holy-grail-marketingThe Quest for Marketing’s “Holy Grail”

In the marketing world, the quest for the “holy grail” of campaigns with the perfect ROI is an eternal one.  With that tool in our direct marketers’ hands, we’d all be worry-free millionaires, right?  Unfortunately, the grail eludes us all, and our quest must continue.  Often, that quest takes the form of a competition between different marketing strategies, where it is assumed there must be a winner and a loser. The current trending competition is the match-up between “inbound” and “outbound” marketing. To many, inbound appears to be winning by a knock out because it’s “less expensive” and “newer” than outbound. But, before we rashly declare a winner, let’s pause and consider this.

What the heck does “inbound and outbound marketing” even mean? 

If you’re like me, when you see buzzwords like this, the first thing you do is seek their definition. As in most industries, people often latch on to jargon without really knowing what it means. Just as I had suspected, I found inbound and outbound marketing defined in several articles in a convoluted and biased way. So, I looked at all of the information available and created an uncomplicated synopsis.

Inbound Marketing = Permission based communications such as email and social media subscribers

Outbound Marketing = Traditional and interruptive communications such as direct mail, print ads, billboard, TV, in person engagement

With that information in mind, consider one more question.

Why would we pit two different marketing methods against each other in the first place?

First, if the methods I’m using are earning the response I need and the ROI necessary to make a profit, then whether they are “newer” and “less expensive” is irrelevant. Second, you’ll notice there are inbound and outbound channels that work well together. That’s nothing new! We already use a tried-and-true mixed, or multi-channel, approach that ties both worlds together. Hence the name of this very blog, “In the Mix.” For example, we use highly personalized and targeted direct mail and print ads that connect us to social media through two-dimensional codes. We also use digital billboards and TV ads that take us to a mobile destination…all with tracking so we can really understand what works best.

So there you have it. The great debate between inbound and outbound marketing is nonexistent. There is no contest between these types of marketing because they actually complement each other.

In fact, that’s part of the beauty of what we do as marketers. No two campaigns are the same…ever. We get to look in our marketing toolbox and choose the methods that make the most sense for each new campaign. Then we learn from our work so we can build a better approach the next time around. That’s why it’s important that we set our own benchmarks based on our experiences and not get caught up in industry jargon and trends or other people’s work. If we do, there’s a good chance our efforts will be out of bounds.