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Inbound & Outbound Marketing - there's a difference

By Scot McKeeScot McKee

It is seemingly insufficient to have the clue entirely in the name. In B2B marketing we apparently like our marketing to be more complicated.

Wednesday 11th July, 2012

Inbound marketing and outbound marketing for example. One involves… well, inbound marketing, while the other is, err, outbound. I didn’t think that was too hard to grasp.

Let’s start with the easier one – Outbound Marketing. That’s the one the old farts are familiar with. The corporate machine churns out its repetitive and entirely boring bollocks. Everyone’s heard it before, it offers no significant point of differentiation in content, style or tone and the message is pushed through every conceivable owned or paid-for media in the hope that some of it will stick. There’s always been a certain arrogance to outbound activity – ‘This is the way it is, this is what we want you to be told and we’re going to make you have it’. It was quite an effective strategy in the days when real men wore pleats in their trousers.

Then there’s the slightly tricky one – Inbound Marketing. That’s where a brand creates and nurtures an environment of shared opinion and collaboration. Rather than ‘dominating a market’, the purpose is to influence communities. Instead of shouting at customers, the brand listens and responds. Instead of ‘buying media’, we create content and make it available across shared online communities. If it’s good enough, and relevant, the audience will find the brand – it will be drawn inwards towards the soft, intimate glow of the community.

These worlds are not mutually exclusive of course, but they are different. You can’t, for example, set up your corporate Twitter account, tweet your outbound sales messages and expect people to give a damn. You can’t catalogue your list of products and services on Facebook and expect anyone to be your ‘friend’. You have no friends, because you smell. And you absolutely, positively, definitively can’t churn out your repetitive and entirely boring bollocks and call it ‘content’. It’s not. It’s repetitive and entirely boring bollocks. That’s all it is, that’s all it ever was, that’s all it ever will be. ‘Content’ is different. It’s inbound.

Producing content for an inbound marketing strategy means organisations have to recalibrate. Outbound marketing materials may contain reusable information, but they can never be simply ‘re-skinned’ and called inbound. An effective inbound marketing strategy requires a specific and significant investment in the community you’re expecting to influence. How you influence them, what attracts them and what encourages them to share information with their networks is very different from, ‘Here is our whitepaper on… bleugh.’ Conceiving, producing and distributing content for a successful inbound strategy requires specific and dedicated planning and resourcing.

If you really want to play Inbound Marketing, the stakes are high. You need to redirect budgets from the old materials and invest in creating original, new, creative content that will inspire online audiences. Commissioning video, writing blogs, interviewing guests, designing infographics, even building a separate social environment away from the old corporate website is a long way away from attempting to reproduce the entire contents of your website on Twitter.

So the next time I ask for content and you think about sending me a link to your corporate website or handing me your corporate sales brochure saying, “Here you go, just, you know – tweet that.” Don’t be surprised if I roll the brochure, carefully and methodically, into a tightly formed tube and shove it up your ass. Which would certainly be inbound. I’m going to call that a ‘you-tube’.

Scot McKee
Managing Director
Birddog Ltd.

+44 20 7323 6666

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Article by Scot McKee