What Inbound Marketers Can Learn from Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing. It’s the wave of the future, right? After all, how much direct mail do you really open? How many billboards do you actually internalize? Doesn’t everyone just fast-forward through the commercials these days? Inbound marketing solves all of these problems!

Well, not exactly.

While inbound marketing may be the new girl in town, there are still many lessons inbounders can glean from centuries of outbound marketing. It was the reigning method du jour for brands to get their message to the consumer, pre-Twitter, pre-Netflix, and before the phrase “digital native” was even created.

Let’s be honest: Outgoing marketing isn’t efficient. The biggest challenges in making outgoing marketing effective are difficulty in tracking conversions, high cost for an already hard-to-identify yield and – most importantly – an increasingly long and constantly evolving list of techniques to shield consumers from outgoing marketing (think spam filters, do not call lists and TV recording with the option to fast forward through commercials).

While that may be the case now, outgoing marketing was, at one time, the most advanced technique to reach your audience. So what can we learn from what was once at the vanguard of advertising?

Four major lessons can be applied to today’s methods of inbound marketing:

  1. How to attract the attention of your audience
  2. How to predict pushback or commentary on your messaging
  3. How to give brand stickiness not just to your advertisement, but to your brand name
  4. How to simultaneously attract new customers and develop loyalty with current ones

Attracting Attention Through Segmentation

We can’t all afford a billboard on US 1 or a four-page spread in Vogue. But you can craft good content that stands out to your online audience. The key to doing this without a supersized budget is finding out where your most likely customers are spending their time online and deploying your limited resources to amplify your message there.

So often, companies hear that they “need a social media strategy.” That is very likely true, but that doesn’t mean too much if it’s not guided by metrics and analysis. For example, if you are selling products or services targeted to Generation Xers, why would you devote your ad dollars to Instagram? The overwhelming majority—more than 90%–of the 150 million+ users of Instagram are under 35. There’s a reason you don’t see TV commercials for cat litter on ESPN, and it’s not just because of the cost. Outbound marketing pioneered audience targeting, and inbounders have struggled to adopt this “old” technique to make new age advertising as effective as it could be.

Predicting product-consumer dialogue

Marketing is no longer a one-way street. Whereas companies used to blast consumers with (often unsolicited) marketing and promotional materials, the consumer is now armed with a megaphone in the form of a blog, well-followed twitter handle, meme generator, or Facebook page.

While the only pushback television commercials used to receive came from consumers safely tucked away in the obscurity of their living room armchairs, now advertisements open themselves to all kinds of public shaming and disapproval. And, even if one dissident’s reach is small (like three followers or five blog readers), that content is still searchable in the bowels of the internet. All in all, not a great situation for an advertiser.

The solution is to predict the message that best resonates with your audience, preempting any sort of criticism by giving your consumer content with which they can’t argue. If you are serving up content that interests, engages, and enthuses your audience, you’ll minimize negativity. But first, you’ve got to identify what that content is.

Software like Audienti automatically identifies your target audience, determines where they spend their time online and analyzes the kinds of content (blog posts, webinars, tweets) that most likely push them through the buyer journey towards a sale. For more details about identifying your customers online, check out this whitepaper.

Brand Recall

This is perhaps one of the hardest struggles of being an advertiser. Creating remarkable content is one thing, but getting the consumer to remember it as a unique offering is quite another. Think about those GEICO commercials, masterminded from the infamous Martin Agency. Goofy? Yes. But you won’t see a commercial with any one of their themes – be it a gecko, a pig or a pair of chatting owls – and not remember it distinctly as a GEICO commercial.

Inbound marketing leads are supposedly “warm” because they have tracked you down out of their own volition. However, getting people to organically find your website means they have to have had some reason to look you up in the first place. The outbound lesson here lies in developing a recognizable, repeatable brand that drives people to your website, not your competitors’.

It’s shocking that it’s taken Target until 2015 to come up with the hashtag #targetrun. People have been using this phrase for years, yet it’s only now becoming part of the company’s messaging. Using your company’s name as a hashtag is just one (very easy) example of how your advertisements must be layered with your messaging.

Growing new customers while satisfying existing ones

In marketing, “one size fits all” might as well mean “one size fits none”. Today’s consumers are intelligent and know when they are being “marketed to.”

Inbounders must develop a complex and multi-channel campaign that is continuously refreshed. Content inventories and audits are an essential part of keeping your assets up-to-date. Creating content drains resources: it requires a team comprised of a copywriter, researcher, analyst, designer and social media technician at a minimum. Instead of relying on all of these moving parts to create brand new content day in and day out, why not repurpose your existing assets to attract a fresh audience?

By publishing repurposed content, you’ll maintain the perception of being in-the-know with your current customer base, while still attracting new leads through your timely insights.