One of the hot topics in marketing circles today is inbound marketing.  Inbound marketing refers to marketing techniques that are designed to attract or "pull" potential customers toward a business.  Companies practice inbound marketing by publishing informative or entertaining content in a variety of online venues and by making that content easy for potential customers to find and share with friends and colleagues.  The primary inbound marketing channels are websites, blogs, and social networking platforms.  Important inbound marketing tools include search engine optimization, paid search, and content syndication.

The alternative to inbound marketing is appropriately called outbound marketing.  Outbound marketing works by "pushing" unsolicited marketing messages to a more or less defined target audience.  Therefore, outbound marketing includes most "traditional" marketing channels and tactics such as TV and radio ads, print ads, direct mail, and telemarketing.

The use of inbound marketing is growing at an explosive rate, and the rapid growth is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

  • According to eMarketer, 34% of all US companies are using blogs for marketing purposes in 2010, up from just 16% in 2007, and this percentage will increase to 48% of all companies in 2012.

  • By 2015, spending on social media marketing will account for almost 18% of total marketing budgets, up from about 6% in 2010, according to The CMO Survey co-sponsored by The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and the American Marketing Association.

Inbound marketing is growing because it compliments the way today's buyers make purchasing decisions.  Because of the Internet, potential buyers have easy access to a wealth of information about almost every conceivable product or service, and they've become convinced they can find whatever information they need, whenever they need it.  These empowered buyers pay little attention to unsolicited marketing messages, and therefore all forms of outbound or "interruption" marketing are losing effectiveness.  Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a highly effective way to communicate with these "self-directed" buyers.

Companies are also turning to inbound marketing because it costs less.  The State of Inbound Marketing 2010 survey by HubSpot found that businesses spending 50% or more of their total marketing budget on inbound marketing activities spent 60% less per sales lead than businesses spending more than half of their marketing budget on outbound marketing activities.

So, if inbound marketing is more effective and less costly than outbound marketing, do companies still need outbound marketing?  The short answer is yes.  I've posted a new article at Scribd that explains why most companies need both inbound and outbound marketing to maximize marketing results.  If you are a provider of marketing services, can you make a strong case for why outbound marketing still matters?

You can access the new article here.