Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing, a term coined by Brian Halligan (2010), relies on a pull strategy based on being discovered by customers on the net through content that consumers are seeking, rather than pushing messages out to them. With inbound marketing, according to Scott (2011), marketers “earn their way in” by publishing helpful information. It relies on search engines and inbound links from cyberspace that channel traffic to the marketers’ sites.

In contrast outbound marketing involves interrupt advertising advertising, cold-calling, brochures, direct mail, email and other forms of buying (or bugging for) attention.

Inbound marketing works well for small companies with limited resources who would rather have customers find them on the net than spend advertising dollars to attract their attention. It works by earning the attention of customers by publishing content that is relevant and interesting to their target.

Though it attracts criticism, conventional or “interrupt” advertising, as it is disparagingly called, is not in decline. On the contrary it is rapidly spreading across the new media. Even as marketers embrace internet platforms and inbound marketing, on the advertising front, conventional outbound approaches reign supreme and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Inbound marketing primarily relies on pre-existing demand. It is very effective in fulfilling demand where it exists, but it is not as effective in creating demand.

Consider for example an e-bike. Also called a booster bike, this is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor for propulsion. In a market where people are not aware of such a product, it becomes difficult to create demand for the e-bike purely by publishing useful content about e-bikes and related subjects, on the net. To convert latent demand it would be far more effective if marketers “interrupted” travellers while they are travelling on a bus for instance, and educated them about the e-bike, than if they targeted them with key words or phrases.

Outbound marketing is particularly useful for advertisers who need big audiences, and find it hard to reach the masses purely through inbound marketing. While the notion of viral marketing is very appealing, even iconic brands find it difficult to successfully create viral campaigns. To spread their message to the masses, large consumer brands need to develop a well-rounded relationship with their consumers, by integrating offline with online, outbound with inbound marketing. And though much of their online advertising continues to interrupt, viewers often have the option to skip video ads after watching a few mandatory seconds.

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