In’s and Out’s of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

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Today’s consumer receives thousands of marketing messages each and every day. Even the most savvy and experienced marketers are finding it difficult to cut through the clutter and make their voices heard. But for marketers willing to take a chance on a new platform or modernizing an old campaign, it can also be a time of unprecedented opportunity. To understand the best ways to win at digital marketing today, you’ll need a basic understanding for how we got here. Let’s take a closer look at the two primary marketing categories: outbound versus inbound.

What is outbound marketing?

Whether it’s a billboard, a banner, or old fashioned junk mail, an outbound marketing strategy tries to get in front of as many people as possible to say, “Hey, look at me!” Most traditional marketing campaigns fall into the outbound camp. You have a message for the public and you pay to get that message out, by any means necessary.

Here are some examples of outbound marketing:

• Mass mailings and email blasts
• Cold calls
• Billboards, banner ads, and pop-ups
• TV, Radio, Newspaper adds, posters and flyers
• Event sponsorships

Unfortunately, the glory days of outbound marketing appear to be waning. Today’s consumer fast forwards through commercials, ignores pop-ups, screens phone calls and filters spam automatically.

Getting your message in front of consumers is harder than ever, and grabbing their attention is even more difficult. Ad blocking has grown by 41% globally, and it’s also expensive. A 30 second TV spot during the Superbowl will now cost you 5 million dollars.

High costs for placement and distribution and low odds of success lead many outbound advertising campaigns down a desperate path of exclamation points, jarring colors, and dubious claims. Even if you get your ad in front of 100,000 people – how many are likely to fall into your target audience? At that scale, messages need to be broad, bold, and demand attention (which ironically may be the very elements that allow people to ultimately and easily tune them out).

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing focuses on creating content that draws consumers to you and your message. Instead of bashing your would-be audience with brash taglines or misleading banners while they sip their morning coffee, you let them come to you with an open heart and hungry eyes. Creating useful, engaging content and relying heavily on SEO and social network integration, successful inbound marketers place their content in front of consumers that are looking to engage. Letting the consumer come to you for helpful blog posts, moving stories, or whatever content they crave is a better and more direct way to build and maintain trust (not to mention: generate leads). By some estimates, inbound traffic is 7 times more likely to convert.

Some examples of inbound marketing content include:

• Blog posts
• Explainer videos
• Whiteboard videos
• Product reviews/demos
• Educational, thought leadership and editorial articles
• Professional resources, templates, guides
• Talks, presentations, keynotes

Inbound marketing strategies are sometimes classified as permission-based marketing, in contrast to interruption-based marketing. If permission-based sounds nicer than interruption-based to you, you’re getting the picture. Permission-based marketing means delivering relevant, customized and targeted content and messages to the users who want them. To get and maintain your audience’s attention you must enter into the kind of courtship where leaning in for a kiss at the wrong moment could cost you the relationship. However, when executed correctly permission-based/inbound marketing presents greater advantages. And while it may sound like a lot more work, it can also be tremendously cost effective.

When compared with buying traditional distribution, inbound marketing creates lasting value. Unlike the one-time expense of a TV spot or billboard ad, the content you create to attract traffic to your website actually becomes a permanent asset. The catalogue of articles, podcasts, videos, and posts you create to engage and enthrall your audience serve as lasting equity that won’t disappear after you sign the checks. And better still— the community of followers, commenters and subscribers you acquire are also yours to keep.

Tracking, measuring and winning conversions.

Measuring outbound and inbound marketing efforts require different approaches. For outbound campaigns that are targeted you can closely track your spending on a pay-per-lead or cost-per-click basis. You can also measure return rate, close rates, revenue-per-lead, and time-to-close. For inbound campaigns costs are typically incurred upfront, during content creation. The metrics you measure may be less concrete than with an outbound campaign, focusing instead on areas like referral traffic, brand awareness, customer engagement and loyalty. So whereas measurement for outbound campaigns may seem more direct and easy to track in terms of ROI, inbound marketing offers the possibility of tracking more meaningful, long-term insights. And, in general, inbound marketing performs better than outbound when it comes to lead generation, sales and overall ROI. A well-planned inbound marketing strategy is about getting to know your customers as they get to know you. While consumers are digesting your content, you can use metrics, split testing, A/B testing, and hotspot mapping to learn how they interact with your content, what color and size CTA buttons they prefer, what drives them away and what makes them lean in.

Is there one right approach?

The numbers don’t lie. 3 out of 4 marketers will prioritize inbound marketing over outbound. On average, inbound marketing generates more leads, costs less per lead, and saves companies more money per year than the outbound equivalent. Still, while outbound marketing techniques may be skulking in the shadows of their sexier, celebrated inbound counterparts, it’s not a good idea to discard them altogether. Inbound and outbound strategies pair well and give a synchronicity to your lead nurturing campaign. Consider them the yin and yang of your marketing toolkit. Working to find the exact right mix between the two should be a primary goal of any winning marketing strategy.

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Chris Lane
Global Head of Brand Marketing & Digital at Fiverr. Chris is responsible for Fiverr's strategic brand direction, marketing campaigns, social media, content marketing and digital community efforts.