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 pay to broadcast your message to customers — That’s the outbound part. It’s 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 magically “discover” your business and seek you out — That’s the inbound part. It’s 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 I suppose. For most, not so much.
Here’s a simplified example of the inbound marketing process and how it might work:
- Your original and unique website content gets shared by your social media buddies, where it gets noticed by a BuzzFeed (or other hyper-popular media site) contributor who writes a review and links to your article.
- The BuzzFeed link results in a boost to your website’s “domain authority” and drives your article to the top of Google’s search rankings.
- There your article is rapidly discovered by more people, who visit your site eager to forfeit their email address for a newsletter subscription, enabling them to receive even more of your wisdom.
- Once they’re on your email list, you drip on these folks with your daily insights until they cave in and buy something from you — Typically an ebook, webinar, checklist, 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-fanatics, you set up affiliate links to Bluehost (or similar) on your website and make $20,000 a month in referral fees (seriously, people have done this).
“Simply stated, you interrupt customers with a message designed to get them to raise their hand. That’s the way they volunteer or say “yes” to begin a rewarding exchange of information accomplished over time, which builds trust that you can leverage into a sales relationship. 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.”
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 few snags. What happens if your content is crummy, or you don’t have any social media buddies, or nobody at BuzzFeed notices? What then?
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 you 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.