Outbound vs inbound marketing
You may have heard these terms before and been thoroughly baffled by the confusing definitions you found online. Is it really that complicated? No. Marketing agencies just want you to think it’s some big mystery so they can charge you an arm and a leg for their advice. Not to worry, this article will help untangle the jargon. But, before going any further, let’s define a couple terms.
What is outbound marketing?
No mystery here, it’s mostly advertising: TV, radio, Facebook ads, Google ads, magazines, newspapers, billboards, direct mail, cold calling, cold email, blimps, whatever. You broadcast to customers — That’s the outbound part. Also called “interruption” marketing.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and branding. Customers come to you — That’s the inbound part. Also called “permission” marketing.
Why is this important?
Because some marketing experts will try to convince you that inbound marketing is the only viable way to create a profitable long-term relationship with your customers. And that may be true. But if you don’t reach out and get their attention first, they’ll never know you exist. And non-existence is a tough branding strategy in today’s economy.
The truth about inbound marketing
Current inbound marketing wisdom dictates that you consistently publish original long-form content that is irresistible to your target customers, who then seek out your wisdom with a desire to learn more. Supposedly, if you do that long enough, your customers will gladly buy whatever you’re selling. That’s the theory anyway. Does it work? For a few. For most, not so much.
Let’s review the inbound marketing process in a bit more detail:
- Your “authoritative” website content gets shared by your social media buddies, driving your articles to the top of Google’s search rankings.
- There it’s discovered by more people, who visit your site eager to forfeit their email address, enabling them to receive even more of your wisdom.
- Once they’re on your email list, you drip on these folks with daily drivel until they cave in and buy something from you — Typically an ebook, online course, personal consultation, blueprint (don’t ask), or “mastermind” weekend in Orlando.
- These super-satisfied customers become members of your “tribe” and eagerly promote your products and services to anybody who’ll listen.
- When you get enough followers-turned-promoters, you set up affiliate links to Bluehost on your website and make $20,000 a month in referral fees (seriously, people have done this).
But the first step is still to interrupt the consumer. That’s one reason there will always be socially acceptable interruption marketing media. We need to get that initial attention.
— Seth Godin / Permission Marketing 1999
Sounds good, let’s do it!
Hold on there Sparky. This all makes perfect sense, until you realize that this equation for success comes with a snag. A big one …
If you don’t rank well in Google, how do you ignite this bonfire of riches in the first place?
Good question. Unfortunately, the likelihood of you producing original, authoritative content that is soooo good that it rises to the top of Google search rankings is pretty slim. I’m sorry, but chances are nobody’s going to find your stuff. There’s already too much stuff out there.
So, how are you going to get noticed with this inbound marketing deal? You probably won’t. Not unless you begin the process with outbound marketing, which was first described by Seth Godin as “interruption marketing” back in 1999. (Mr. Godin also coined the term “permission marketing,” a much more meaningful term than inbound marketing.)
So, what should I do?
You should probably start with some good, old-fashioned, outbound (interruption) marketing. Once you get the attention of some receptive customers, try a bit of inbound (permission) marketing. Bottom line: If you want to get rich selling your wisdom on the web — or be a millionaire “life coach” at age 24 — get out your wallet. And keep it out.
About Seth Godin
Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, and teacher. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 18 best-selling books, including Permission Marketing, The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes, and What To Do When It’s Your Turn.
By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world. In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame.