Marketing at its core, is all about generating leads for your business through a variety of ways, such as via a contact form request for further information, using social media to engage customers, getting your name out there through word of mouth marketing, and more. Different channels and combinations of channels will work for different businesses, which is why you must be strategic with your marketing plan. A strategic marketing plan incorporates both inbound and outbound approaches. This post will provide information on each of these approaches to marketing to help you form a strategic marketing plan that works for your business. While many of the examples will be mainly focused on digital marketing, you can transfer this knowledge of marketing concepts into an offline situation for your business as well.
Related: 6 Sample Marketing Plans
Inbound marketing boils down to one basic concept: The customer contacts you. Here are the main fundamentals of a strategic inbound marketing plan.
Inbound marketing strategies are aimed at being discovered by potential customers, at a time when they are looking for what you are selling, by placing relevant content and useful information in the places they are looking. Being in the right place at the right time can take many forms. For example:
• Handing out coupons or free samples for your sandwich shop during lunchtime in a busy train station.
• A home heating company’s blog post showing up on the first page of Google when a cold homeowner searches “how to bleed your radiator”.
• A salon showing up in an Instagram user’s search for #promupdoideas
In theory, inbound marketing strategies are cost-effective because they avoid mass broadcasts and your business is only appearing when the customer is ready to engage. However, this requires nailing down those moments and locations when the customer is ready to engage. This is why consistency and data are so important for inbound marketing: You need to track and measure what you’re doing so you can identify opportune scenarios, and you need to stay consistent in your activities so you can get accurate data.
With inbound marketing, the content you produce and the activities you conduct naturally place your brand in front of customers. Rather than asking people to learn about your business, they’re finding out about you on their own, organically in the search for information and services that benefit them. This type of encounter creates a solid first impression and organically builds trust that will impact all further engagement and communication down the line.
The flipside to inbound marketing, outbound marketing involves actively pursuing customers whether or not they are looking for your services and raising their awareness of your business and its value to them. Here are some fundamentals of a strategic outbound marketing plan.
With outbound marketing, you are approaching potential customers rather than getting naturally discovered by them in their endeavors. While this method is, at its core, more disruptive than inbound marketing, there are ways to reach out in this manner without coming off the wrong way.
Outbound marketing requires you to create and generate interest in your business. This can be a positive thing because after all, people don’t always know what to search for, what they need, or that there is a solution out there to the problems they have. However, this type of engagement requires you to find a way to engage and capture their interest from the start and is susceptible to a lot of rejection.
While a strategic marketing plan will incorporate both inbound and outbound marketing strategies, a heavier focus on inbound marketing is more ideal. However, the insights you get on your audience from your inbound marketing activities can help you identify targets for successful outbound campaigns.
This post was originally published on May 11, 2015 and updated on Feb 19, 2018.