The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is like the difference between archery with a bow and arrow and archery with a grenade launcher. Inbound marketing finds and targets a very specific audience that will benefit from what they have to say. Outbound marketing spreads its message out everywhere in the hope that the people who will benefit from it are among those who see it.
Inbound marketing has been proven to be more effective and have a better ROI than outbound marketing, time and time again. People are much more likely to listen to personal, relevant messages than randomly targeted ads. So why not take it a step further? Once you’ve found your customers, target them specifically and individually with the deals, offers and content that they’ll be most interested in. This is called personalized marketing.
Amazon.com is great at personalized marketing. Based on your recent search history, they’ll give you a list of products on their homepage that other customers with similar interests have looked at. Based on your purchase history, they’ll send out e-mails about similar products, new releases and more that they think you personally will like.
If you can find or design the right algorithms for it, this is a great method to use in your own company. Send the customer not just a mass spam e-mail that’s also going out to thousands of others, but a personal message that includes their name and makes suggestions that you think they’ll find helpful. Include your own first name in the e-mail, and write it to sound like you’re talking to them, not at them. You can also, in moderation, use text messages and phone calls (from a real person, not a recording) to engage your customers on a personal level and try to provide them with what they’re looking for.
You can use personalization in social media as well. This is a more delicate operation, as it involves treading a precarious line, privacy-wise. By accessing their personal information—Facebook likes, recent interactions, follows, etc.—you can get an idea of what they’re interested in and recommend products that fit with that. Some people like this form of marketing and are willing to put a little bit of their privacy aside in exchange for personalized suggestions. Others are averse to the idea and will be turned off by the thought of you accessing their information. In the end, you’re the only one who can gauge your own audience. Decide whether or not it’s worth the risk.
But remember, personalization isn’t about invading your customers’ privacy or attacking them with marketing at every available opportunity. That’s an outbound marketing mentality. The purpose of personalization is to deliver a meaningful, memorable customer experience. It’s about showing them that you understand them and care about their needs. It’s about connecting with people—which is something that outbound marketing would never allow you to do.