesterday’s papers, let alone last week’s. Cold calls very often end up with the prospect slamming the phone down or the door shut. Emails are very easily deleted – that’s if they don’t end up in spam folders in the first place.
By contrast, most inbound content lasts forever on the web. If you write a blog post, create a video for YouTube, or craft a whitepaper for your website – that content will still be there to be discovered perhaps years after you first published it.
Brian Halligan from HubSpot talks about the difficulties of outbound marketing:
“I think outbound marketing techniques are getting less and less effective over time for two reasons. First, your average human today is inundated with over 2000 outbound marketing interruptions per day and is figuring out more and more creative ways to block them out, including caller ID, spam filtering, TiVo, and Sirius satellite radio. Second, the cost of coordination around learning about something new or shopping for something new using the internet (search engines, blogs, and social media) is now much lower than going to a seminar at the Marriott or flying to a trade show in Las Vegas.”
Well, frankly, it all depends on your target customer.
Generally speaking, if you’ve got a product that’s aimed at an older demographic, then writing inbound blogs and posting links to them on Facebook and Twitter might not have much of an impact. By contrast, outbound marketing methods – such as TV commercials and newspaper advertisements – are the types of marketing material that the older generations are already comfortable with. Indeed, many people still make a point of scanning newspaper advertisements when considering a purchase.
In the B2B realm, in-person events such as trade shows have been rated as the most effective marketing tactic for B2B marketers for the past six years running, with a 75% effectiveness rating being cited in 2016, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s yearly B2B marketing report.
And in truth, although inbound marketing is the most cost-effective option – particularly for emerging SMEs with small budgets and tight margins to contend with – there is still a place for outbound marketing in the Digital Age.
And this is something that I want to explore in greater detail next time, where we will be discussing how to combine inbound and outbound marketing to best effect. Look forward to catching you there!