The main digital marketing channels going head to head: Digging deeper into outbound marketing vs inbound marketing

digital marketing channels: outbound vs inbound marketing

Tina Sadeghi

Account Manager

Posted on August 4, 2015

The rate of change in business is mind-boggling. Approaches, perceptions, audiences and technology are constantly evolving. And it’s a marketer’s job, more than anyone’s, to keep up.

Delivering the right products to the market through the right channels at the right time can feel a near-impossible task that can leave many marketers feeling overwhelmed and floundering.

B2B marketers tend to focus on ROI (return on investment) rather than the lead conversion of the B2C market.  But even then, many fail to measure ROI across all the marketing channels they could make use of, with only 53% thinking to do so.  And short-sighted strategy over media channels is all too common. Overall, email appears to be the most successful channel, but often its success to generate leads and sales hinges on other digital channels that may have been neglected.

Analytics isn’t always a helpful measure either. Digital marketing channels need monitoring and interpreting well for their metrics to reveal what’s really working and what isn’t. Not all channels measure instant results, and the holistic value of a piece of marketing isn’t always easy to gauge.

So how do you pick the best approach and know you’re onto a winner?

First let’s look at the options

The outbound way

Outbound marketing is about reaching out to potential customers to convince them that they need your product or service. Outbound marketing focuses on a hard sales approach, using traditional marketing tactics like advertisements and cold-calling to generate leads.

The two most commonly-used digital outbound digital marketing channels are PPC (Pay per click) and Affiliate.

PPC on Google and partner sites is paid-for advertising. It will appear on the top and right-hand side of results pages, depending on the average score of the keyword you’ve specified. You pay for each click you get, and can manage it all via AdWords or other bidding software.

Pros: You’ll get quick results, an instant increase in brand visibility, and segmented targeting, plus, you can be as aggressive or conservative as your limit/budget.

Cons: More people have become sceptical towards advertising, and paid-for clicks don’t result in guaranteed conversions. Your ad ends when the budget ends and click costs can soar quickly. You have to either take the time to train and understand PPC or hire an agency to manage it. What’s more, unethical competitors can click on your ad link until your budget has been depleted and your ad disappears. You’ll pay for accidental click costs, too – it can all be very pricey.

Affiliate marketing /performance marketing is network-based advertising via affiliate platforms. It’s a cooperative effort between the publisher, the advertiser and the prospective customer: the publisher advertises on his website and closes sales in return for a commission from the advertiser.

Pros: It’s win-win opportunity for both advertiser and publisher – like having a 24-7 salesman but only paid on performance. It’s easy to set up – just select your platform and program and sign up. Your audience is there waiting, and large banner ads will likely draw attention and encourage visitors to click.

Cons: This approach is recognised to be sporadic and may not generate sales on a regular basis. Link hijackers have also been known to take commissions from publishers.

The inbound alternative

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is based on organic search engine optimisation and lead conversion/collecting, also known as content marketing.

The focus is on attracting potential customers to your business by earning rather than buying their attention – you offer useful thought-leadership and industry-related content in return for their data.

It relies on a solid game plan to attract the right audience, as well as content-driven, digital interaction through blog posts, email marketing, podcasts, white papers, infographics, ebooks, and social media. You prepare and optimise your content to organically rank on top of search engine results pages and achieve higher ROI, traffic and conversions.

Pros:  You’ll gain much better brand recognition. By filling your website with articles about your niche, you’ll also position yourself as an industry expert to consumers.

Cons: You need a website with specific functionality, such as a blog section, email subscription, etc., but these are fairly easy to set up. It might take time for search engines to start ranking your content in their results’ pages high enough for it to get noticed. You’ll also have to establish a decent following on social media for your content to be shared widely. All of this takes time and a lot of effort.

Weighing it up

Outbound marketing campaigns are undeniably successful on paper, but its reach and results are fairly immediate. When you stop your outbound marketing campaign, you‘ll likely disappear from the hearts and minds of your potential customers very quickly.

Figures show that outbound marketing costs 40-70% more than inbound alternatives and has a lower, harder to measure ROI. The reasons are logical: people don’t respond to bombarded adverts and messages – they would always rather engage in conversations.

If you employ outbound marketing, you will likely have to face blocking techniques, as consumers get more savvy and learn to limit their exposure to advertising through Do Not Call lists and spam filters, etc. You’ll also have to face up to the impact this has on people’s perception of your brand.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, with its focus on a two-way conversation with potential customers, creates ample opportunities for measurable ROI while eliminating the need for expensive advertising. It also feels good. Customers feel respected and understood and are more likely to think better of you for it.

The success of an inbound marketing campaign is often not immediately apparent because of the time it takes to create media and content and for it to be recognized by search engines, but the results will come. Potential customers need time to get to know you and form a profitable relationship with you, but when they do, it’s likely to be high quality and long-lasting.

Blog content creation and organically growing a SEO presence are now the top two marketing approaches used by both B2C and B2B companies. Indeed, the studies show that marketers who blog are 13x more likely than their peers to enjoy positive ROI.

In simple terms, despite its immediate charms, outbound marketing costs more and gives less, especially for smaller companies.

Inbound marketing may take months to yield your ROI, but once you see the results, you’ll never look back.

We would love to help you review your digital marketing efforts, feel free to request a free consultation.