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Why Should Inbound Marketing Be Your Go-To Strategy and Outbound Marketing a Last Resort?

If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing; If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing. These are not my words but golden words from my favorite Guy Kawasaki.

I love this quote as it makes total sense to me, and I used to share this at the beginning of the Inbound Marketing training I conducted for one of the country's leading digital marketing training institutes.

Inbound Marketing came into my life circa 2009-10, and this methodology completely changed my career and life. I am forever grateful to Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan, their book on Inbound Marketing, and their company Hubspot. I stumbled upon this marketing methodology via Hubspot and fell in love with it.

As a marketer, even though I started my career with a global leader in filtration with heaps of cash for marketing, the rest of my roles were always spent with brands with fewer fat pockets. So, as a marketer or brand builder, you are forced to look at cost-effective ways and methods to build the brand. And Inbound Marketing was the best thing that happened to my life as a marketer.

So those of you who are wondering what Inbound Marketing is, here is the standard definition. Inbound Marketing is a marketing methodology that leverages the power of content to attract customers to your brand rather than running behind them. It is sometimes used synonymously with content marketing, but they are different. The inbound methodology has much more to do than just producing and propagating content.

To understand the methodology, here is my blog post - Inbound Marketing Conundrum - Let's Cut to the Chase.

So how does Inbound Marketing differ from Outbound Marketing (Traditional Methods)?

Let's take a real-life example to explain the difference between both methodologies. Imagine you want to buy a smartphone for your personal use. You know the specifications/features (15MP Selfie Camera) you need and have set a budget (USD 200) for this purchase.

The typical purchase process today will look something like this:

  • You open Google on your phone (existing one) or laptop and use keyword phrases like Smartphones with 15MP selfie camera under $250.

  • Google will show you ads and other websites or stores selling smartphones with similar specifications and within a similar price range.

  • You will shortlist certain brands based on the search results.

  • Imagine you shortlisted a model from Apple (you wish you get an iPhone for $250), one model from Samsung, and one from Brand C

  • As a next step, you will continue researching these three models using Google (for comparisons) and YouTube (for unboxing videos and demonstration of selfie cameras et, al.)

  • Once you know, you want to go with the Samsung model; your next step is to find the best online deal again.

  • You choose the store or e-commerce platform based on the price and presentation of the product on the platform.

  • The final step is the purchase.

So, as you can see, customers today want to have the choice to choose among the products by researching them well. So, brands can quickly get on customers' radars by producing valuable content to make purchasing decisions easier. In the above example, if you are an e-commerce store with smartphone models with the specifications mentioned, you can create content highlighting those features to grab the attention of those customers.

On the other hand, outbound marketing relied on spending lots of money buying billboards and radio spots to grab customer attention. These tactics came with loads of guesswork, and marketers used to need help to prove the ROI of their money spent. Also, outbound marketing was always intrusive as it relied on something other than customer behavior but on marketing budgets and available options. Another negative side of outbound methods was that they needed to understand customer needs severely.

On the other hand, Inbound Marketing starts with understanding your target audience's psyche well before devising the methods or tactics to reach them. Every inbound marketing program begins with a buyer persona exercise that first attempts to understand the target audience, their goals, needs, and challenges.

So, it is time to look at some of the advantages of Inbound Marketing for brands today.

The Advantages of Inbound Marketing

Another quote from another amazing marketer - "These days, people want to learn before they buy, be educated instead of pitched."—Brian Clark, Founder of Copyblogger.

So every marketer today understands the behavioral changes in the modern consumer. While the customer was always the king, now they are more like emperors or demigods. They have all the power in their hands and pockets to make a well-educated purchase. Thanks to the internet, smartphones, and mobile connectivity. So, all of us marketers need to align with this new purchasing behavior or psyche to reap the right results with the right efforts.

So, let's look at the benefits Inbound Marketing brings to marketers and brands:

  • Better Alignment With Modern Consumer Behavior

As mentioned above, modern consumers know their needs much better than ever. They constantly research products and services to solve their personal and professional challenges. They leverage search engines, blogs, forums, and e-commerce platforms to update them on new products and services. So they might not be big fans of intrusion marketing techniques anymore. For example, a billboard on the highway about the latest vacuum cleaner may or may not bring more sales but an in-depth vacuum cleaner purchase guide for working moms might.

Inbound Marketing methodology closely aligns with changing consumer behaviors and technological interventions. With a focus on quality content, your brand has the potential to show up in front of the right consumers at the right time whenever they are looking for your solutions.

  • More Cost-effective Than Outbound Marketing

One of the most significant drawbacks of outbound marketing tactics was exorbitant prices. I did a quick google search for billboard costs in LA, and the results were $1250 to $15000 for four weeks. Crazy, right? Add a lot of logistics challenges and a lack of clearly defined ROI calculation, and you are up for an uphill task of grabbing the attention of your potential buyers.

Inbound Marketing tactics like SEO and Content Marketing can prove economical and impactful compared to most outbound tactics. With better customer understanding, you can easily leverage Inbound tactics to gain a competitive advantage.

  • Ability to Attract High-quality Leads and Build Brand Loyalty

Inbound Marketing methodology relies on tactics that possess immense capabilities to bring in qualified leads for your brand. Why do I say that? Well, the Inbound process operates from the premise that the brand needs to become the best source of information or trustworthy partner for their audience. By delivering quality, helpful content regularly, brands can now earn the confidence of their audience and be at the top of their mind when they are ready to make that purchase.

Another vital aspect of Inbound Marketing is that the journey continues after the customer completes the purchase. It continues along the customer journey till customers become fans. When customers are supported post-purchase via content and other modes, they become loyal to the brand.

  • Opportunity for Long-term, Sustainable Growth

Inbound Marketing is your best option for creating a long-term sustainable growth engine for your brand. Investing your time and energy in developing an effective inbound strategy focusing on your target audience will bring the right results for your business. Your plan will rely on content heavily, and if you focus on Search Engine Optimization, your content can answer your audience's queries and help them make educated purchase decisions.

Another exciting aspect of Inbound methodology is the focus on relationship building. Be it social media or your email list, or newsletter subscribers, and you now have a chance to build sustainable relationships with them. You can deliver valuable content and other helpful information for their challenges consistently.

  • Increased Credibility and Trust With Potential Customers

Let me present a scenario for you. You plan to buy a house in the next 12 months and contacted several real estate agents. Mr. Impatient and Mr. Patient contact you to help you with your needs. Mr. Impatient asks for your budgets and starts sending you options to choose from, and he keeps bothering you every day regarding your purchase decision.

On the other hand, Mr. Patient sets up a meeting with you at your convenience and spends time with you to understand your needs. He offers help to clarify all your doubts and apprehensions as a first-time home buyer. Mr. Patient also understands your budgets and finances to help you with that. Finally, after understanding your aspirations, he will take you personally for site visits at your convenience.

Whom will you choose for your first home purchase? Yes, if you are someone like me, it will be Mr. Patient.

So, every modern buyer or consumer trusts a brand with credibility and the right approach. They are no longer interested in pushy and intrusive brands; with proper tools, they can easily block your attempts to interact with them.

Inbound Marketing can help you become a trusted and credible partner for your customers and prospects. By focusing on their needs and attempting to solve their challenges, you will earn a special place in their hearts.

While you might be clear about the advantages of Inbound Marketing, let me quickly share some of the disadvantages of Outbound Methodology.

The Disadvantages of Outbound Marketing

Below are a few reasons why I do not recommend Outbound Marketing to any brand today:

  • Interruptive and Annoying to Consumers - Outbound tactics are intrusive and, most of the time, not time-appropriate hence annoying to consumers.

  • Expensive and Difficult to Track ROI - Measuring ROI on outbound campaigns is complex, and most options are costly.

  • Low Conversion Rates and High Bounce Rates - Even if outbound methods bring your customer to your shop or website, the chances of desired actions will be minimal as expectations differ.

  • Poorly Suited to Modern Buyer Behavior - Modern consumers prefer buying on their terms without being chased by brands, so outbound will backfire with them.

  • Risk of Damage to Brand Reputation - With social media and the internet becoming prevalent, intrusive marketing tactics can lead to severe backlashes and damage to brand reputation.

You might be wondering how to adopt the Inbound Marketing methodology for your brand now. So here are some vital elements of an Inbound strategy for you.

Critical Elements of a Successful Inbound Marketing Strategy

A successful Inbound Marketing strategy needs the following elements to bring the best results for your brand.

Content Creation and Distribution

Content is the backbone of every successful Inbound Marketing strategy. As an inbound marketer, you need to understand your target audience's goals and challenges, prepare content in their preferred format and share it with them at their preferred place to solve those challenges.

This content can take various forms like videos, blog posts, infographics, graphics, podcasts, etc. You need to choose the format based on your audience's preference.

Content distribution is equally essential as creation for the strategy to work. Without a proper distribution plan, all your content creation efforts will go in vain as no one will consume the same.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Another critical pillar of an inbound strategy is Search Engine Optimization. As I mentioned in the examples above, every consumer today, irrespective of industry, relies on the internet to find the right solution for their needs. So SEO will help you make your content appear in front of them for their search queries.

With the correct answers provided via valuable content on search engines, you can expect more website traffic, incoming queries, improved conversions, and increased revenues.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is another crucial piece in the inbound marketing puzzle. Social media, as part of your Inbound strategy, can be the ideal avenue to share your content, build your community, address the concerns of your audience, and generate leads. So ensure your social media marketing play is ready along with your Inbound strategy.

Email Marketing

Communication is a crucial element in executing an effective Inbound strategy. Email is the best mode of communication for brands, whether educational, informational, or transactional content. So you must focus on building your email list or generating leads and using email to nurture those relationships to achieve your goals.

Lead Generation and Nurturing

One of the primary goals of Inbound Marketing is lead generation. Unlike outbound methods, this method focuses on attracting prospects to you and converting them into leads. These leads can become business opportunities and closed deals via proper lead nurturing tactics.

Before we end this blog post and you ignore entirely outbound marketing, let me share some scenarios where outbound methods may also work.

When Outbound Marketing Might Still Be Useful

Depending on the specific need and situation, businesses can still rely on Outbound marketing for business growth. Some of the scenarios where outbound methods are helpful include: