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What's the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?


inbound-vs-outbound.jpgOkay, so your business is used to sending out flyers in the mail and placing ads in the paper and radio spots on the air to get the word out about your product or service.

Lately, however, you’ve been hearing about this “inbound” stuff, the possibility of generating leads via digital targeting, and you want to do more to attract these kinds of visitors beyond having a business card website and basic social channels in place.

Still, you’re not quite clear on the difference between traditional, or “outbound” marketing and this relative newcomer, inbound.

Certainly, inbound is cheaper, easier and more focused… It results in more leads that you can actually convert to customers, and it makes customers feel a loyalty and trust with your brand. Sounds great! But… should you actually trust it?

What’s the difference between inbound and outbound marketing anyway?


An Eight Second Ride

Before we discuss inbound vs. outbound, maybe we first need to touch on the difference between your target audience today compared to fifteen years ago.

For one thing, people now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. A goldfish can handle nine seconds. However, according to a 2015 article from Time.com, we can only handle eight:

“Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from twelve seconds to eight seconds.”

goldfish-thinking-graphic.jpgHello? Are you still with me? Yes, that’s right! The modern person scrolling through the digital landscape only has a tiny little, itty-bitty, eight second time span to decide whether to read on about your product or ditch your pitch altogether.

Making matters worse, experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day.

That’s a whole heck of a lot of messaging!

So, what can your business do to break through the advertisement overload and keep a person’s attention? This is where inbound marketing really shines.


Defining Outbound

Outbound marketing, in a word, is interruptive. Outbound uses a wide variety of media and platforms (including trade shows, seminar series, email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing, and traditional advertising) to grab the attention of people who may or may not be interested in their product or service.

In essence, outbound marketers fling their specialized offerings out into a very wide net and hope to catch just the right fish. Sure, they try to approximate which waters are the best for catching just their kind of fish. But really, when they set out the net, there is no way of knowing just what they’re going to haul into the boat a few days later—if they haul in anything at all!

In the process, there is excess waste of budget and time spent on all this wide-cast advertising and message distribution. They may have even lost a few leads dues to an “in-your-face” approach that attempts to sell too quickly.


Defining Inbound

Diametrically opposed to the outbound methodology, inbound doesn’t seek to net a customer overnight. Rather, inbound aims to cultivate a trust relationship with potential leads and customers by providing high-quality, useful information that the target lead or customer is actively looking for already.

While searching the internet, they might run a Google search with their question and find an inbound piece of content (blog, infographic, eBook) that addresses exactly their needs or pain points directly. This feels good! Here is somebody offering FREE, valuable information related to their need or problem. No expectation to buy or commit or purchase anything.

Whew! What a relief. The lead then feels a kind of trust developing with the brand. And trust leads to return visits, and eventually customers.

It might not be today or tomorrow. But when the conversion happens, it results in a relevant connection that’s far more likely to result in a positive recommendation or referral—creating more business for you!



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