Who Wins In A Fight — Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing?

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By Kevin Getch

When it comes to which marketing tactic to use there are hundreds of choices. But only two primary strategies: inbound or outbound marketing. Let’s first look at the definitions of each strategy and then see which one is more effective today.

Inbound marketing: is based on the concept of customers coming to you instead of you going to them. You’re earning your potential customers attention by producing great content that customers value and share. Blogging, podcasts, online video, opt-in email marketing, eBooks, whitepapers, social media marketing and SEO are all strategies used to make your business stand out online and drive more potential customers to your website. This is also known as “permission marketing” or “pull marketing.”

Here is a great illustration from SEOmoz of a few of the strategies used in inbound marketing.


Inbound Marketing Strategies


Outbound marketing: is based on the concept of buying attention through cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements, sales fliers, spam, telemarketing or traditional advertising. This is also known as “interruption marketing” or “push marketing.”

The biggest difference between inbound and outbound marketing has to do with the method used to get a prospect’s attention. Outbound marketing consists in interrupting people while inbound is about earning attention. Think of TV and radio commercials, popups, spam, magazine ads, and telemarketers. Each of those tactics involves interrupting a person while they’re doing something else, like listening to music, watching a show or checking their email.

Is Outbound Marketing Dead?

No. I realize some Internet marketing gurus proclaim “outbound marketing is dead and Internet marketing is the only way to go.” But a more accurate statement would be, “outbound marketing is dying.” The reason I say that is because radio/TV commercials, popups and even telemarketing still get results… it’s just those results aren’t what they used to be.

We have TiVo so we can fast forward the commercials. And satellite radio and MP3 players allow us to enjoy music without being interrupted by annoying sales pitches.

What’s really happening is that technology has taken power away from the advertiser and placed it in the hands of the consumer. Now, when someone wants information about a product or service they will search it out themselves on their own terms.

And this is why inbound marketing is so effective today.

What Does This Look Like?

Let’s use the real estate market as an example. If you’re in the market for a new home where is the first place you would go for information?

If you’re like most people you said “Google.” You’ll search for homes for sale in the city of your choice. You may also look up information on the school district, neighborhood and even visit a forum or blog to find out what local residents have to say about living there.

Kendall Shiffler, who works for PegasusAblon, a commercial real estate development, investment, and management company, understands inbound marketing. Kendall created a hyperlocal website, DallasDesignDistrict.com, where people can go to get information about the Oak Lawn area of Dallas, TX.

Instead of trying to interrupt people with marketing messages from her company’s website, Kendall decided to provide valuable information to her target market on their terms using a hyperlocal site focused on adding value to people free of charge. And this strategy has proven to be very effective for her real estate business.

The Grateful Dead Pioneered Inbound Marketing

While the Internet has certainly created new inbound marketing tools like blogs, podcasts, eBooks, SEO, and social media; the concept isn’t exactly new. In fact 40 years ago The Grateful Dead successfully used the concept of “inbound marketing” to create one of the most iconic bands in history.

The Grateful Dead encouraged their fans to record shows and trade tapes free of charge. Today this inbound marketing tactic is known as “freemium” content. A company will give away a free eBook, educational video or even an audio interview for free in order to convert visitors into fans. It’s also known as “education-based marketing.”

The band was also one of the first to create a massive permission-based mailing list where they sold tickets directly to fans. Again, this is another effective inbound marketing tactic used online today. Instead of spamming people with email, savvy business owners are giving customers a reason to sign up for their permission-based email list. When done right, readers complain when they don’t get emails from you anymore, not when they do.

What’s Your Perception of Marketing?

So what’s your perception of marketing? Do you still consider it an act of interrupting people with your messages (outbound marketing) or about earning peoples’ attention and being easy to be found (inbound marketing)? Those who embrace inbound marketing as their primary marketing strategy stand to gain more and more market share in the years to come. The choice is yours.