Perhaps the single most important step you can take as an entrepreneur is to effectively market your goods and services. You can have the best products in the world, but if no one knows about them, your business will fail! When it comes to successfully promoting your business, you can choose from a variety of inbound and outbound marketing techniques.
Outbound marketing is the proactive process of finding potential customers and motivating them to buy your products and services. It is a traditional form of marketing that involves the promotion of your goods to people who are not actively seeking them. Common outbound marketing techniques include television and radio advertising, newspaper and magazine advertising, telemarketing, trade shows, direct mail (both electronic and paper), e-mail blasts and public relations activities.
Outbound marketing has a long history of success and it typically provides quicker results than inbound marketing. Unfortunately, it has its weaknesses as well. Advertising, trade shows, telemarketing and the like can be prohibitively expensive. In addition, outbound marketing is intrusive. In many cases, you are trying to sell your goods and services to people who have no interest in them. This has led to many attempts to block outbound marketing efforts such as caller ID, call blocking, spam filters and pop-up blockers, which makes it harder to get through to your market niche.
Conversely, inbound marketing consists of promotional efforts that focus on getting found by customers. The idea is to take proactive steps to bring potential customers to you, and motivate them to buy your goods and services because of the quality content you provide in various formats. Inbound marketing techniques include blogging, articles, white papers, search engine optimization, video, and social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Inbound marketing has the advantage of being far less expensive to implement than outbound marketing. In fact, you can facilitate a successful inbound marketing campaign without spending a dime. You are also able to provide valuable content for potential customers and to distribute information about your business in a non-intrusive fashion. This is one of the great benefits of inbound marketing. It tends to be a more welcome form of promotion on part of consumers because you are providing valuable content as opposed to offering a sales pitch.
Of course, inbound marketing has its weaknesses as well. While there is little monetary cost, there is a tremendous cost when it comes to time. Developing and maintaining a blog, writing articles, creating video and maintaining a consistent presence through social media requires a significant amount of your time, especially when compared to the time required for most outbound marketing campaigns. Another weakness of inbound marketing is that it can take a long time to achieve success.
So, what's the bottom-line when it comes to inbound vs. outbound marketing? My recommendation is to incorporate elements of each. Both marketing approaches can be successful when used properly and each offers unique benefits. Think about how you can incorporate both approaches in a marketing strategy that will provide you with the greatest possible return. For example, an experienced business coach might decide to use e-mail marketing (outbound) because she has a long client list she can use for the distribution of her product information. She could also use blogging (inbound) as a way of disseminating useful business information and demonstrating her expertise to potential clients.
Likewise, an engineering consultant can effectively use print advertising as an outbound marketing technique while simultaneously using social media to position himself as an expert, network with a diverse array of individuals, and become a respected member of social communities devoted to engineering. The key is to be clear about what you want to accomplish with your marketing strategy and to select techniques that allow you to achieve your goals.