Outbound Marketing on its way out?


Outbound marketing is fast losing face with companies and their marketers – and it’s all to do with the growing power of the consumer to avoid advertising interruptions. With tools to block internet advertising banners, PVR decoders that allow viewers to block TV ads, Sirius Radio and other online choices which offer the tantalising promise of ad-free music and radio, consumers are able to exercise their right to switch off. The shift is rather towards searching for products and services online or discovering them through friends’ recommendations on social networks.

But rude interruption or not, outbound advertising serves its purpose to an extent; receptive consumers rely on it to learn about new products and better services, and marketers, although they know it’s not working as effectively as before, stick with it because they have yet to be convinced of the alternative.

“Outbound marketing is like cars with internal combustion engines. We know it’s not optimal or the solution for the long term. We know we could be doing better. We know that the changing consumer environment is begging for change. But, it’s what companies know. We are waiting for more proof that the alternative works,” says Kevin Lourens, Chief Growth Officer at NATIVE.

So what is the alternative?

“Inbound marketing, a term popularised by Hubspot – a US inbound marketing provider,” he says, “It’s the shiny new Tesla. Niche, sexy, intelligent; inbound marketing is how smart companies attract and engage with their customers. It substitutes interruption with discovery and replaces ill-timed messages with valuable content that adds value to those who choose to interact with it.

“By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound marketing attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more. Doesn’t that trump the fact that most outbound advertising doesn’t reach your customers either because they aren’t in buying mode or the messages aren’t well timed?”

Adoption of inbound marketing concepts though is lacklustre. Interestingly, according to Lourens, it’s the smaller companies that are embracing it while larger organisations, which have over the years geared to outbound marketing and invested in the eco-system, take the wait-and-see approach.

“Like our beloved gas-guzzlers, they’re invested in what they know. They aren’t sure whether inbound marketing is just another over-hyped digital ‘thing’ to contend with. Until it becomes mainstream they’ll wait and see. Smaller companies though, typically with smaller marketing budgets and a keener emphasis on a more holistic customer journey, are jumping in because it’s cost-effective, smart, and measurable.”

So what are they doing?

Lourens explains that inbound marketing emphasizes primarily building earned media assets, like blogs, EBooks, social media, keywords and web pages to attract and build an audience over time. It might sound lofty – abstract even – but, he says the tools are practical.

“Inbound marketing often starts with blogging. A blog is the single best way to attract new visitors to your website if it contains articles of value. In order to be discovered by the right prospective customers, you must create educational content that speaks to them and answers their questions. Helping and teaching are the new selling!

“When people are not searching, they are discovering new content and opportunities of value through their social networks. Word of mouth is alive and well and quality content is likely to be shared through social networks – this is how things go viral. Social media is an invaluable platform for sharing valuable content and engaging with prospects and in many cases, can replace Search as a discovery mechanism to discover new and exciting products and services. It gives a human face to your brand and allows it to interact on the networks where your ideal buyers spend a lot of their time.

“Today’s internet user browses very differently to those of ten years ago. As customers begin their buying process online, usually by using a search engine to find something they have questions about, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to appear prominently in web searches. To get there, you need to carefully, analytically pick keywords, optimise your pages, create content, and build links around the terms your ideal buyers are searching for. In addition to Search, social discovery is a growing information distribution channel for quality content.”

The beauty of inbound marketing, he believes, is that it enables companies to build an audience that wants to interact with them. They are also able to effectively measure the customer journey, from the first interaction to the time they make their first purchase.

 “Certainly, outbound advertising will never entirely be replaced by inbound marketing. Well, not in our lifetime anyway.

“However, for more hits than misses when it comes to turning talk into sales and then into long-term customers, companies are going to have to embrace inbound marketing. Hybrid solutions are the answer to the dilemma. They’ve got the gas grunt when you need it, but also allow driving to be more efficient.”