A dilemma for all marketing professionals is finding a balance between outbound and inbound marketing strategies. Traditional advertising still has a place, but the advent of social media has developed inbound marketing into a sales machine, allowing SMEs to remain competitive. In this article, we’ll take a look at the reasons why outbound strategies have lost their gleam and the ways in which inbound techniques can offer better results.
Outbound marketing has been extremely effective in the past, and it still retains some value to this day – companies wouldn’t invest in it otherwise!
However, a collective immunity to outbound techniques has built over time, and audiences are now more savvy when it comes to avoiding content they don’t want to see. Although it’s difficult to swerve giant billboards and advertising panels at the bus stop, we now have the ability to fast-forward through TV adverts and use software on our devices to automatically block pop-ups.
Part of the reason for our apathy to outbound marketing is that some techniques are too aggressive. Nobody looks forward to receiving an unsolicited telemarketing call, nor an unexpected sales email from a company they’ve never heard of.
Inbound marketing is inherently different because visitors must actively seek it out. When they engage with a company’s content, they’ve made the active decision to do so. This makes the interaction more meaningful, and ultimately, profitable.
Unwilling recipients of outbound marketing materials now have technology on their side. We mentioned ad blockers above, which is just one type of innovation in the battle against unsolicited marketing. Email inboxes have spam filters built-in, and users can add rules to further protect themselves from messages they don’t want.
Telemarketing calls can also be avoided, both by call screening and phone number blocking; both of which are easily done by smartphones. There are also nuisance call blockers for landlines. This makes it difficult for companies performing cold calls to get through to someone in the first place.
Again, by its nature, inbound marketing is immune to automatic filtering, as visitors make the conscious decision to seek out the content they are interested in.
An Increased Focus on Data Protection
Data protection has become a hot topic recently, in part due to the introduction of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. This legislation is designed to safeguard the data and privacy of EU citizens and is backed by a schedule of potentially heavy fines in cases of non-compliance.
If you live in the EU, you were probably met with a recent barrage of emails from companies asking for you to provide consent for further communication. However, many people found that even if they didn’t re-confirm their consent, they still received marketing emails from companies after GDPR came into effect.
This is because one of the clauses of GDPR – specifically, 6(1)F, refers to ‘legitimate interest’ in processing data. Essentially, if someone has previously provided their consent to be contacted by a company, this doesn’t need to be re-confirmed now that GDPR is in effect. However, if companies have been lacklustre in their record-keeping, it may be difficult for them to prove they hold the consent of their recipients, which explains the rush of GDPR-related emails.
That said, there is an important aspect of GDPR that protects EU citizens, even if they have previously given consent to receiving promotional correspondence. That is the right to erasure, otherwise known as the right to be forgotten.
When a recipient contacts anyone holding their information and asks for it to be removed from a database, the request must be obeyed so long as the business doesn’t need to hold the information for lawful reasons. It is an offence under GDPR to retain information when the owner – the person it pertains to – asks for records to be deleted. Continuing to send outbound marketing after a right to erasure request can leave the sender liable for fines of up to €20 million.
Although the true impact of GDPR has not yet been fully analysed, people are taking the opportunity to make use of the regulations and rid themselves of persistent correspondence. What this means for outbound marketing as we know it will be revealed in the coming months and years. But, it’s easy to see with this emphasis placed on data protection that consumers are taking back some control over who has the right to communicate with them.
Lack of Precision
Whilst outbound marketing strategies may attempt to target specific audiences, they still suffer from a chronic lack of precision. By nature, outbound marketing tends to appeal to a broad range of people. It’s like using a large net on a fishing trip; the catchment will likely be substantial, but whether or not the right fish are caught is largely a matter of chance.
Inbound marketing is much more precise, as the ‘catch’ already holds an interest in the content they’re viewing. And as we will see in the next point, analytic data from inbound marketing helps brands to further refine their campaigns.
Outbound is Difficult to Quantify & Track
One of the most useful facets of inbound marketing is the scope for tracking. Take a blog post, for example; analytic data will tell the owner not just how many hits the post has had, but the demographic profiles of those who did, the times at which it was most popular, the sources of traffic, and the devices used to access the content. All of this is useful in refining a marketing strategy.
With outbound marketing, it’s much more of a stab in the dark. By way of contrast, let’s take the example of direct mail. Companies can print and send out thousands of brochures – at a substantial expense to past and target customers, but it’s almost impossible to find out whether that action has an impact on sales. Even when it comes to emails, which have some tracking capabilities, the potential for insightful data that informs future campaigns is low.
Expensive and High-Maintenance
It’s estimated that outbound marketing costs 61% more per lead than inbound marketing. Outbound campaigns are notoriously expensive. Broadcast advertising comes with the most eye-watering costs, but even telemarketing and mail shots are pricey, particularly for smaller enterprises with tighter advertising budgets.
Outbound marketing can also require extensive coordination. Let’s take our direct mail example again. Once the brochures and other marketing materials have been designed and printed, resources must be allocated to putting mail shots together and sending them out.
Outbound marketing is also time-limited. Once the campaign is over, its effectiveness in terms of lead generation and sales growth tend to drop off rapidly. Evergreen content on a blog, conversely, continues to work for a brand long after it has been published, at no additional cost with compounding results.
Audiences Want Control
Nobody wants to be bombarded by marketing campaigns. and people are taking control where they can. We previously mentioned the technology that audiences can use to block outbound marketing, but this doesn’t mean they completely disengage with promotional content. Instead, they have more choice in what they view.
Inbound marketing gives audiences greater control. Take blogs, for example. Visitors find them from online searches, linked content, other blogs, and word of mouth. They have the power to decide what they want to view and when they want to view it. And if they wish to continue interacting with a brand, it’s on their terms.
Potential Customers Are Looking for a Connection
Customers appreciate the personal touch. It’s why social selling has proven such a powerful force. The intersection of information and entertainment is a sweet spot for potential customers. Social media facilitates informal, conversational interactions, as well as substantial updates, launches, and customer support. It’s a tool by which companies are able to nurture relationships and strengthen brand loyalty.
Outbound marketing simply isn’t built for that kind of connection. Techniques can seem impersonal, nonspecific, and corporate. These strategies still serve a purpose, but they’re not optimal for developing the bond that can transform a stranger into a loyal customer.
A dynamic inbound strategy is essential in the fast-paced marketing climate, and an integrated CRM helps any company to get the most out of their investment.
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