I’ve read a lot of discussion about Inbound and Outbound marketing lately, and what mystifies me is the premise that Inbound is somehow less expensive yet more effective than Outbound. The Inbound Marketing industry that has recently sprung up obviously has a vested interest in supporting this argument, but I think a reality check is in order for those of us who have a site to market and need a more comprehensive strategy.
Our marketing efforts have always included Inbound and Outbound techniques. Both have pros and cons, but cost is not what differentiates them. Rick Burnes of HubSpot posits in his Inbound Marketing manifesto that blogs and twitter accounts are free, therefore cost less than trade shows.
“A blog costs nothing to start. A Twitter account is free, too. Both can draw thousands of customers to your site.” – HubSpot
Note the use of can instead of will. Building content and networking with your peers is great, but there’s no guarantee of traffic or leads. It’s also not free. Twittering or writing blog entries at the very least will cost you time, and if you’re paying staff to do it then it will cost you real money. This investment won’t pay off overnight either, in fact it might never pay off. The road from starting a blog to drawing thousands of customers can be long and arduous.
Take Raventools.com for example. It took us a year to build up a respectable readership on our first blog, and that was only after hundreds of articles and a wildly successful free tool. The traffic generated continues to pay dividends in leads and search engine performance, but I certainly wouldn’t say it was cheap or easy to do. I also don’t think we could easily replicate that success since it hinged on creating the original SEO Analyzer, a tool which became so popular it spawned lots of imitators. Opportunities like that require patience, timing, and lots of luck.
I found it refreshing to see that we’re not the only ones still using a combined strategy:
“The mania of Inbound Marketing taking over the marketing mix is either just that, mania, or it is still in its infancy. Don’t get caught up in the hype just yet. A balanced approach seems to be the mix of choice with a slight favor to Outbound activities” – Smashmouth Marketing
Mike Damphousse’s poll results match our reality, which is that Inbound and Outbound marketing methods are both useful and cost-effective. In fact, we probably lean toward Outbound techniques because that’s where we see the most ROI. Our latest conference sponsorship at PubCon Austin yielded more than enough leads to justify the cost, and the majority of those leads converted because they were qualified. In contrast, our Twitter initiatives generate almost no sales. Twitter does provide an excellent way to communicate with peers and gather feedback from customers, but its ability to generate sales has been wildly overblown.