Should you use an inbound marketing strategy or an outbound marketing strategy to attract your ideal clients?
What's the difference?
Why does the difference even matter?
We’ve come a long way in terms of how we market ourselves over the last few decades.
How we market ourselves and our business, is almost as important as the fact that we market ourselves.
Gone are the days of "above the line marketing" where MadMen ruled the marketing world. Google's search has turned the marketing world on its head.
Back in the day, the seller held all the product information and could use that as a bargaining chip. The buyer depended on the seller to "reveal" the product and show her the benefits of the features. The education happened in one direction only. From seller to buyer.
Enter google and all that's changed.
If I want to learn about a product I just "google it". Google's even become a verb that means "search" — which is the ultimate testament to its ubiquity as a search engine.
So what does that mean for you as a consultant?
It means that if your client is looking to buy your services, she's likely to google you first. She's likely to search for a solution to her problem and if you (or your content) happens to pop up and solve her problem in a way that's meaningful and helpful to her, then she's more likely to engage your services.
She sees you as an authority and the fact that she's reaching out to you to hire you for your services, puts you in a strong negotiating position especially when it comes to pricing.
On the other hand, if you reach out to her using an outbound approach, you're naturally in a poorer negotiating position. It can still work, but your position doesn't afford you the same amount of authority.
The inbound approach to marketing might be a great approach to consider when it comes to growing a consulting businesses.
In this episode, I'll compare and contract Inbound vs Outbound Marketing Strategies.
More specifically, I'll aim to answer following questions:
What’s the difference & why it matters
What appeals to me about the general approach is permission-based as Seth Godin likes to say.
The inbound approach enables us to offer value up front based on people's search behaviour, and gives us the opportunity to earn our buyer's trust before asking for the sale.
Inbound marketing provides value upfront through content, this establishes trust in the brand and transformation which can help a consumer buy in your business. It fits the natural flow of the consumer.
According to Marcus Sheridan's book They ask You Answer, around 70% of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to a company.
Read that last sentence again.
How do you market to a prospect whose identity you aren't aware of (cause they're just browsers on your website)?
The answer as Chris Garret explains so eloquently is content marketing (which is akin to the inbound approach)
In our conversation Chris explained that content marketing is a conversation that's already happening between a buyer and a seller. The only question for you as a seller is "Are you going to be part of that conversation?".
Outbound marketing — the more traditional form of marketing — a hangover from the days of “madmen” of Madison Ave is more about "pushing" your offer out to the right target market. It aims to make the sale as soon as possible.
Typically this includes pay-per-click advertising, email blasts (the term makes me cringe), and cold calling fall into this category.
The outbound approach is interruption based, and assumes that your customers are ready to buy your offer.
While I personally prefer the inbound approach, the outbound approach isn't bad or evil per se. There are some benefits to the outbound approach. The outbound approach may cost more up front but tends to deliver results faster.
The inbound approach on the other hand is a long-term play and requires you to invest quite a bit of your time and effort in creating spectacular content.
Why I recommend the Inbound approach for a consulting practice
Let's say you're looking to grow your consulting practice.
One of the first things questions your client is likely to ask is: "Does this person have extensive knowledge and authority in his/her domain of expertise?"
If the answer is no, you're unlikely to get the gig. Even if you do land the gig, you're unlikely to command the fees you deserve.
Without establishing your knowledge and your authority in your field of expertise up front, you're likely to be a price taker — not a price maker.
The inbound marketing approach presents you as an expert and a thought leader in your field. It doesn't doesn’t interrupt your buyer but rather enhances their experience as they experience the buyer's journey.
Furthermore, this approach means your more likely to be "attracting" your ideal clients via the content marketing approach so they reach out to you rather than the other way round.
Being approached by your ideal client puts you in the perfect negotiating position and enables you to charge what you're worth.
All that said, the outbound marketing approach can offer significant benefits when it comes to getting your content seen by the right people.
This is where you might consider a hybrid approach which uses pay-per-click ads to promote your content and get it in front of the right customers so it can solve their problems and offer them value as they move through the buyer's journey.
This introduces you and your brand seamlessly to your customers without interrupting them. It ensures you enter the conversation the buyer wants to have on their terms and positions you as a problem solver rather than a salesperson trying to foist their product onto the customer.
Hubspot recommends a 90-10 distribution with 90% of the effort focused on making those inbound strategies.
Here's how to get started with your Inbound Strategy
It’s important to have a clear understanding of your customer’s needs and how you can help them with those needs.
The buyers journey consists of 3 stages:
The idea is to create tailored content that enables your prospect to "self-serve" through those three stages and deliver a seamless customer experience.
Challenges in implementing an inbound strategy
The most common challenges identified with this approach are:
How you can start implementing these changes right now
It all starts with getting a clear understanding of your buyer's journey.
Here are some useful conversations you can tap into right now to get started.
You may also want to visit the Productive Insights website and join our growing community of business owners who are looking to grow profitably using these inbound marketing strategies.