Last week, one of our clients told me he had a confession to make. His business was planning a radio advertising campaign, and he was worried that it didn't fit in with other marketing campaigns that we were focusing on . Why the concern? Our client knew that we focus primarily on inbound marketing at our digital agency. He worried that we’d be disappointed with his decision to launch a radio ad campaign, since radio ads are considered an outbound tactic.
With our focus on inbound, the client assumed we must be “anti-outbound”. His assumption is not entirely wrong: many agencies do believe inbound and outbound are as different as oil and water and simply don’t mix. Not ours. In fact, we believe that inbound and outbound are two sides to the same coin. Together, they’re part of a comprehensive marketing plan that builds brand awareness, drives engagement, converts leads into customers, and ultimately turns those customers into brand ambassadors and promoters of your business.
Inbound vs. Outbound: What’s the Difference?
Inbound marketing is a marketing tactic that brings potential customers directly to your business, rather than competing for their attention. Popularized by HubSpot and promoted by digital marketers (our agency included), inbound marketing attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.
Content creation– blogs, landing pages, eBooks, whitepapers, webinars – is the heart of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing thrives off this creation, together with lifecycle marketing, personalization, multi-channel advertising, and integration.
Most forms of "traditional" advertising are outbound. Placing ads in a magazine, on a TV channel, or a radio channel are outbound. In the digital age, traditional outbound advertising gets a bad rap because these are ads are often expensive to produce, the ad time costs a fortune to buy, and the ad’s impact is diluted. Even with detailed demographic data about a specific TV channel – you’re more likely to reach middle-aged women with an ad buy on HGTV than MTV – your targeting opportunities are still limited and the impact of your message diluted. Plus, your message is competing to capture your audience’s attention. Unlike a blog or eBook that they choose to read and download, you’re essentially screaming, “Notice me!” out of the TV.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest…
You know the old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Content creation for inbound marketing can be a bit like that. As any marketer knows, just because you create content doesn’t mean anyone will actually read it. Content needs amplification and distribution vehicles, like keyword optimization or paid social promotion campaigns. Both of which, by the way, are highly successful outbound digital marketing tactics. (Yes, outbound marketing can be done over digital channels, too!)
Paid social promotion, for example, is a smart outbound digital marketing strategy that’s great for promoting an eBook to LinkedIn group or promoting a new blog post to a specific group of Facebook users.
That brings us back to my client. Sometimes, a little paid distribution is just the push your content needs to reach its audience. For our client, we understood the reasoning for the radio campaign that included both on-air ads and online banners. This then presented us with the unique opportunity to coordinate tactics and ensure seamless design and messaging consistency across all touch points. We also created a unique landing page with special offers when users clicked through from the radio banners.
Inbound and outbound marketing can – and should – co-exist within a comprehensive marketing plan. Just make sure you’re using both for the right reasons and keep in mind the end goal: bringing qualified prospects back to your website to covert into loyal customers.