There’s a lot of back and forth out there around inbound marketing. Some say it’s a cure-all solution to end all of your marketing ails. Others say it’s a waste of time, energy and precious resources.


We see articles proclaiming the death of inbound frequently—this one via The USImprints Blog.

Both perspectives are extreme.

Here’s the truth: Inbound marketing is a powerful tool for building trust, credibility and authority, and often works best as a supplement to existing marketing plays (or vice versa).

The bottom line is traditional marketing still plays a major role in the success of any inbound marketing initiative. How? Let’s take a look.

What Is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing includes direct mail, magazines, telephone, television, radio, print advertising and other channels. Before the internet, traditional marketing was all we had. Imagine that.

Plainly, the move toward digital marketing has become obligatory. Traditional marketing methods do not work as they once did. TV commercials, for example, are largely considered a form of interruptive marketing, which clashes with inbound marketing philosophy. Inbound marketing is about creating value for your target audience and building trust with them on their terms. That trust creates opportunity for more qualified leads and loyal customers.

If you look at Google Trends, you can see that interest in the term “digital marketing” has been growing steadily since 2009, and shows no signs of slowing.

There has never been a greater need to adapt, that is, if you still find yourself clinging to old methods. But this does not mean that traditional methods do not work—rather, there needs to be a meaningful connection between the two.

Inbound Marketing Needs ‘Traditional’ Components

Let’s not take anything for granted. It’s important to remember that inbound marketing isn’t just about content being published on your website. It works synchronistically with:

  • Email. Largely considered the most effective direct marketing channel online, building a list and communicating with leads and customers is essential to inbound success.
  • Social media. Without content, you have nothing to share on social media or within your social media advertisements.
  • Customer relationship management and sales. The content, customer support, and sales departments may be separate entities within an organization, but when they’re working together, leads will grow and sales will flourish.

When a strategy is well-defined and cohesive, all parts support one another. This is how traditional marketing can play an invaluable role in your inbound marketing efforts.

Building a Bridge Between Digital and Traditional

Traditional marketing can play a major role in the success of your inbound marketing efforts. What’s needed is a mindset shift. Here’s what we mean:

  • Your marketing needs to be engaging and participatory. It used to be all about “push, push, push,” but today’s consumer sees this type of marketing as spam. If your marketing is about creating a connection and a dialogue with your target customer, you’re on the right track. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been taken advantage of or exploited.
  • You need to be authentic. Marketing today is about building relationships, and less about building awareness for your products and services. The two can work together, but without relevance and authenticity, your marketing is less likely to succeed. Consumers have more choices than ever before, and are happy to take their business to someone else they like.
  • You need to provide a personalized experience. Data-based selling works extraordinarily well, giving marketers the ability to serve the right ads to the right customers at the right times. But you must not come across as if you’re spying on the customer. This can be a tightrope to walk.

How to Complement Your Inbound Marketing With Traditional Marketing

Why can’t your ads be interactive and personalized? Why can’t your direct mail campaigns build trust with your target customer? Why can’t radio interviews be relevant and value-adding to the listener? The answer to all of these questions is they can.

Marketers have become shrewd. Today’s consumer is often viewing ads without even knowing it. Consider the example of Red Bull’s publication, The Red Bulletin. This is a brand that has embraced inbound and digital over traditional advertising in recent years. But their YouTube videos are a great example of authentic and engaging content, often focused on extreme sports.

Are they selling their energy drink with this kind of content? Well, yes and no.

Yes, the content engages their target audience and is of genuine interest to them.

No, they aren’t pushing product. You might see their brand name in the video, or maybe a can of Red Bull in the background somewhere, but that’s often all the “push” you’ll find in any given video.

Traditional marketers can take a great deal of inspiration from this approach. Another fascinating growth area online is sponsored content. According to Moz, brands were spending, on average, 6.7 percent of their budgets on sponsored content in 2013. This is trending upward. Sponsored content is designed to blend right in with a publication’s existing content, and therefore doesn’t even appear to be an ad.

This type of content is showing up in magazines, radio and on TV shows, too. The audience may not recognize it as advertising, because they are engaged in it.

Making Room for Traditional Marketing

Whether it’s online or off, your marketing needs to be cohesive. You need a strategy that encompasses every aspect of your marketing, particularly if you want traditional methods to complement your inbound marketing.

The old-school “push” approach doesn’t foster engagement or trust with the customer. But there is an opportunity to generate more valuable leads with traditional marketing methods. It’s important to create a two-way dialogue, be authentic and provide a personalized experience to your audience.

Traditional marketing can be used to amplify the marketing ecosystem that you are creating online, and vice versa.