Outbound vs Inbound Marketing: It's Time to Make the Switch

Google has announced upcoming changes to how they handle SEO overoptimizers. They’re not trying to force marketers to change how they operate – they’re acknowledging the changes that have already taken place in how savvy marketers strategize a company’s online presence.

Traditional marketing can be described as outbound marketing: A company broadcasts its message widely, and hopes to snag the eyes and ears of a few potential customers among the vast majority of people who ignore the message as irrelevant or annoying. Online marketing, with its emphasis on providing useful content, can be described as inbound marketing: The company creates material and makes it available, relying on users to search for it and find it themselves.

Basically, online you can get rid of the outbound marketing “stick,” which you use to beat people over the head repeatedly with your message. Instead, you can rely on the “carrot” of inbound marketing – useful and interesting content that people will want to discover for themselves and share with their friends.

A few examples will highlight the differences:

print ads
TV ads
radio ads
cold calling
email blasts
catalogs, brochures
blogs, white papers, ebooks
YouTube videos
RSS feeds

Because you’re drawing in the customers who want to find what you have to offer, inbound marketing is far more cost effective than traditional advertising.

  • It’s an investment. Once you post content online, it’s there when your potential customer comes to look for it. This is a big improvement over a TV or radio ad, which disappears into the ether, or a print ad, which ends up in the recycling bin. If you’ve got solid content, properly tagged, the search engines will continue to send people to you for free.
  • Lower costs. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest accounts are all free. Adding a blog to your website isn’t a huge investment, either.
  • Better targeting. The mass campaigns of outbound marketing are notoriously inefficient. By switching to inbound marketing, you increase your ROI because you’re not wasting your breath (or your advertising dollars) talking to people who aren’t interested in your message.

Clearly, SEO isn’t going anywhere. It has an important role in inbound marketing — it’s how your customers find you, after all — but it can only be effective when the content is there to be found. Add in social media to expand your presence and increase the buzz, and you’ll be well on your way to having a powerful online campaign.

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