Column from Florida Trend's Business Coach
Lately, there’s been a lot noise about the demise of outbound marketing. The ‘experts’ are saying how email blasts, events, news releases, and commissioned sales people are old hat and the ineffective way to market.
We’ve been told that inbound marketing is not just all the rage; it’s the best way to make your company visible and easily found. Activities like blogs, podcasts, video, and social media are the only way to go.
Don’t believe it! You need both.
I know what you're thinking -- the web and social media have empowered people to find, research, and buy the products and services they want. That’s classical inbound marketing. And, there’s a strong argument for inbound marketing because it’s less expensive than outbound techniques.
Here’s the rub -- a company that uses inbound marketing as a replacement for outbound marketing is missing an important opportunity. That’s because inbound marketing needs the push that outbound marketing provides.
Building and nurturing relationships is what marketing is all about. The best way to do that is to combine both approaches for success.
There’s no free lunch.Advocates of using only inbound marketing will have you believe that customers will find your website and social media activity without paying a ton of money -- and life will be good. But this is true only if you spend the time optimizing everything you do for search engines and devote enough time posting to your social media sites of choice. And that all assumes you’re providing the value -- education and content -- that people are looking for. Have a clear inbound marketing strategy and plan, including a systematic approach to search optimization. Be specific on who is responsible and how often postings and interactions will occur. Don’t hesitate to get outside expert help.
Hang out in the right places. Keeping your audience informed via Twitter or other media is great, as long as that’s how they like to find and receive information. If you’re not getting a lot of interaction or follower growth is slow, you may need to improve your inbound marketing game plan -- or maybe you’re just hanging out in the wrong online places. Do you know what social media your ideal prospects prefer to participate in? If not, you may be wasting your time and money. Survey customers and find out. Define what success looks like. Track the quality of the interactions you have and how many of these lead to sales.
Don’t confuse value with unwelcome intrusion. Let’s be clear -- a post on Facebook or Twitter that links back to valuable content on your website is outbound marketing. If people like what you offered them, then they’ll probably pass it on to friends and business associates -- a form of inbound marketing. On the other hand, if it’s obvious self-promotion, then you’ll take several steps backwards and turn off your audience.
Inbound marketing pull needs outbound marketing push. In ancient Chinese philosophy, two complementary opposite energies that interact with a greater whole is part of a dynamic system. The same is true for inbound and outbound marketing -- use them together and you will get better overall results.
- For instance, imagine that you’ve done a great job of optimizing your website and traffic has picked up nicely -- now what? A call to action might be a free report you’ve written. You could have them just download it, but you’d lose an opportunity to capture their email address as a lead. That’s a fair exchange of value, yet don’t stop there. Begin the process of nurturing the relationship by asking them to opt-in to your monthly newsletter or blog feed packed with valuable information. Once you've gotten someone to subscribe, you’re pushing content as an outbound activity. However, readers who comment and share your writings are a source of inbound traffic.
- You’ve decided to build your brand with a marketing campaign. You’d also like to use that to drive more people to your social media sites. There are several proven ways to go about this -- all outbound tactics. Depending on the preferences of your audience, you might go with online news releases, banner ads on the three most popular sites in your industry, and participating as an exhibitor or speaker at a targeted conference.
- The best way to retain customers is to communicate with them regularly. Staying relevant and top of mind will keep customers happy, bring more sales and make sure they never turn to a competitor. Activities like phone calls, newsletters, and special deals just for customers are all outbound tactics.
There is no doubt that inbound marketing is very important, maybe even critical to your revenue success. The problem with focusing only on inbound marketing is that it overlooks some very important truths about marketing. Using inbound and outbound marketing together will create a positive connection with your target market and sell more of your products and services.
Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com