Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing – how balanced is your marketing mix?

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.”

– Craig Davis, chief creative officer, J. Walter Thompson Worldwide

Marketing history is paved with one-way interruptive experiences – also known as outbound marketing:

Outbound marketing is typically attractive in the short-term because it focuses on controllable, spend-driven channels:

  • banner ads
  • paid search ads
  • site, search, and social retargeting
  • social media sponsored posts and Tweets
  • online video ads
  • affiliate marketing
  • website sponsorships
  • purchased e-mail lists

These tactics provide instant gratification in the short-term because of their ability to deliver quick measurements related to resulting traffic and revenues. While these types of outbound digital efforts represent only about 10 percent of all website traffic across the country, they receive 86 percent of all marketing investment, or $31 billion.

But the traditional sales funnel is no longer valid

Today, consumers are reclaiming control of their digital customer/donor journey. They have the tools to decide what they search for, how they learn about companies, and how they want to engage. They choose more than they are sold.

Today, fewer people follow the awareness, interest, desire, and action model. More and more, the first connection to a cause is made through a friend or through content found online that spoke to them.

This means that companies working to earn their way into the hearts of consumers will be much more successful than those that place a higher importance on buying their way into a relationship.

Enter inbound marketing.

Inbound is all about creating, optimizing, and distributing relevant content across channels, to be found by prospects who then choose to engage with the brand. Inbound marketing, typically defined by unpaid channels, drives around 90 percent percent of website traffic and consists of things such as:

  • Organic search
  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Online forums
  • Direct visits
  • Referring sites
  • Opt-in email and mobile subscriptions
  • White papers
  • Online articles
  • Webinars and online video
  • Podcasts
  • Q&A content
  • Comments

Inbound marketing vs paid marketing

Great content plays a longer-term game, remaining intact and being consumed and shared well after publication. Because of the compounding benefits of digital content and the virality of some content, inbound marketing costs run 62% lower than traditional outbound marketing.

You need to compare inbound and outbound/paid channels to see which is driving higher conversion rates, donations/sales, and long-term donor/customer retention rates. That should pave the way toward how you balance your marketing investments.

Need more justification for getting your organization to rebalance its priorities from chasing short-term sales or donations to increasing inbound investments that create more sustainable support? Here is a collection of marketing stats from Hubspot that should help make your case for you. Avinash Kaushik’s blog post,“Beginner’s guide to web data analysis: Ten steps to love & success,” is another great reference tool.

To build a strong and loyal supporter base, it is no longer enough to focus solely, or even primarily, on creating the fastest paths to conversion. Brands have to optimize their marketing portfolios and transform into content creators, curators, and publishers with online content hubs, using multimedia, social integration, user-generated content, blogs, mobile opt-in, and online earned media channels.

Focus on what’s most important first

While brands are no longer built on the backs of advertising and outbound marketing, those approaches still play an important role. However, they should play a diminishing, and more of a supplementary, role in light of how consumers learn about, interact with, and choose to get involved with brands – and the opportunities brands have to scale their outreach and engagement strategies by evolving into more powerful inbound content marketing entities.

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