The war between inbound and outbound marketers has been raging on for quite some time now. As a result, I am convinced we will never hear the end of it. With the more traditional outbound approach, we are thinking in terms of television, billboards, direct mail, banners and publicity stunts. This type of marketing has been around for ages. On the other hand, inbound marketing is more targeted and audience-centred in that it uses various Search Engine Optimisation techniques and digital social media platforms to engage prospective customers and have them interested in making purchases. Both these types of marketing face us every single day of the year. However, there is always a certain level of caution in the way consumers approach some forms of advertising in the outbound area. Below is a look at the two strategies and their differences.

Conversational vs One-Sided

Inbound marketers pull in the consumer. They work hard at creating a platform in which conversations can take place. They look to generate inbound leads by ensuring that a particular forum is tried out. When users get there, there is a dialogue regarding how they feel about a product. The talk is two ways and actively engaging. This is not so much the case with outbound marketing. Television commercials simply yell across from out of the screen, hoping to catch the attention of viewers. There is no attempt to pull in them in, but a deliberate gimmick with plenty of pitch. Prospective customers want to feel engaged and part of the conversation. Inbound marketing works hard at this aspect.

Targeted vs General

You have to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. Supposing you are watching a television program and a commercial for real estate comes on. The chances are that you could be interested, but there is an even higher probability that you do not care about the real estate industry, therefore you are out of the demographic of the marketer. That is the folly of outbound marketing; looking for a needle in a haystack and at times missing even the haystack. Inbound marketing is vastly different. The marketers will isolate prospective customers in a particular niche. For example, a real estate broker could set up a blog to educate and attract customers to buy services. This blog will target those in real estate so if you are not, you will not have to subscribe to the particular blog and hence you will not have to suffer marketing messages you do not need. If a strategy is targeted, then the conversion is likely to be high. However, if you stand in a crowd and yell, then chances are that people will start walking away.

Choice vs The Illusion Of Choice

Think like the consumer. You have to look at billboards. If a commercial comes on during a particular segment of your favourite show, you have no choice but to watch, but the advertiser wants you to believe that you actually have a choice. How can there be choice when you do not have the chance to choose? How can there be a choice when you have a single option at that moment? Inbound marketing exemplifies choice. They point you in the right direction. In the earlier analogy, you chose to subscribe to a real estate blog. You could have registered for a health blog or a technology blog, or subscribed to the feeds of a relationships website, but you did not. You walked away from thousands of sites all crying out for inbound leads and chose the one you wanted. You could also have decided to stay away altogether. In a nutshell, with inbound marketing, the potential for choice is limitless. This makes you feel more comfortable, because no one is trying to ram anything down your throat, which is something that advertisers should carefully look at.

Education vs Obfuscation

To source inbound leads, marketers and businesses work hard at informing the consumer. They do not put the sales pitch ahead of the need to know. A growing trend in this line of marketing is for the owners of the forum to cut out an image as an authority in their niche. A website about weight loss will not solely focussed on promoting its products, but it will also provide general information such that even if one does not make purchases, they leave the page the wiser and in a position to make choices. There is an attempt at pitching, sure, but it is always very tactful and discreet. Outbound marketing is very duplicitous. There is no attempt at information. All a commercial banner will do is to show why a particular manufacturer is the best and why competitors’ products are not good enough. There is very little in the way of depth of content; it all has a single motive, which is to sell units, and it will stop at nothing to achieve that.

Quantifiable vs Immeasurable

If you are a marketer, you will always want to track the progress you make to understand the market better and implement a more focused approach. Adopting outbound marketing strategies is tricky. The scope is too general, since you are throwing messages at random people. It therefore makes tracking your progress very difficult. There are valuable statistics about your audience you are never likely going to get. For example, how will you know what motivated people to access your commercials? Even with all the studies and the research, outbound marketing is akin to probing in the dark, feeling your way, at times getting lost. Inbound marketing is completely different. Once a user lands on your page, you have their IP address. You know where they were before they got to you and find out why they came. At the end of the day, you understand your consumers very well. Analytics will also provide you with a truckload of data. You know how many visitors clicked through, how long they stayed on your page, what they were looking for, how many left dissatisfied, and how many took a decisive action. This information is going to shape your marketing strategies in future.

Outbound marketing comes up short against the overwhelming finesse of its inbound counterpart. With the latter, you are talking to people who made the choice to seek you out. They are interested and they want to hear what you have to say, they can trust you because you seem credible. They have listened to you in the past and they feel that they can trust you.