In my latest SitePoint article, I talked about inbound vs. outbound marketing. In case the difference isn’t clear to you, here’s a quick definition of inbound marketing:
A marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by customers, where the customers find you through various search engine marketing efforts, social media, or word-of-mouth referrals.
Outbound or traditional marketing would be things like print advertising, direct mail, cold-calling, and television and radio advertising—essentially, anything a company does to find customers, as opposed to “being found.”
It’s become quite vogue to characterize outbound marketing as “old school.” But is traditional marketing really as dead or ineffective as inbound marketers claim?
It sounds good in theory to say the every business should utilize inbound marketing. But how would you advise someone who just opened his own carpet cleaning business? Build a website and hope people find it? Create a Facebook page or Twitter account and look for people to ‘like’ it or follow him? Blog about carpet cleaning? Honestly, how many homeowners would engage a carpet cleaning service on social media? Besides, it’s the cart before the horse.
The best strategy would be a combination of old school: Yellow Page advertising, direct mail and cold-calling. That’s what will get him customers right away. Once he’s built up a sufficient client base, then he can begin using social media to engage them, offer discounts and incentives, and generate marketing gravity.
Many people think that outbound marketing more expensive than inbound. But how much does cold-calling cost compared to search engine optimization or paid search? (You’ll spend a lot less on the phone calls.) Certain keywords are becoming quite expensive and ROI is dropping because only large companies with huge marketing budgets can afford them.
Another thing that’s dropping is the cost of Yellow Page advertising (due to independent directories entering the field). In some markets you can buy display advertising for less than $1200 for the entire year.
For most (if not all) small businesses, a combination of inbound and outbound marketing may be the best option. I owned my own web business, so you’d think I’d be singing along with the “outbound only” marketing tune. But my experience has shown me that those who preach that message usually have their own agenda—to sell their own inbound marketing services. And what better way to accomplish that than to disparage their “outbound” competition?