It’s time to stop pitting inbound and outbound marketing against each other

Rather than comparing inbound and outbound marketing, companies should combine these two approaches in their strategy. This will allow them to shape their messaging according to the needs of their target audience, and get more customers on-board.

Which is better, an inbound or an outbound marketing strategy?

This is often a question that surfaces in marketing discussions. And most of the time, inbound marketing emerges as the winner. In this digital age, inbound marketing is said to be more effective and efficient than an outbound approach. Outbound marketing or the traditional style of using television, print ads or direct mail to pitch your company can turn away your audience, and is often costly. Thus, inbound marketing appears as an ideal alternative.

But what exactly is inbound marketing?

With inbound marketing, companies use helpful or interesting content to gain the attention of their audience. Content can be presented in the form of blogs, videos or eBooks. Your content may help solve your prospect’s problem, or provide them with insight on a topic that they wanted to learn about. This can encourage your audience to begin interacting with your company. For instance, a topic you tackled in a blog is further explained in your eBook. You can offer your audiences a chance to download the eBook in exchange for providing their contact details in a sign-up form. Those who signed up can give you a glimpse on who is interested with your business. Engage them and be responsive to their questions, and eventually they are more likely to purchase your products or services.

What makes inbound marketing better than outbound is that it is a smarter approach in attracting customers to your business. Instead of constantly bombarding your audience with ads, you allow them to decide on whether or not to interact with your company. This can help you win their interest and their trust, and turn your prospects into customers. As a result, your client base will continuously expand, and promote sustainable growth for your company.

Furthermore, inbound marketing is generally cost-effective, especially with the medium that is used to distribute content. Posting blogs or videos online costs nothing, as compared to placing ads on TV or newspapers. However, these online posts can continue to draw in prospects long after you have created them. In addition, you can track the return on investment of the content that you post to know which of them is the most effective. This will allow you to refine your strategy, become more efficient and maximise your investment on content.

Does this mean we should abandon outbound marketing all together?

Not exactly. In fact, some principles of outbound marketing can enrich your inbound approach, especially on maximising the impact of content. Drawing from the same messages pasted on billboards, posters and print ads, you can also repurpose pieces of content when they are relevant to current events. This will save you time on content creation while making the most out of your previous work. The emphasis of outbound marketing on branding is useful too. Make your brand unique through interesting colour schemes and fonts, and use these in creating your content. This will leave a lasting impression on your prospects and help you stand out.

Furthermore, you may need to combine outbound and inbound approaches to fully address the diverse needs of your potential customers. For instance, some of your target audience may prefer reading blogs to learn about your business, while others appreciate posters or print ads. Depending on the nuances of your target demographic, you may need to blend inbound and outbound techniques for your marketing plan to be on point.

In fact, it is helpful to combine both approaches in the event where your inbound marketing has moved past its peak. Using an outbound method, partner with third-party media sources that can send your message across a wider audience. When they provide you data about your prospective customers, analyse it with the use of integrated marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This will help you in identifying qualified leads, as well as for computing the return of investment (ROI) of your marketing strategy.

Two is better than one

So, we cannot simply say that inbound marketing is better than outbound, or vice versa. We need to assess how they can complement each other to improve our overall strategy and drive business growth. Thanks to technology, inbound and outbound approaches can peacefully coexist in social lead targeting. This includes using automated technology to search the social web and identify the attributes of your ideal customers; including their industry, work functions, blog postings and the forums that they have participated. Using this social web profile, you can determine the people that will likely be interested with your business, and contact them or send them ads. Through their profile, you can also create content that is highly relevant to their needs or their interests.

One such company that gained from using social lead targeting is graphic design company Visually. In one of its early attempts in marketing, the “growth hacking team” at the enterprise used their intuition to identify potential customers. This approach did not fare well, so the company tried its hand at social lead targeting. Visually used automated search technology to analyse its customer base. Eventually, it was able to identify the characteristics of its ideal client, and create a profile. When it is considering doing business with other companies, Visually checks if they possess these attributes and if they match the profile. As a result, its outbound sales grew by 250%.

What we can learn from this experience is that outbound and inbound approaches can work together, instead of being pitted against each other. With technology, both of them can be used to enhance the marketing strategy, reach out to the right customers and drive business growth.

 

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Is it possible to track ROI of content marketing and win customers at the same time?

Yes, it is possible; when marketers use the correct approach for tracking ROI. This blog post will outline the approach to guide them in creating compelling and effective content, and turn audiences into customers. 

According to the report of the ALF Business Development, about 43% of brands have been monitoring the return on investment (ROI) of their content marketing. 62% of those surveyed said they find web traffic as the most reliable metric to track the performance of their content marketing. Nevertheless, these brands state that they still find it difficult to attract audiences, and convert them into customers.

What seems to be the problem? It would make sense that if they are tracking their content marketing ROI, they should have determined what part of their strategy works and what does not, to ensure it is effective.

Maybe there is something lacking in the way that these brands measure their ROI. It is important to address this now since the ALF report found that 80% of marketers plan to invest in content marketing in the coming year. To ensure a worthy investment, it is crucial for us to know the proper way to track ROI, to be able to implement an effective strategy.

So, what’s wrong?

The problem may lie in how brands approach content marketing. Since content marketing is a fairly new way to reach out to customers, marketers often fall into the trap of thinking it is similar to advertising or traditional marketing. Unfortunately, it is vastly different from these two. With this mindset, however, marketers tend to see content from a ROI perspective. Their purpose of creating content would be to directly increase sales, which would undermine the intention of the material itself. The content would look like an advertisement or a promotional pitch, which your audiences are used to tuning out.

Consequently, having this understanding of content marketing leads brands to become obsessed about metrics that fail to provide them a complete assessment of their strategy. If you are only aiming to use your content to build buzz for your product or your service, you are putting limits on its potential to build a relationship with your audience. For instance, most marketers rely on website traffic to track their content marketing. The increasing number of clicks, or visitors, may lead them to think that their strategy is doing well, but it is not turning audiences into customers. Of course, web traffic is important, but it should not be the only metric to measure the performance of your content.

To become effective in their content marketing, brands need to rethink how they understand content marketing, to be able to measure accurately its ROI. With advertising, you pitch your products or services directly to your audience. In content marketing, however, you provide your audiences with content that is helpful, or useful. You give them information that can solve their problem. Eventually, you gain their trust and their loyalty. And over time, they will be enticed to purchase products or services from you.

The goal of content marketing is essentially to build a relationship with your audience in order to win loyal customers to your business. This will help you ensure long-term profits, as compared to customers that only transact with your business sporadically. But, how do marketers measure the ROI of trust and customer loyalty? Though difficult to assess, there may be some metrics that can give you a glimpse about the sentiment of your consumers.

Some useful indicators for content marketing ROI

As mentioned earlier, relying solely on website traffic will not accurately measure the performance of content. Used with other metrics, however, it can give you a complete picture on how your content is engaging your audience. To measure the traffic on your site, you can use web analytics programs that monitor the number of visits, the average time spent on the site, downloads and bounce rate. You can also track how your visitors navigated different sections of your website. And then, observe how the traffic changes weekly, monthly and annually, to track the ROI of your content.

Another metric that is useful for measuring ROI is lead generation. For instance, you can gauge the interest of your audiences on your content by making your e-book available to those that are willing to fill up a contact form in exchange. They may have read blogs in your site and wanted to know more information. With lead-capture forms, you can see the extent of how much your audience likes your content that they are willing to share their contact details with you.

Aside from this, you can also assess the ROI of your content through the likes and shares it obtains in social media. These social media responses can add traffic to your website, and complement your work on customer relationship management and engagement. The number of shares may indicate the credibility of your material. Take note of the sentiments of your audience on social media, and use these to build a relationship with them.

You can also directly calculate the ROI of your content by measuring how it leads to actual sales. For instance, a how-to video may have led your audience to purchase your product. With a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can track how your content led to a sales conversion. This should trace how your content caught the interest of your prospect and eventually encouraged them to make a purchase. Through sales conversion rates, you can determine how your content brought in actual revenue.

By understanding the real objective of content marketing, you can properly track the ROI of your strategy. See your content as a means to build a relationship with your audience. Provide helpful and useful information, and observe their feedback to measure ROI. By knowing what works and what doesn’t, you can improve your content marketing strategy and win loyal customers.

 

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