Published on December 18th, 2017
The way some marketers talk, you might think that they stopped making billboards and TV commercials some time around 2011. This isn’t the case of course, but there’s no denying that modern digital marketing channels generate a lot more attention than their older analog cousins.
There’s no question that modern digital tactics offer a number of real, significant advantages over more traditional methods like out of home advertising and print. At some point the question needs to be asked—does traditional marketing still have a place in a modern business’s marketing plan?
Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing
This dilemma is often framed as being about outbound versus inbound marketing tactics.
Outbound encompasses what we think of as traditional marketing—out of home advertising, TV spots, radio ads, trade show booths and direct mail are all outbound marketing methods.
Outbound gets its name because marketers push their message out into the world to be seen and heard by as many people as possible. This is also sometimes called “interruption marketing,” because ads often interrupt other content.
While outbound pushes a message out, inbound marketing works by attracting attention and pulling an audience in. Content marketing and social media marketing are two examples of inbound marketing tactics. Like all inbound methods, each creates something of genuine value in response to some need the audience has in common. This could be an informative white paper intended to address business executives’ need to make informed decisions, or a free online tool designed to automate some mundane task.
In other words, traditional marketing tells people what they want them to hear— inbound marketing gives people what they need.
The Advantages of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing’s advantages over traditional channels are striking.
As consumers become more informed and savvier about their purchasing habits, many traditional marketing tactics are losing appeal and effectiveness. People don’t like being sold to any more—they prefer to be interacted with. Inbound marketing is designed to appeal to this sensibility, and it works.
But don’t just take our word for it—there are plenty of statistics to back this up:
- 43% of digital marketers say social media is one of their most effective tactics.
- 84% of CEOs and VPs say they use social media to help make purchasing decisions.
- Marketers who use inbound methods are four times more likely to be satisfied with their strategy than those who don’t.
- A third of marketers think that outbound marketing tactics are overrated.
- Organizations that rely mainly on inbound experience a 61% lower cost per lead than organizations that predominately use outbound marketing.
The numbers go on.
Suffice it to say, when it’s done well inbound marketing more than pays for itself. Outbound marketing can’t always make that claim.
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Where Traditional Marketing Still Fits
If inbound marketing outperforms outbound tactics while delivering a better ROI, does that mean it’s time to start abandoning outbound for good? Not so fast. While inbound marketing should form the bedrock of your marketing strategy, outbound marketing can have a useful supporting role.
For instance, compiling a contact list by offering a free webinar in exchange for contact information is a common inbound marketing tactic. This contact info could be used for retargeted ads, an email marketing campaign and more.
Or perhaps your main focus is on nurturing the bottom of your funnel, but you still need to build your brand and increase awareness. In this case, some strategically placed print ads may be the perfect complement to your inbound plan.
Outbound tactics like TV and radio ads can also be highly effective at mass market branding. Brand recognition developed with outbound tactics can be leveraged to improve the performance of an inbound content marketing campaign.
At the end of the day, the death of outbound may have been exaggerated. A diverse marketing strategy may get you the best results. Sooner or later, focusing only on inbound or outbound methods may mean foregoing the best medium for a particular message—or a particular audience.