Inbound vs outbound marketing: the end of interruptive marketing

Posted by Derric M. Watson
on June 10, 2014


Let's face it: marketing is hard work. There are lots of tips and tricks and advice on how to get more eyes on your ads for services and products. But I would like to take a step back from all that and think about how our standard sales approach actually works, and maybe why it doesn't.

The Logical End of Outbound (Interruptive) Marketing

inbound vs. outbound marketing

As technology moves faster it's become both easier and harder to connect with potential customers. We have a product or service we know they will find valuable, but finding the best way to let them know has become more complex. I want to talk a bit about the usual way of marketing versus what I think is a better way: inbound vs. outbound marketing. 

Most of how we've learned to market and win clients is based on the notion of stealing customer attention from something else, of getting in their way, or getting them to focus on our message long enough to cause them to do something. We know how to educate, address fears or desires, or tap into pre-existing needs. But at its core it's still about making people shift their attention away from something they are interested in to focus on our message. Music stops playing on the radio, football games take time-outs, entire pages of newspapers carry no news, and highway scenery gets replaced with big squares of (hopefully) compelling information. We do all this, and more, so that we can interrupt potential customers and tell them something we think is important.

Along comes the Internet

How can inbound marketing help generate more leads

Access to exponentially more people means more eyes to get in front of and potentially more sales opportunities. But this boon is coming to an end as we're seeing the creation of technologies - in all parts of our lives - to get around these interruptions:

  • We pay the extra $1.99 for an ad-free app.
  • We use a newsreader to get our news stories without having to worry about print or online advertising. 
  • We rigorously work and rework our Facebook feed to better ignore ads and promoted posts.
  • We pay for streaming television, or at least use our DVRs, to avoid commercials.
  • We pay for streaming radio, or torrent all our music, so we don't have to listen to... what? Ads.

Are you seeing a theme here? For all the time spent online - regardless of device - it seems we're working harder to find ways to narrow our input and content, and we often seem to start with outbound advertisements.

What is your current marketing method?

what is outbound marketing

So, what are the main ways your organization markets itself? Do you rock it with old school newspaper or print ads, radio or TV spots, and billboards? Perhaps you're a bit more new wave and put your resources into online banners and sidebar ads. Are you cutting edge with your promoted Facebook posts, Twitter ads, and Google AdSense campaigns? These are all examples of what we call "outbound marketing", and they're variations on this same theme of interrupting potential customers by getting your name, product, or service in front of their eyes with the hope that they'll see it and remember you when it's time to make a purchase. This really is a scatter shot approach. We see outbound marketing as akin to dandelion seeds or salmon eggs: marketers never really know how many will make it through. But the hope is that with a high enough number released into the wild even low percentages should bring decent returns.

The days of interruptive sales are just about over, for good or for ill. From the standpoint of sales staff, they are often unpredictable, sometimes unreliable, and can be notoriously difficult when it comes time to track return on investment. So, if the old way of doing advertising is at least problematic, or at most no longer tenable, what is there to replace it?

Sadly, even though the pitfalls of this are known we all know this method is not going away, which is why Web Canopy Studio is offering these posts on inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing and making suggestions for how better to connect with potential clients

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