As a small business owner, you need every bit of marketing tactics to spread the word about your business so that it grows and flourishes.
The internet has made it easy for businesses to market and advertise their products and services. This means that you have a choice between inbound and outbound marketing.
This can make it confusing as you may not know which type of online marketing – inbound or outbound – is the best for your small business. Thankfully, once you understand both types of marketing approaches, you will be able to take an informed decision.
If you look at the terms carefully, you will realize that they are actually self-explanatory. Inbound marketing refers to any marketing strategy that attracts prospective customers to your website or business. It is a passive online marketing strategy.
On the other hand, outbound marketing refers to any online marketing strategy where your business reaches out to prospective customers. It is a proactive marketing strategy that deliberately targets prospects to convert them into paying customers.
Some internet marketing gurus claim that inbound marketing has the answers that people are looking for while outbound marketing goes out of its way to get in touch with people who need the answer that you have.
Of course, there are some overlaps between inbound and outbound marketing, but most online marketing tactics fall into one of these two categories.
If you are wondering about some of the examples of inbound marketing that you can use to get customers and leads, here they are:
i). Blogging: This is one of the most popular methods of inbound marketing. Many business-to-business marketers get leads with blogging and they also tend to enjoy 97% more links to their website compared to marketers who do not publish blogs.
Social Media: Today, social media has become one of the most used platforms in the online realm. With sites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, many small business owners are using these platforms to run successful campaigns to attract the customers to their sites. Social Media helps to create a direct line of dialog with existing and prospective customers.
Local SEO: This perhaps is the best way to conduct inbound marketing. It helps you acquire customers in your geographical region with ease by increasing traffic to your site. It also allows you to stay a step ahead of your competition. It is one of the best ways to laser target your audience.
You can use this 15-pointer checklist from Tribe Local to help your business and your local SEO efforts. You will be amazed at the results local SEO can help you achieve in your business.
ii). Opt-In Newsletters: Marketing does not have to be without customer engagement. You can communicate and stay in touch with customers and prospects with the help of opt-in newsletters.
It is also an excellent way to convert prospects and leads into paying customers. You can dispense information about new products and services, updates and more through these newsletters.
iii). Sponsoring a Local Event: If you have never thought about sponsoring a local event, now is the best time to do so. By doing this, you will spread the word about your business in a passive manner while targeting your audience. It is a non-intrusive method of reaching out to the right audience.
iv). Media Attention: If you publish online press releases or take up a cause that is close to the community you operate in, you will be able to garner local media attention. This is another way to reach out to the right audience in a passive manner.
v). Public Speaking: Get invited to events related to your niche as a speaker. It will project you as an authority in your domain. Public speaking is an excellent way to increase your network and boost brand recognition.
vi). Publishing eBooks: You can publish ebooks that contain links to your business website. This is considered one of the best ways to generate targeted leads as just those interested in what you write will visit your website. It can also help increase traffic to your website.
Now that you know about inbound marketing approaches, it is time to look at some of the outbound marketing methods that businesses tend to employ to reach out to their audience.
i). Direct Mail Campaigns: These campaigns help to increase brand awareness and also encourage interested prospects to check out your business. Direct mail campaigns can be creative and innovative, or simple yet informative, depending on the path you would like to take.
ii). Cold Emailing: This is in complete contrast to opt-in emailing. Here, you have a list of email accounts who have agreed to accept promotional emails, though not necessarily from you.
You create an enticing subject line and send this email out to the accounts you have purchased or acquired. Be sure to add a line at the end of the email that allows the recipients to opt out of receiving future emails to you. Cold emailing has a response rate of about 21%.
iii). Cold Calling: Just like cold emailing, cold calling is another form of outbound marketing. If well-planned, it can ensure amazing results. However, you should take care not to inconvenience or irritate the receivers. You will need excellent tele-callers and closers to make this tactic a success.
iv). Billboards: While you cannot impart as much information about your business as you would like with the help of billboards, but these are a great way to increase brand awareness.
v). Commercials: If you can come up with an interesting and innovative TV commercial, it will reap the results you have envisaged. Commercials can increase your sales and profits, as long as they are well-prepared and engaging.
vi). Door-to-Door Calling: Do you remember how flyers are left under the wiper of your car or on your door; well, that is what is known as a door-to-door calling. It helps if you are new in the market and want to spread the word about your business, products and/or services.
vii). Banner Ads: Banner ads have become a mainstay for many businesses that promote and market themselves online. However, for these ads to work, you have to create the right banner. A good banner should be clear, precise and compelling to increase chances of readers clicking on it and being re-directed to your business website.
It has been observed that most local businesses tend to opt for inbound marketing instead of outbound marketing. There are many reasons for this. Some of the benefits of inbound marketing over outbound marketing are as follows:
Cost-effective: Inbound marketing is more affordable. Local businesses do not have large marketing budgets to create billboards, TV commercials or compelling banners. Hence, it is more affordable for them to use local SEO strategies, social media and blogging to generate leads. This makes inbound marketing a more attractive proposition, as many of the methods are free or require minimal investment.
Measurable Return on Investment: Using tools like Google Analytics and Tribe Local help not just in planning inbound marketing campaigns, but also tangibly measuring the results of those campaigns. You can use free tools to constantly analyze and measure your campaigns so that you can make quick adjustments to ensure you get the results that you would like.
Ensures High Quality Leads: It is important to understand that inbound marketing uses opt-in. This means that people who want to receive communication from you will give you permission to send them promotions and emails. Since they are interested in what you have to offer, it increases the chances of converting leads to paying customers. You do not have to spend time and effort chasing down leads.
Rather, you make an effort to nurture your leads by being helpful and answering their queries. This way, you prep them until they are ready to make a purchase.
Better Customer Trust and Loyalty: Since you spend time answering questions and being helpful, you forge a relationship with your prospects. It is not about always selling to them. As a result, you are viewed as an authority and your prospects repose faith and trust in you. This improves the way customers view your brand and you, thereby preferring to stay with you than your competition.
You can easily implement inbound marketing strategies even if you are not an expert. Using a multi-pronged approach allows you figure out which strategies work best for your local business and then you can stick to them.
Which is Better for Your Business: Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing?
Both types of marketing have their pros and cons. However, if you are a local business with a limited marketing budget, inbound marketing is more apt for you compared to outbound marketing. At the same time, you need to look at your business and target audience before you choose one marketing strategy over the other.
Look at all the factors and the strategies your direct competition is using to determine whether you should go with inbound marketing or outbound. By carefully analyzing all marketing strategies, you will be able to come up with some that are perfect for your business.
About the Author – Shishir is an ex-startup entrepreneur currently working on kickstarting inbound marketing for a Silicon Valley startup. Cracked the code of generating 750K monthly traffic in 10 months by using a creative content strategy.