Over the last decade or so, inbound marketing has taken over the internet, and outbound marketing has become less popular. More businesses have taken a content-first approach to drive marketing efforts. However, that's not to say outbound strategies don't have their place in modern marketing.
Outbound marketing is any ad or campaign that is designed to attract your audience's attention. The goal is to seen and recognised. Some common outbound marketing activities are:
Digital ads in magazines and on social media
TV and radio ads
Billboards and outdoor posters
Print media like flyers and brochures
As we discussed previously, outbound marketing can play a significant role in driving the success of your business, depending on how you implement it. In this post, let's take a look at the benefits and pitfalls of outbound marketing for both small and large businesses.
Customers can't miss it
One of the biggest advantages of running an outbound campaign is that you reach a wide audience. This includes your current customers, people who've heard of you but never purchased from you, and those who are unfamiliar with your offerings. Such a varied audience promotes word of mouth. Between that and the ads themselves, some form of exposure is practically guaranteed.
But people don't like ads
Back in 2015, Moz partnered with Fractl to research how people respond to marketing, including outbound and inbound strategies. After surveying about 1000 people, they found that 60-70% of responders noticed ads online. These were display ads, social media ads, sponsored links and stories, and ads placed inside mobile apps. Though many responders also identified different ad formats, over 50% of those who recognised the ads said they didn't click on them.
In fact, GlobalWebIndex did research in 2018 and found that 40% of all APAC users who browse the internet on their laptops and computers use an adblocker at least once a month. That's the highest percentage compared to the rest of the world, and this trend has been consistent over the last two years. The study goes on to show that people are highly sensitive to digital marketing in this region—something to think about if you're planning on running ad campaigns.
Social media ads perform best
Most people who engaged with those digital ads during Moz's study (24%) did so on social media. There are many reasons for this. For instance, B2C ads on Facebook are more successful because they're personalised to the users' interests and hobbies. This goes to show that outbound marketing performs best when you know your target audience well.
On that positive note, let's look at how outbound marketing can serve various types of businesses.
Outbound marketing for sole traders and small businesses
Easier to implement
As we've discussed before, content marketing is a powerful medium. However, it's labour-intensive. Smaller businesses don't always have the resources or the capacity to invest time in building a solid content presence that'll give them enough business. On the other hand, outbound activities like dropping letters in postboxes, running social ads, and advertising in outdoor spaces are often more feasible.
Small businesses need to generate revenue on a regular basis to stay afloat. So while a large organisation might not be as affected by a low-performing month or two, the same situation could bankrupt a small business. Unlike lengthy and time-consuming inbound activities, outbound advertising gives you faster results and is better for brand awareness.
Many small businesses concentrate on advertising in the local area around them, and this makes outbound activities much easier. Unlike a national brand whose audience is scattered across the country, you can purchase a spot on local radio channels or a billboard, and you'd likely reach more members of your target audience.
Depending on the size and the type of advertising (online or offline), having a sufficient budget is a big challenge for a small business. Online ads are cheaper than offline methods such as billboards and television ads, but they might also take longer to give you results.
Expensive in the long term
Specifically for offline advertising and promotions, you might end up spending more than you receive in return. Since a small business is often limited to a certain locality, your return on investment (ROI) might drop after a few campaigns, meaning you'll need to spend more over time to draw in repeat business and new customers.
Lack of resources
What's great about outbound campaigns is that they expose you to a lot of potential customers in a short time. However, these potentials may or may not know what you do and offer. To convert them into paying customers, you'll need to educate and guide them during their initial stages. If you're still a growing business with limited staff members, it's harder to give every potential the attention they need.
Outbound marketing for larger companies
Outbound campaigns like television ads and billboards are great options for larger companies because they attract attention better than other methods of advertising. Referring back to the research done by Moz and Fractl, they found that more than 50% of their respondents said that traditional advertising was the best way to grab their attention.
For a company that has enough resources to invest simultaneously in inbound marketing, traditional advertising completes their story. For example, when people who watch a catchy advertisement land on your website afterwards, they'll be able to better connect your products or services to the emotions they felt during the ad. This gives them reassurance that they're choosing the right brand.
Large-scale outbound marketing increases awareness for your brand and offerings. Not only does this bring you more leads, but you'll also notice an increase in the quality of communication with your potential audience. For example, people who've seen your ads a few times may ask more intelligent questions than someone who hasn't seen them often or at all.
The bigger and more geographically divided your audience, the harder it is to target a specific demographic. For example, if you're an independent designer in Canberra, you only need to run ads in the ACT. However, if you're a Brisbane-based design and marketing agency with clients spread across Perth, Darwin, and Wollongong, you need to expand your campaign, which will increase costs without necessarily drawing in more leads.
Hard to measure
It's easy to find out how many people registered for your event through a social post. But it's significantly harder to figure out the reach of your advertisement in local magazines. This is one of the biggest problems associated with outbound marketing. Whether it's a video ad, poster, or even handing out flyers, you might spend more time and money without knowing exactly how much ROI to expect.
When people see an ad that captures their attention and interest, they instinctively sign up or register. The problem this creates is that even though they're interested in what you have to offer, they'll likely need more information and guidance before deciding whether to commit to your product or service.
Outbound marketing has a bad reputation, but when used strategically, it can increase your sales and brand awareness. The time and money you invest in a good outbound campaign will usually yield results, especially if you develop a reputation for being tasteful and not spamming customers with ads. I hope this post gives better insight into how an outbound marketing strategy can work for you and what to expect when you plan your next campaign.
Read next: Frequently asked questions about inbound and outbound marketing