By Mark Harrison
Think about how your customers find you online. As users have become savvier about browsing, inbound marketing has become considerably more effective than outbound, or “traditional” marketing. It’s not very hard to see why outbound marketing has become less effective with online shoppers. With so many opportunities to engage online, there’s an ongoing paradox whereby traditional B2C marketing techniques feel more outmoded by their modernisation. Simply put, outbound marketing feels like a one-way conversation, in a digital age where your potential customers are looking for a more valuable experience.
Take a look at how some common modern marketing practices might be classified in the table below:
|Inbound Marketing||Outbound Marketing|
|Blog Posts||Sales Calls and Telemarketing|
|Social Media||TV and Radio Ads|
|Videos and Infographics||Web Banner and Display Ads|
|Whitepapers||Pop-ups and Pop-unders|
|eBooks||Newspaper and Magazine Ads|
|FAQs and Reviews||Interstitial Pages|
Think about how often you’ve been annoyed by one or more of the outward marketing examples above. When you’re watching or reading or browsing something, these are not what you’re looking for.
In fact, you’ve probably adopted techniques in order to avoid these, from installing adblockers to watching catch-up TV. With this in mind, outbound marketing has become an expensive and inefficient pursuit in comparison to inbound strategies.
The key flaw in outbound marketing nowadays is that it’s disruptive, making a grab for the consumer’s attention by interrupting whatever they’re doing.
Meanwhile, inbound marketing is more of an attractive proposition, starting a relationship by providing valuable content that the consumer wants.
Looking to Sell vs. Looking to Buy
One of the main reasons why this shift from outbound to inbound marketing has taken place is that customers have far more access to information.
The long-held use of “cold-calling” to describe outbound sales calls says it all. You’re telling everyone about your products and services, without knowing what they already want or need.
On the contrary, consumers know exactly what they want and need and have expectations about how to find it. If they’re not looking to buy what you’re selling, you’re unlikely to engage them.
However, if you simply allow customers to find you when they need you, you’ll be able to spend less time and effort on trying to grab their attention to no avail.
Relying on outbound marketing only is the reason why many businesses find their CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) skyrockets, without a proportionate return in revenue. It costs far more to acquire a customer than to retain one and inbound marketing tools will enable you to retain both interest and custom.
In short, you’re still looking to sell, but inbound marketing enables you to target customers who are already looking to buy, rather than trying to catch them cold.
Nurturing Potential Customers
Where outbound marketing is about completing a sales cycle, inbound marketing recognises the importance of a customer’s buying cycle. Furthermore, it’s geared toward nurturing consumers on that journey.
From when they first visit your site to when they decide to buy, they have to turn from a visitor to a lead to a customer. Above all else, inbound marketing enables you to ease and even accelerate that process.
The best part is that you can adapt your message throughout this process, in order to get the desired response. Let’s explore some examples of how to use different types of content to cater to different users.
At the point where you’re trying to attract casual browsers to visit your site, your content should aim to raise awareness of your business. For inbound marketing, this means making sure that you attract users when they’re looking for you, rather than broadcasting your message to a largely unreceptive audience.
Appropriate marketing tools for this basic stage range from organic social media promotions to blog posts. Sending out free eBooks is another great way to create value and show that your business is open and honest with information.
Try these tools on for size and analyse the response. Do your customers spend more time on your site? Are they able to find the information that they’re searching for? And finally, perhaps most importantly, have they had a valuable experience on your site?
Once visitors become leads, it’s helpful to have content that supports their consideration of your products or services. At this stage, your customer has moved beyond merely being aware of your site and are mulling over whether or not to make a purchase.
FAQ pages are a great way to collect the answers to any burning questions your customers may have at this stage, and it always helps to sprinkle reviews throughout your site to show how your other customers have benefited from choosing you.
In terms of informing your leads, webinars related to your industry are another great way to show authority in your field. When you provide relevant and valuable information and guidance, this will factor into your leads’ eventual decision.
Your leads become customers when they decide to buy. Your inbound marketing content may help to accelerate this cycle, but that decision may ultimately be influenced by what you’re offering that other companies aren’t.
It might be a free consultation, a free quotation, or even a free trial of your products and services. Granted, these are all things you could trumpet in an outbound marketing campaign but introducing them into the mix when the customer is already interested and engaged by your site provides a finishing touch.
By leaving this decision to your potential customer, you allow them to keep control of their buyer’s cycle. This shows respect for the customer and also builds trust in your brand; a two-way exchange of value to one another that benefits both sides.
Finding the Right Balance
None of this is to say that outbound marketing is completely dead. It’s just that your business can’t afford to rely on it without a strong inbound marketing strategy to attract new visitors, leads, and customers.
Indeed, you could even use outbound materials to bolster your inbound content. If we consider outbound marketing to be broadcasting, (one-way and non-specific) it’s possible to optimise these time-honoured strategies for narrowcasting, (focusing on your target audience and related niches) instead.
While the future seems to be swaying towards inbound marketing over outbound marketing, you should bear in mind that it’s a case of trial and error when designing a primarily inbound strategy.
Happily, you should be able to learn which tactics pay off using metrics and customer feedback. As you adapt to inbound marketing over more traditional practices, you’ll be able to reintroduce some balance to your marketing and enjoy a higher rate of lead conversion.