Fundamentally, a digital marketer is focussed on inbound marketing, and earning the trust and business of the consumer, but what exactly is the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing, and should one be ignored in favour of the other?

Traditional marketing, or outbound marketing, has been around for hundreds of years, and generally encompasses advertising and direct mail amongst others. William Caxton, England’s first printer, helped sell a book he had produced by creating the first advert printed in English, in 1477.

There’s no denying that over the following centuries this ‘interruption’ marketing worked and billboards, newspaper adverts and television adverts have sold many products, to many consumers that they wouldn’t otherwise have reached.

Enter digital; or rather, the Internet. With the wide world web has come the ability for the consumer to search, research and discover information that was previously unattainable, or expensive and time consuming to find. When someone needs a web designer they don’t dig out the yellow pages or phone book, instead they head to Google or Yelp, look at reviews, contact companies, and get advice for free on who they should hire. This is ‘helpful’ marketing.

Inbound marketing is a conversation occurring between a company or its brand advocates, and the potential consumer. Using content marketing to provide useful information and appear high up in the searches is the holy grail of digital. Content truly is King.

Outbound marketing is very much more disruptive, showing up whilst you watch your favourite television show, or breaking up a radio playlist. It’s also vastly more expensive.

I’m aware that so far this article gives the impression that outbound marketing is antiquated, and with the changing times and the availability of information now available, not worthwhile. This couldn’t be further from the truth, both in my own experience and that of my peers.

The wonderful thing about inbound marketing is that it is encouraging those working primarily on outbound marketing to be more creative and to work to a higher standard.

By no means is digital marketing solely focussed on inbound marketing either. Those adverts at the top of Google are outbound marketing campaigns, and they are a great way to target very specific consumers.

Some of the most shared videos on YouTube are television adverts. Rather than annoying the majority of the watching public, people have fallen in love with these advert, and by proxy, the brand. Think of that drumming gorilla, or those llittle meerkats: both examples of advertising done well.

Of course, there are exceptions and there are many mistakes made by marketers in both inbound and outbound marketing campaigns. Think innuendo hashtags on twitter, or ‘Bang and the dirt is gone!’ taglines…

By joining the forces of inbound and outbound marketing in a well-planned campaign, you can utilise both in reaching and capturing consumers and leads. Some of the most successful marketing campaigns I have run have reached targets thanks to outbound marketing, assisted minimally by inbound.

This review of each hasn’t really cleared up whether one is better than the other, or which might be more worthwhile, and this is intentional. Each marketing campaign needs to be unique to your business, budget and the required return on investment. From this you will know which type of marketing will work best for you.

As a rule of thumb, inbound marketing should be an on-going journey from the birth of the brand and a continued objective to be all that the consumer asks of you. Offering free advice, apologizing for errors – these are all inbound marketing tactics that keep you in the mind of the consumer. When your budget and business plan allow, you can encompass outbound marketing campaigns to compliment your on-going inbound marketing and fully embrace marketing – in all its forms.

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