inbound versus outbound marketing methodsCan you run a successful inbound marketing strategy without any direct mail, offline events, or other forms of outbound marketing? Can you grow your company on outbound marketing alone without any inbound marketing efforts?

It may come as a serious disappointment to you, but the answer is both “not really” and “it really depends.”

As always, there are always edge cases where a business can thrive using exclusively old-fashioned or new-fangled marketing efforts. However, for the vast majority of us, a sense of balance is absolutely crucial. And here’s why:

What is the Difference Between Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing? You may know it better as interruption marketing, disruption marketing, or even non-permissive marketing. We’re talking about the types of disruptive marketing that may ruin your day. Television advertisements, radio ads, trade show booths, or other forms of highly disruptive marketing. Is it necessary? Well, that’s complicated.

According to John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, over half of marketers identify outbound marketing as their primary lead source. This means half of your marketing peers are relying on factors like phone calls and magazine ad responses – as opposed to web form conversions – to bring new business in for their organizations. Is this effective, or does it simply feel like the path of least resistance?

HubSpot reports that over 12 million searches per web are performed in the US alone each month. Even more staggeringly, 54% more leads are generated through inbound marketing methods, like blogs, social media, and whitepapers, than outbound marketing methods alone. Inbound marketing produces more leads at a lower cost per lead than traditional advertising methodologies. So what gives? Why are so many of your peers focusing their efforts and budget on outbound marketing methodologies? Is it because outbound marketing is more effective, and even cheaper? Unlikely!

The Truth About Outbound Marketing

What is the absolute truth about outbound marketing? Are television commercials, radio advertisements, and magazine advertorials a completely worthless way to market your organization? Not quite. The short answer is “not quite,” and the long answer is “it depends on the sophistication of your ideal customer.”

In essence, outbound marketing can be an extreme compliment to your inbound marketing strategy. Content Marketing Institute, citing VentureBeat’s commentary on the “rise of the content economy” reports that offline events remain a highly effective way for sophisticated marketers to generate leads,win new customers, and maintain high satisfaction among existing client bases. Could this marketing methodology see extreme success without inbound marketing? Unlikely.

Between Eventbrite and Meetup, the web remains a highly popular way for modern professionals to connect with event opportunities and networking events. Without social media, it would be far more challenging for news to travel far among professionals within any given industry. The truth is, even given well-established industry events that are primarily focused on outbound marketing such as trade shows, you simply can’t deny the role of inbound marketing.

Outbound marketing isn’t useless. There’s no question that it’s still got a role; especially in conservative niches, industries, and regions. However, there are very, very few specialties where inbound marketing, from email marketing to white papers to social media, hasn’t played some role. The point? Inbound marketing is absolutely the future. However, anyone who plays the role of a purist and tells you that all outbound marketing methodologies are dead is almost certainly mistaken. In an ideal world (and marketing strategy, if we’re being honest), inbound marketing and outbound marketing would peacefully coexist. Does that sound challenging or even impossible? Well, I promise you that it simply isn’t.

How Can Inbound and Outbound Marketing Coexist?

At the end of the day, here is the absolute truth about marketing as a science, methodology, and practice.

“A happy customer is an informed customer,” as marketing expert Chris Goward puts it.

Anyone who’s spent much of their career in either marketing or sales can attest to the significant risk that surround customers who’ve been either oversold or undersold. Customers who haven’t been educated on the true value of the product or service they’re about to receive could run the risk of being underappreciative. Customers who are oversold are a major risk for disappointment; which can lead to short-term disappointment and low customer satisfaction; and long term risks for customer retention, and even worse, some serious damage to word-of-mouth referrals. What gives?

Inbound Marketing = Informed Customers

Inbound marketing is an education tool. Pure and simple. It’s the most effective marketing methodology available to today’s business development professionals, but it’s also a major education tool. Today’s consumers have every bit of information they could ever want or need just a few clicks away, via their laptop, tablet or smartphone. If your organization has the savvy to position themselves as an industry resource via best-of-class content marketing; they’ll position themselves as a resource for curious researchers who are Googling related search terms to their industry. If you’re being honest and approaching your content marketing strategy correctly, the stars will align perfectly and you’ll generate extraordinarily well-qualified leads for your organization.

Is Modern Marketing Really as Simple as High Quality Content Creation?

Sorry to say it, but not quite. The speed and velocity at which your organization will generate high-quality, ready-to-purchase leads depends on quite a few factors. Your product or service, the sophistication and authority of your buyer personas, and factors like price point and competition can all have a major effect on your Marketing (sales and marketing) funnel that channel leads into customers for your brand. There are no simple answers, but effective research on your customer base can reveal the answers for you.

In essence, the right combination of inbound and outbound marketing methodologies are most likely the perfect answer for your organization. Using inbound marketing methodologies, including educational content resources and well-optimized landing pages, can prepare your business to make the most of limited use of outbound marketing methodologies, such as print advertisement and offline events. If your ideal customers tend towards the young and highly tech-savvy, minimal outbound marketing is probably correct for you. If your typical buyers have been attending trade shows and reading industry publications for the duration of their careers, a marketing strategy which relies more heavily on outbound methodologies will more likely yield optimal results.

While there is simply no easy or correct answer to the whole outbound vs. inbound marketing methodology debate, it’s crucial for you to realize the following: marketing is the science of compelling and convincing humans. No individual would ever attempt to argue the truism that humans are a remarkably complex species. While we can’t answer the debacle of inbound vs. outbound for your organization without additional customer insights or data, the most likely answer is “mostly inbound, but don’t ignore outbound!” Purism is rarely the answer, and the world’s most intelligent marketers realize the value of nuance.

Are you marketing your business using purely inbound or outbound marketing methodologies? Why or why not?

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