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Crafting the Marketing Strategy: Inbound, Outbound, or Party Mix?


By Goran Bogunovic, August 24, 2017

Everybody knows a good product (or service) means nothing without an effective marketing strategy. Once you step your foot on the market, you have a hard task to accomplish – it’s letting people know you exist. The moment you manage to grab one part of the spotlight, you have to showcase yourself as the perfect company of choice, i.e. to work on raising brand awareness.

We’re not gonna lie – it’s a never-ending hassle.

But if you learn to use it right, marketing can become your most powerful instrument for communicating who you are, what you want to achieve, and what is it that you’re trying to sell. Although you need to be focused on profit in order to ensure a steady cash flow and hopefully create a sustainable business – marketing should always be relationship-based. This is especially true in the 21st century that brought us more demanding customers (who are less likely to forgive bad interactions with brands), harsh economic climate, and a highly competitive market for almost any niche you point your finger at.

Great marketing can even outperform the quality of the product in question. That is how you build brand loyalty. You see, as buyers – people tend to associate certain qualities to wholesome brands, not products themselves. This is why reputation matters, as well as keeping the desirable position among customers or clients.

When it comes to setting your strategy straight, there are quite a few things you need to take in mind. First stop – the inbound vs. outbound debate.

Now, we don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of the people tend to think in binary categories, so when it comes to the inbound vs. outbound debate, most people focus on choosing between the two. No doubt about it, the digital era has impacted our everyday habits severely. With the internet, we have completely changed the way we spend our free time, the way we communicate and connect, collect and keep memories, the way we do business and purchase things. Naturally, this shift towards the online world transformed marketing as well, and it opened new opportunities of getting closer to potential customers and clients.

Marketing strategy

Inbound vs. Outbound: Understanding the Division

Inbound marketing is considered to be a new form of marketing adjusted to the new age and the new customer needs. This type of marketing is based on providing value to potential customers or clients: it’s all about wooing them and earning their interest, with a long term goal of making them purchase your product or hire you for your services. The main pillar of inbound marketing is quality content, combined with social media marketing and savvy SEO practices.

Why focusing on content works? Well, in the sea of various brands, you need to find a way to stand out and build authority for yourself. In addition, by producing relevant and engaging content, you are basically killing two birds with one stone giving the fact you are also working on SEO and therefore – making yourself more visible in the online arena. Being mindful about who you are writing for and with what specific goal, helps you write topics that are fresh and original, as well as built around relevant keywords. This makes a new way of leveraging your content in order to tap into multiple channels while following the basic principles of SEO.

The main pillar of inbound marketing is quality content, combined with social media marketing and savvy SEO practices.

Inbound marketing is a process of building trust, learning about your prospects, and connecting on many scales. Communicating your ideas via your blog and social media channels should always spark a conversation with your audience and get the discussion going. By respecting your audience and nurturing the relationship with them, you are working on your company’s publicity. Keep in mind that going an extra mile counts as every positive interaction someone has with your brand means a possibility of generating word of mouth.

While in case of inbound marketing, people are being drawn to your brand, when it comes to outbound marketing (also known as traditional marketing) – you are chasing customers. So, the first one is permission-based, and the other one is interruption-based.

Outbound marketing has been labeled as a more aggressive approach, where marketers push the products or services on customers. Whereas with inbound, the main medium is the internet, outbound relies on the offline means such as TV, radio, newspapers, billboards, cold calls, etc.

The decline of traditional marketing has been explained through the severe change in consumer behavior and the fact they have more control now than in the past. Free market means there are a lot of brands to choose from. What’s the variety of choices to consumers – is a challenge for your business. They can afford to turn their backs to you, while it is uncertain if it is vice versa.

Across the web, you can see a lot of infographics and articles that completely disregard the value of outbound marketing, calling it a one-sided conversation, a worthless and outdated method, with no value interest whatsoever.

But is this really true?

inbound outbound marketing

What the Numbers Say

No doubt about it, inbound marketing has proven to be a great way of converting strangers and site visitors into leads and customers, until eventually – they become the evangelists of your brand. Creating and distributing content across multiple channels, while having in mind the importance of personalization – that is the main way to become successful at inbound marketing.

According to the HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report, 1 out of 3 marketers think outbound marketing techniques are overrated. The report also shows more than half of the surveyed marketers (53% to be exact) have listed producing blog content as their top priority.

Leslie BradshawAs with any relationship, the market favors those who give more value than they ask for. Leslie Bradshaw, Former COO, President and Co-Founder of JESS3

And what about outbound statistics? If you take a look at the Invesp’s infographic, you will not find a single piece of data that speaks in the favor of outbound methods. Shortly put, inbound marketing has proven to be cheaper and more effective than the traditional marketing methods. For example, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and it triples the leads.

Does this mean traditional marketing is definitely dead?

marketing numbers

Don’t Hold a Requiem for Outbound Marketing Just yet

We’ve all witnessed an intriguing phenomenon: when a certain lie gets repeated enough number of times, it somehow appears as the truth. The society accepts it and it’s rarely questioned afterwards. This is exactly what happened with the story about outbound marketing.

When it comes to outbound marketing methods, they cannot be disregarded completely as ineffective.

The first misconception when it comes to outbound marketing is that it provides no value. Damn straight it does provide value, only if the message is crafted cleverly enough and placed in front of the people in a compelling way. Does guerilla marketing ring any bells?

Here’s the catch: sure, we can all agree that times have changed and so has consumers’ behavior. But this means outbound needs to evolve too and catch the wave of changes – not back down and surrender. If you just yell at people BUY THIS or CALL NOW, it certainly won’t generate revenue, but if you manage to find a storyline that resonates with your target audience, the advertisement will bring results.

Being present in the offline world is mandatory, for many reasons. Here’s just a few:

  • The power of an effective image people randomly run into on the streets or elsewhere is irreplaceable
  • Outbound methods play an important role in communicating your brand’s identity clearly, staying fresh, and noticed
  • Offline world gives you an opportunity to be more creative (especially because of the shift towards the digital, you have room to distinguish yourself from others and trigger positive reactions)
  • Remember this: people won’t mind being interrupted if you show them something awesome

Let’s not go around the bush: one of the biggest mistakes in this context is measuring the effectiveness of an entire marketing method through the ability (or inability) of today’s marketers to use the most of it. It is challenging, no argument there. But it can give your business an amazing boost, if done properly.

Rand FishkinTell a story. Make it true. Make it compelling. And make it relevant. Rand Fishkin, Founder of MOZ

If your main focus is on numbers, inbound is the way to go. But if you truly care about the people, nothing can replace the face-to-face contact. People love being cared about and real human experiences can never be fully replaced by digital ones. This discussion is the same as the one regarding the death of paper books in the digital era. There is a very strong sentiment regarding the ritual of reading books that it’s highly improbable they will ever go extinct. Same goes for the necessity of real human contact in marketing activities.

This means organizing promotional events or being creative with the method of gamification in order to get closer to your target group – is something you should continuously have in mind. Come up with a cool campaign and that is going to generate word of mouth. Remember, always base marketing on relationships, not money.

outbound marketing

Figure out Your Message and Mix It Up

Inbound and outbound methods are not mutually exclusive. The biggest challenge is to figure out who your target group is and how they communicate. Emotions are the pivot of all great marketing, mainly because people never buy your product – they buy the story that’s attached to it, or simply put – the better versions of themselves. This is why great brands with strong messages (e.g. Nike with its famous Just Do It slogan) have created communities and value around their businesses, making the purchase a lot more than just exchanging money for merchandise.

The main difference between inbound and outbound is in the medium and in the way the message gets delivered.

Saying customers don’t appreciate “the pushy approach” means overly simplifying consumer psychology and the way marketing works. Newsflash: customers don’t like feeling they are being pushed on with a certain marketing message, but this doesn’t mean being pushy can’t be a valuable method for your business. In addition, marketing is always a two-way street, so saying outbound methods don’t care about feedback is not quite true. The communication is not as explicit as with inbound (where you have social endorsement and commenting), but more subtle, detectable in reactions.

Crafting your marketing strategy includes a few main steps:

  • Defining your target audience and their profile
  • Listing your marketing goals
  • Defining your brand’s image
  • Figuring out the marketing budget
  • Crafting the best communication tone, tactics, and campaigns

The smartest thing you can do is aligning your outbound and inbound marketing efforts. Of course, not all niches need the same amount of offline interactions, but the art of marketing lies in recognizing these opportunities and seizing them.

One of the best examples of successfully shooting from all marketing fronts are the marketing campaigns crafted by IKEA. Extremely creative and well thought through, IKEA’s marketing is versatile and praiseworthy. From emotional giveaway campaigns placed in newspapers, to very engaging videos and clever instagram takeovers, and even installations such as the giant cardbox studio apartment people could explore on the streets of Brooklyn – their marketing team sure knows what they’re doing.

Your website remains the center of your business, but don’t forget to network in the offline world and make new contacts, too. The most important thing is to think beyond just sales: no matter what method you turn to, people seek personalized experiences, they want to engage, and they need something fresh and creative that will push them towards your brand. So, pick a holistic marketing approach, mix it up, test, and pivot, if necessary.


Author:

Goran Bogunovic

Now, you're probably wondering how I got here! Running a marketing agency, educating people about branding, and helping you to develop your own presence online. To understand, you’ll need to follow me @Domain.Me

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