Inbound versus outbound marketing in the new economy

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By: Neil Edwards on 14th December 2012, 6 minute read

Managing Director, Neil Edwards, looks at why businesses can't afford to overlook inbound marketing in the mobile economy.

There was a time, not so long ago, where only the largest of enterprises were able to reach a wide audience.  These were the days when large corporations had the market knowledge, business know-how and market reach to dominate their respective industries.  These were the days when marketing itself was something that was the preserve of big companies with big marketing departments and deep pockets.  They knew how to track the cost of leads, the cost of converting those leads and the costs to retain customers, and they did it all with the most obvious of marketing strategies; advertising - in newsprint, magazines, radio and TV.

Times have changed, however, and the new economy has ushered in a new era, one dominated by inbound marketing strategies and one where even the smallest of businesses is able to reach an ever-expanding, global marketplace.

The inbound versus outbound discussion

Outbound marketing strategies are all predicated on broadcasting in the search for customers.  Their sole purpose is to build a company's brand with conventional advertising and to make that brand heard in order to elicit a buying response from customers.

Unfortunately, not only is this advertising incredibly expensive, but it is also extremely difficult to track its effectiveness.  This is ultimately why businesses continually ask customers that all-important question: How did you hear of us?  This question is repeated over and over again in an attempt to define which outbound marketing strategy works the best.

The task is by no means easy. Tracking outbound marketing is incredibly time-consuming, expensive and rarely, if ever, a truly accurate reflection of the costs of generating leads.  For example, a potential lead could read the newspaper in the morning, hear an advert on the radio, see a TV commercial in the evening and then walk past a billboard the next day.  Which one of these methods led that prospect to call or purchase from the company?  Well, your guess is as good as theirs, because even when asked, these customers are rarely 100% certain which form of advertising convinced them to move forward.

How then does inbound marketing compare in terms of performance, cost and market reach?

The power of inbound marketing

When you think about inbound marketing, think of how we as consumers are mobile, how we are connected in ways like never before, and how much we rely upon being accessible at any time, any place.  Now think about how much we search online for products, services, information, help, insight and guidance.

Inbound marketing is about being searched and found by customers: it is focused on a strategy predicated on driving traffic to your website where invitations to show interest and make contact can be housed.  The tactics will be significantly, but not exclusively, online and will be based on nurturing a prospect around the buying cycle to the point where they are ready to buy.  Because of this, the return on making  your business findable is much greater than broadcasting aimlessly in the hope that your outbound campaigns will somehow land in front of somebody who might be interested.

So, what are the immediate benefits of inbound marketing versus outbound marketing?

Cost reduction

There are essentially three primary cost reduction benefits with inbound marketing.

  1. Online marketing has an incredibly low cost to generate qualified leads - its purpose is simple: increase marketing return on investment (ROI) by empowering a business to analyse the results of marketing campaigns at a microscopic level
  2. The time it takes marketing and sales to decipher the quality of those leads, the quality of the company's online strategy and the conversion rates that come from the leads is reduced
  3. The time it takes to make changes to existing strategies is reduced because you can track performance in real-time.

Easily adaptable

Simply put, online marketing is the most flexible and adaptable real-time marketing platform in existence today.  Unlike outbound approaches, where decisions on advertising are final and rarely, if ever, easy to change, inbound marketing is easily changed and at a cost outbound marketing simply can't match.

Ultimately, it's about tapping into a real-time marketing platform where changes can be made instantaneously and without incurring substantial costs.

Relevant target audience

Your prospects are only a few searches, and a few keystrokes, away from finding your company online.  You can engage a relevant target audience by focusing on local search engine optimisation and social media, or you can target a specific industry sector or niche. All of this can be done at a fraction of the cost of conventional advertising campaigns.

In the end, it means your business can appeal to your target audience in ways outbound strategies simply can't.

Stronger analytics

Granted, marketing may never be an exact science and it certainly isn't with outbound marketing, but using online marketing strategies brings accountability as close as it will ever be.  The ability to analyse the results of marketing initiatives at a microscopic level can't be matched by outbound strategies.  Inbound marketing has stronger analytics and provides the time-sensitive tools we need to adjust and fine tune our strategies for maximum returns.

Higher return on investment

The ultimate benefit of inbound marketing is, of course, its ability to increase a the return on investment (ROI) by lowering the costs to target an audience, find potential customers and convert those customers into sales. 

As the global economy changes, so must marketing strategies. Marketing is about understanding how best to reach your target audience and finding the most cost-effective way possible of engaging an increasing number of prospects over time.  While outbound marketing was once the only choice and the preserve of the few, today, we can level the playing field by tapping into a low-cost platform that is accessible to any business with the nous to use it.

To find out how inbound marketing can be harnessed for your business,please contact us

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Neil Edwards


Neil Edwards

Neil is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing with many years' experience in marketing, brand and communications.

CEO / The Marketing Eye

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