Inbound vs Outbound Marketing II

A while back, I wrote about the whole “inbound vs. outbound” marketing thing.  I still don’t get this “us vs. them” argument that many marketers are spouting. In fact, the division really is just a way of categorizing marketing techniques. Yes, I agree, “inbound” methods tend to cost MUCH less (especially if you are doing print or direct mail initiatives). And for that reason, over the last five years, my marketing budgets tended to include fewer “traditional, outbound” marketing techniques. But I still did (and do) outbound marketing – especially when it makes sense for the target market I’m going after. For example, you can’t reach many C-level people through email as they have an admin who filters it.

For me, this whole inbound/outbound argument is irrelevant. It’s a continuum. As a marketer, you want as many arrows in your quiver as you can get. For some targets, direct mail still works. Print ads can help you with awareness and thought leadership. Social media can create powerful communities. In fact, if done correctly, any of these outlets can be used for community building, awareness, education and thought leadership, lead generation, etc. As a marketer, your job is to decide what your goals are and then figure out which methods are best to reach your target audience and deliver the results you need.

Recently, I listened to a webinar put on by BtoB Magazing (#BtoBWC for you Twitters) that included SiriusDecisions and Eloqua as presenters. It was a very good webinar, by the way, and I have immense respect for both organizations. But one comment that I noted was that many more people were coming through the web than ever before due to inbound marketing. I agree that almost every marketer is leveraging the web to the max – primarily due to limited budgets. But to ascribe all web visitors to “inbound” marketing is wrong. I often used outbound methods (email in particular, print and banner ads, trade shows and direct mail) to DRIVE people to a landing page. And many times, you can’t track it despite your best efforts.

I use integrated, multi-faceted campaigns to meet my needs. For example, in a recent campaign when my goal was to get software developers to download our SDK and kick the tires (and become a sales qualified lead), I negotiated with the vendors and got several print ads for almost free. Ends up that many magazines are hurting for ads and will give you a good deal if you are doing several things with them. So I took advantage of the print ads to build awareness of my firm and our offering (I did have a call to action to visit our landing page just in case), followed up with a couple of staggered emails to the readership promoting various things (whitepapers, video tutorials, webinars, the download) and even worked in a conference or two. My thought was to “soften” up the audience first with the print and emails to make them more receptive to our message. And it worked.

So I think you need to evaluate every arrow you have in your quiver, figure out the ROI based on your goals and then put together your plan. And don’t worry about the whole “inbound vs. outbound” thing.

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