What comes to mind when you hear the words inbound and outbound? If you think back, you may recall telemarketing terms relating to whether customers were calling in or company reps were calling out. But that was then and now is now: Inbound and outbound have taken on entirely new meanings in the context of the brave new marketing world of digital, interactive and social tactics.
But if you’re unfamiliar with inbound marketing, in particular, in its current usage, you won’t be for long. It’s popping up all over the place.
Yahoo Small Business is one site that’s been talking a lot about inbound marketing. To understand it, first think about what we all learned as more traditional marketing: Direct mail, advertising, cold calling—all tactics designed to push messages out and disrupt whatever your audience happened to be doing at the time. Is it any wonder that many people are annoyed by advertising and go to great lengths (DVRs, blockers, filters, etc.) to avoid it? For lack of a better catch-all term, this kind of marketing has come to be known as outbound. And as it’s become more and more expensive, it’s also become less effective, and certainly less efficient.
At the other end of the spectrum are present-day marketing tactics that more gently help customers and provide what they’re looking for—usually content—delivered through all sorts of digital and social media channels. Rich, valuable content that shows them respect by not interrupting, builds their loyalty and keeps them coming back. And because these kinds of tactics generate leads by bringing customers to you, they’re referred to collectively as inbound, a term originally coined by the software company Hubspot.
It’s not just the directional flow and delivery channels that distinguish inbound marketing from more traditional forms. It’s also about the content itself—listening to what your audience wants and needs and providing it to them—in contrast to more traditional messaging, which involves telling customers what you want them to know.
Voltier Digital created an infographic that perfectly illustrates the differences between inbound marketing and its outbound, more disruptive predecessors. According to data in this infographic, there’s plenty more to like about inbound marketing that just its engagement potential and the fact that it doesn’t annoy customers. ROI is one: This data claims that leads generated with inbound marketing cost a whopping 62 percent less than those generated with more traditional marketing! Another biggie is conversion: Inbound marketing’s growing track record in actual customer acquisition, not just in generating leads.
Marketing was always supposed to be about the customer. But over the years, it became more about marketers themselves, who felt compelled to hunt down consumers and bludgeon them into receiving marketing messages. The important thing about inbound marketing, then, is always keeping the focus on providing what the customer wants—something you can only know by genuinely listening.
If you’re just starting to develop your inbound marketing program or continuing to flesh out an existing one, having solid information on hand can’t hurt. You’re in luck: Hubspot offers a free download of its eBook, The Essential ABC’s of Inbound Marketing. This great resource covers 26 key topics under the inbound umbrella, written from the perspective of 26 different marketing professionals. Enjoy!