New marketing strategies and tactics attract B2B marketers like moths to a flame. For some reason, marketers think that in with the new and out with the old is what's necessary to get better results. One example is the notion that inbound marketing can be used as a replacement for outbound marketing.
How do you figure? Even Hubspot, arguably the creator of the inbound concept, uses outbound marketing to enhance their engagement with inbound leads. Anyone who receives email from Hubspot is getting outbound communications.
The difference is in how outbound marketing is defined and executed.
Inbound marketing is the concept of integrating content, search and social media to help prospects find your company through the sharing of information they consider valuable and choose to engage with.
If we consider the challenge of being found by prospects, what's really changing is the approach. With inbound marketing, we're working to attract prospects to our content through the optimization of search and the use of social media. Without the content, there would be no inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing—done well—is an extension of that concept. In fact, I'd argue that the defining difference is pull vs. push, which can also be stated as choice vs. interruption.
What we really want is to create extended engagement that manifests itself with the results of more time spent with our content vs. that of competitors and is considered valuable enough for prospects to share with others.
Take a look at a few approaches that rely on a combination of both approaches for success:
- Lead Nurturing - Continuous engagement with prospects who have demonstrated interest in specific topics by opting in to download a white paper or attending a webinar, for example. Instead of random email blasts to our databases (or even worse, purchased lists), we're honoring their expression of interest by creating and sharing content that addresses their preferences.
- RSS Feeds - Once you've enticed a lead to subscribe to your blog post, technically, each and every blog post that is relayed to them via the feed is outbound. Comments are inbound. Readers who share your blog posts are a source of inbound.
- Twitter - when we post Tweets leading back to our content, we're engaging in outbound marketing. Done well, each Tweet is an invitation to share information designed to be of value to our target market. Done old school, it's a megaphone blast screaming "look at us!" The first way is engaging and the other is noise. This said, others who Tweet about our content are truly a source of inbound marketing.
- Conferences - Participating as an exhibitor or speaker at a conference is an outbound activity. Whatever you deliver to those you interact with at a conference will determine its inbound capacity. Everyone who subsequently chooses to engage with you based on that experience can arguably now be considered inbound.
The true definition of inbound is creating the interest and engagement that keeps prospects choosing to continuously access your content because they've come to know that whatever you publish has a high likelihood of being valuable to them.
Inbound is definitely critical for marketing in today's overwhelming informational environments. But I'd argue that inbound doesn't actually work without outbound. It's all in how you incorporate the two disciplines.
What do you think?