What is Inbound Marketing? And Do we Still Need Outbound?

Published on June 3, 2014

Marketing, as we know it, is changing.  It's a change that has been steadily progressing in the era of social media connectivity and web interaction, and will most likely re-write marketing strategies of small businesses worldwide.

The change resides with two polar opposite strategies: inbound marketing and outbound marketing - and inbound marketing is blazing a path, and growing geometrically.

What exactly is the difference between inbound and outbound marketing?

Inbound marketing and outbound marketing are, at the surface level, defined by how your company interacts with the customer.

Outbound marketing = the business approaches the customer.  

Soliciting, if you will. This means everything from mailers, cold calls, TV ads, print advertisements, radio commercials, or direct face-to-face solicitation.  It is a direct approach to potential customers, asking, "Do you want what we have?"

Inbound marketing = the customer approaches the business.  

Now, this doesn't mean you're sitting around doing nothing waiting for business to walk in the door (because we all know how effective that is).  Instead, it means you are marketing in a way that makes your business come up when customers are looking for a product or service that you offer.  It pulls customers in via attraction or interest.

Inbound marketing is, as Steamfeed states in their recent article, a "non-intrusive, less antagonistic, more credible, and an 'on-demand' marketing strategy."

Inbound marketing is now cheaper and more effective than outbound marketing

There are some pretty amazing statistics from the 2012/2013 State of Inbound Marketing Reports from Hubspot, indicating inbound marketing has not only overtaken outbound marketing in cost-effectiveness, it also outstrips it in actual conversion rates.

  • According to marketers, the average cost per lead is 61% lower via inbound marketing as compared to outbound marketing (Hubspot 2012 report)
  • Average website conversion rates more than double with inbound marketing.

This data goes for both companies that promote products AND professional services, and gives inbound marketing a rock-solid base to stand upon.

Inbound marketing and Content, Social Media, and SEO

Quality content is a beautiful thing that can be created, enjoyed, and shared (liked, retweeted, +1ed, etc.) time and time again.  Inbound marketing is particularly successful in this way because it provides a constant stream of digital material that holds value for your customers.  Your inbound marketing goes the extra mile without any extra work on your behalf.  

After you create and share your stellar content using some tried and true strategies like these, it can gain some legs via customer interaction - and now, with recent changes to Google's algorithms, search engines greatly appreciate and respond to interaction.  It gives Google the knowledge that your content (and by proxy, your company webpage) has something important to offer that other users will want to see when they enter in a search related to your content.

In other words, successful inbound marketing means successful, quality content marketing.  Quality is defined by positive customer interaction - aka a positive "share factor" - which boosts SEO, giving your webpage better visibility.  Inbound marketing is the gift that keeps on giving.

So, does this mean outbound marketing is obsolete?

Inbound marketing is the type of marketing that works its way into the online social realm of our society without being sales-y.  Outbound marketing is perceived as pushy and intrusive by many customers, while inbound marketing is generally perceived as something of value and interest.

Think about it.  When was the last time you enjoyed getting a telemarketer call?  Opened a advertisement in the mail?  Listened attentively to the commercials on your radio station?  We bet you've probably done those less frequently than you've read a blog that people have been talking about, watched that video that your friend shared on your Facebook wall, or followed an interesting link on Twitter.

Cost per Lead - Inbound Marketing versus Outbound

Not only is inbound marketing perceived in a more positive light by the customer, inbound marketing is just plain cheaper than outbound marketing.  In Hubspot's 2012 survey, they found that the cost-per-lead for outbound marketing came in around $346, while inbound came in at $135 - almost HALF the price of an outbound lead!

Inbound marketing works for every business of every size.  It creates quality content that builds a more solid foundation for your company, and creates the perfect foundation to build inter-personal relationships between customer and company.  It does everything that outbound marketing does and then some, while costing you less and much more widely accepted by your customers.

So really... what are you waiting for?

If you're looking to change your small business marketing strategy but unsure how to develop a new plan, don't hesitate to send us an email or give us a call.  We'll be glad to hear from you!