Inbound vs Outbound: Which Do Consumers Prefer?

Marketing has evolved quickly with the rise of the internet, blogging, and social media.

Today it’s all about inbound marketing.

Unlike traditional marketing, or outbound marketing, which relies on interrupting consumers to grab their attention — inbound marketing focuses on attracting customers to your brand by creating content that they actually want to engage with.

As a methodology, inbound marketing is still relatively new and although it has been proven to generate a positive ROI that only increases with time, there are still plenty of skeptics. Fortunately, more data continues to be accumulated and published on inbound marketing to prove what smart marketers already know — the inbound methodology works.

In September of this year, Moz and Fractl released their findings from a study that surveyed 1,000+ participants on their engagement and opinions of various marketing tactics. The study compared the efficacy and efficiency of inbound and outbound marketing tactics.

Below are the major highlights that I’ve pulled from their research to share with you.

Consumer Awareness and Engagement

Consumers are sick of advertising interrupting what they’re doing.

Thanks to DVR and Netflix, avoiding TV commercials is easier than ever. But ads have invaded everything in our lives, which means people have to find even more ways to avoid ads whenever possible.

According to the results of this study, you’re in the minority of web users if you aren’t using ad block software on your internet browser.

ad block research

Earlier this year, Adobe published a report on ad blocking that left a lot of people shocked. Here are several of their key findings:

  • Ad blocking estimated to cost publishers nearly $22 billion during 2015
  • There are now 198 million active ad block users around the world
  • Ad blocking grew by 41% globally in the last 12 months

It’s not just the techies using this software anymore, ad blocking has gone mainstream.

Advertising Engagement

Consumers are well aware of the various forms of advertising. When asked if they had seen the following forms of advertising in the last week, over 60% of participants had noticed an ad from every single category.

However, seeing isn’t enough. Although brand awareness is valuable, engagement is king.

When asked if they had clicked on any of the ads they had seen in the last week, 53.8% responded that they had NOT.

advertising awareness engagement

How Consumers Discover Brands

Consumers today are much savvier than in the past. They’re fully aware of basic marketing strategies and aren’t easily swayed into making a purchase from seeing an advertisement.

Before someone makes a purchase from your company, they’re going to do their own research about your brand and product online.

buyer research purchase cycle

This is why content marketing is vital to any marketing strategy today, inbound or outbound. When prospects search for your brand online, ideally you’d like for them to find content that you’ve published. (Or other positive content)

If a Google search returns little to no results about your product — it doesn’t even exist in the mind of the modern consumer.

Inbound Engagement

Despite the lackluster engagement with advertising, consumers are not opposed to being marketed to. After all, we all have problems that we want solved, goals we want to accomplish, and fun gadgets that make our lives more enjoyable.

Deep down, we want to be persuaded to buy the right things. We just want to be marketed to on our own terms.

inbound methodology consumer behavior

Seth Godin refers to this as permission marketing, which he coined before “inbound marketing” took off.

The idea is that companies earn the permission from consumers to actively promote themselves by first providing valuable content that actually benefits them.

By following a brand on social media or subscribing to their email list, consumers give the brand permission to market themselves. However, if the ratio of value to promotion goes south, they can always unsubscribe.

The more control consumers have over this process, the more likely they are to engage. This is one of the key differences between inbound and outbound marketing.

Impact on Buying Decisions

Reputation management and customer satisfaction need to be  top priorities for brands, as consumers have responded that customer reviews have the largest impact on whether or not they purchase a product.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” -Warren Buffet

inbound marketing affect purchase cycle

The other two factors with the biggest influence are performing an online search and reading online articles — which further proves the necessity for content marketing as a part of every brand’s marketing strategy today.

Final Thoughts

The inbound vs outbound debate is far from over, but it’s increasingly clear that inbound marketing caters to the way consumers make buying decisions.

I don’t personally think that outbound marketing is dead or has no value — quite the opposite. I’ve had success with direct marketing and I believe it’s still a profitable avenue for certain types of businesses. However, inbound marketing is the better long-term play for nearly every business and I believe it should be the foundation that marketing strategies are built around.

Consumers have shown a favorable response to inbound marketing and it’s so much more cost-effective than outbound marketing in most scenarios. The people have spoken. All businesses have to do is give them what they want.

Until next time,

KW Stout

CTA

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