Out with the old, in with the new… that’s how the saying goes, right? This can be applied to many things in life, be they bad habits, unhealthy relationships, perishable goods... Ever since the term ‘Inbound Marketing’ entered our vocabularies, it’s been touted as the new and improved way of marketing, relegating its predecessor, outbound marketing, to the ‘what not to do’ category. But just because Inbound Marketing has proved to be more effective in engaging buyers and generating leads doesn’t mean outbound methods should be discounted altogether.
Why does it have to be one or the other, anyway? In the words of the Mexican girl from the Old El Paso ads, “Por qué no las dos?”
A pointless debate
The fact is, marketing isn’t black and white. For explanation purposes, we tend to make it appear this way by highlighting the differences between the inbound and outbound concepts. We describe outbound as interruptive, disengaging and marketer-centric, and inbound as permission-based, educational and customer-centric. This has created an ‘inbound versus outbound’ mentality, but in reality, they overlap a lot more than we inbound marketers tend to let on.
Inbound is to marketing what the cloud is to IT
This is not to say that outbound is making a comeback. But, whether you should adopt inbound methods depends on your individual situation. Let’s use the cloud as an analogy. Similar to inbound, the cloud brought with it a lot of hype upon its arrival. It was a new, exciting concept with a killer buzzword to match.
There’s no denying that the cloud has revolutionised IT. Where once businesses had to host costly infrastructure that required an implementation project and ongoing maintenance, now they can deploy a server in a matter of minutes online. Key benefits include reduced costs, the ability to scale up or down as needed, and increased security. But, does this make it the right solution for every business? Contrary to popular belief – and what cloud providers may say – it’s not. All of these benefits are useless if you only have access to limited bandwidth. And in some cases, owning legacy infrastructure is actually cheaper depending on demand.
So, while the cloud solves many problems, it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. The same goes for Inbound Marketing. It works wonders for most businesses, but for others, outbound methods are still effective. In this day and age, with the proliferation of social media and proximity of the consumer to the business, it’s hard to avoid inbound altogether. The key lies in finding the right balance for your organisation. How? You guessed it – those good old buyer personas.
The problem with the inbound-outbound debate is that it focuses on the medium and the message rather than the consumer. People do not think in terms of inbound and outbound, only marketers. What matters to the consumers is that the way they are approached is contextually meaningful. We need to stop focusing on labels and start thinking about the most important thing in the marketing equation – our buyers. After all, you really can’t devise a marketing strategy without first understanding who you’re marketing to.
Just recently we conducted market research for a new client of ours in the childcare industry and found that their ideal customer is not an avid social media user. Instead, they prefer to consume content via email-delivered newsletters and by subscribing to online publications and blogs. This in turn dictates the way we communicate with them – a less formulaic mix of inbound and more traditional ‘push’ methods works best for this particular buyer.
A B2C example of a company that has a customer-centric approach to marketing is the Dollar Shave Club. They found that their buyers enjoy a little old-school luxury and cater to this by sending shaving tips and witty content in booklet form with their razor blade deliveries. This value added service also includes a postcard whereby customers can craft their user experience story and send on to a friend – a clever and more traditional way of encouraging the promotion of their brand.
Don't follow the pack
Just because inbound is all the rage doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for your business, and more specifically, your buyers. There is no point limiting yourself to the digital realm if your audience is open to different modalities of content. It’s always tempting to jump ahead to the tactics, but the key to effective marketing is to build your strategy around your buyers. Inbound may not be right for your business right now, just like the cloud may not be. Ultimately though, with a buyer-first strategy, you’ll find that even traditionally outbound methods become more inbound-like.
Need help identifying your buyer personas? Download our ebook below to learn about the buyer's journey and how to apply it to your B2B marketing strategy.