When you think of traditional marketing, what kind of tactics come to mind? Billboards, radio advertisements, commercials, newspaper and magazine ads, trade shows, product placement, etc.
While outbound marketing isn’t synonymous with traditional marketing, many tactics associated with traditional marketing are outbound methods.
Like traditional marketing, outbound marketing predates the internet and rose to popularity during a time when customers couldn’t find you organically and businesses had no choice but to reach out to the customers instead.
What Is Outbound Marketing?
Outbound marketing is disruptive. It intrudes into the audience’s lives unprompted.
“When you’re driving down a highway, you’re not looking to see a billboard or hoping to see a billboard. It’s kind of there in the way of nature,” says Guido Bartolacci, New Breed’s Head of Demand Generation Marketing.
Likewise, you’re typically not listening to the radio for the commercials, reading a magazine for the ads or watching the big summer blockbuster to see what branded delivery truck gets blown up.
“If somebody does a search and your ad pops up, I would not consider that disruptive because someone is seeking that answer out on their own and you’re giving them that thing they’re looking for via a paid ad,” Guido says. “It’s not organic, but it is inbound.”
Paid can be done in an outbound way as well though, if you target competitors’ branded search terms or target search terms irrelevant to the ads you’re serving.
Outbound marketing tactics typically will only drive results while you’re actively investing in them.
“When you send an email out to a bunch of people from a purchased list, you’re only going to get the benefits of that while you have it,” Guido says. “Once you work through that entire list and email them, you’re not going to get the benefits anymore. You’re not growing that list over time.”
There are some exceptions to this where content that’s distributed in an outbound method goes viral like the Extra gum commercial “The Story of Sarah & Juan” which received over seven million YouTube views and over 78 million Facebook views within a week of its digital release. However, most outbound emails, ads or commercials don’t have as well-crafted a narrative as that commercial.
“If you’re employing an outbound method and are all in on outbound, [virality] should not be something you expect to get out of it,” Guido says. “It can happen, but it’s not something you’ll get from the majority of the outbound methods you employ.”
Why Use Outbound?
If outbound is intrusive for audiences and doesn’t bring long term results, why would you use outbound tactics?
Your industry requires it
Some industries have an inherent need for outbound marketing on both the national and local levels.
“There’s plenty of companies that need to run commercials to remain competitive,” Guido says.
For example, if you watch anything on television you’re almost guaranteed to see commercials for cars and food. Companies that operate nationally in the automotive and food industries need to run ads on television in order to remain competitive.
Real estate and politics are prime examples of how this plays out on the local level. It’s never hard to find the faces of real estate agents and politicians on signs along roads. Many will also run commercials on local news channels to build awareness with their potential clientele or constituents.
You’re a startup that needs quick wins
If you’re a small company that’s just starting out, you need traction immediately to continue operating.
“One of the key benefits of outbound is that it’s fast,” Guido says. “It doesn’t last forever, but it’s faster.”
Inbound marketing might last longer, but it can take months or years to take off.
“If you buy a list of people that might be interested in the thing you have and you just call through that list, you’re going to get a handful of people that raise their hand and say ‘yeah, let’s talk,’” Guido says. “And that happens as soon as you do it, not months down the road.”
However, startups should take an extremely focused approach to their outbound marketing and only reach out to high-fit leads. Not only do small teams not have the resources to waste on prospects who aren’t likely to buy their product, closing a poor-fit customer and then disappointing them can lead to a bad reputation from the get-go.
Inbound isn’t working for you by itself
If you’ve been operating the same way for a while and are having trouble reaching your goals, supplementing your current efforts with new tactics is a great way to increase your results.
Adding outbound on top of your inbound strategy can help you obtain quick wins to finish off the quarter or stay ahead of a rising competitor while you finesse and strengthen your long-term strategy.
Outbound’s great in the short-term, but in order to sustain your marketing efforts, long-term inbound is a better option.
Inbound marketing focuses on drawing customers in and delighting them over time. While inbound marketing takes time to show results, if done right it’ll continue to grow after your initial investment.
Outbound, on the other hand, requires continuous investment for continuous results and increased investments for increased results. Even if you have an outbound campaign that goes viral, you can’t ride it out indefinitely.
“Eventually if you don’t remind somebody who you are and do another outbound thing it just going to taper off,” Guido says. “Yeah, you might see benefits from it for a little longer depending on how good of a job you do with your outbound marketing, but eventually you’re going to need to invest back into it to see those results again.”
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.