Inbound vs. Outbound

September 5th, 2013

Sales and marketing are experiencing a transformation that includes many exciting, new digital channels, ideas, and strategies. Inbound marketing, in particular, has incurred quite a bit of buzz.  Inbound marketing is all about helping potential customers find and engage with a company via content that’s relevant and helpful to them. It’s about reaching beyond the boundaries of company-owned web properties with the intention of catching the attention of prospects and enticing them to engage with relevant content back on those web properties. (This includes social channels and blogs.)

Inbound marketing is definitely a good tool for expanding a company’s reach and creating a holistic process for engaging prospects based on their desire to interact with a company. It certainly beats cold calling. However, inbound cannot carry the load alone. That’s where an integrated marketing process comes into play—it takes more than inbound tactics to move a prospect all the way to a sale.

In an entertaining post titled “Why Inbound Marketing is Incomplete Marketing,” Jon Henshaw makes the case for building a complete marketing program. He writes, “The point is to keep doing complete marketing. Use whatever works for you and helps you make money. In most cases, you’ll find that it’s a combination of different strategies and tactics – outbound and inbound.”

Successful marketers are combining inbound approaches with outbound methods to build long-term relationships with prospects. It comes down to engaging a prospect through the right channel with  relevant messaging in order to truly attract prospects and persuade them to opt in for more great content. At that point, outbound marketing tactics can support the process by enabling marketers to continue communicating with prospects based on their expressed interests. This is beneficial to both the prospect and to marketing.  The prospect continues to receive valuable material while marketing gains more insight and information on the prospect’s behavior to supply to sales when they are ready to step in.

Relying solely on inbound marketing is a bad idea. With all the digital sales and marketing tools out there, analytics and behavioral insights are easy to obtain and must play a central role in tactical marketing decisions. Conducting outbound communications in direct response to what is learned about the prospect’s inbound activity gives the sales team a much higher chance of engaging the prospect at the right time with tools they need to make the sale. During a long, complex buying process, marketers must help prospects take the next steps based on where they are in the buying cycle and what they need to know next.

Henshaw believes that “there is no one way. Inbound marketing is no better than outbound marketing, and what works for one company may not work for another.” Just keep in mind that the tools and techniques marketers use require compelling content to drive the desired results—whether inbound or outbound. The point is that inbound marketing has a place in the marketing mix, but not at the expense of eliminating invited communications to help facilitate the buying process. Being helpful and relevant are required regardless of the approach. A truly integrated marketing program will go a long way in achieving both.