Some business decisions are pretty straightforward: You either go in one direction or your go in another. You choose retail or wholesale. You aim at an upscale audience, or you appeal to customers who are budget conscious. Your restaurant serves Coke™ or it serves Pepsi™.
When it comes to marketing your business, however, it’s not always that simple. Even if your customers are well defined, they aren’t always identical. They don’t always respond to the same approach. Some are quick to respond. Others take a long time to make up their mind.
It’s also important to recognize that your potential customers aren’t all at the same place in the buying process (or what you may think of as your sales funnel)—particularly if the goods or services you’re offering require a significant investment.
If someone is convinced of their need for a high-ticket item (a home, a car, enterprise software, etc.), there’s a good chance that they are involved in doing some fairly serious research before they make the plunge. That’s where inbound marketing can be so successful. Customers in that situation aren’t looking for someone to push a solution on them. They’re after information that will help them make the right decision. If you’re putting out great content (helpful, informative, clear) they will gobble up your blogs and your eBooks, and your white papers. And there’s a good chance that you’ll make their short list of companies to consider.
But what if your potential customer isn’t even aware of his or her need? What if he has never heard of your product or service? What if she has no idea that you exist? That’s where outbound (what we might consider “traditional”) marketing (such as TV, radio, direct mail, catalogs) can be effective.
And sometimes—even when your potential customer has moved down the sales funnel—a combination of inbound and outbound approaches can be extremely effective. If you’ve had a potential customer download a couple of reports or eBooks, you may want to shoot her a personal email to see if there is specific information she’s looking for that she hasn’t found yet. Or you may want to mail a card or letter to a prospect inviting him to a seminar, or open house.
There’s also an element of surprise (the good kind!) that comes when you mix things up a bit. If all of your communications have been initiated by the customer (reading blogs, downloading white papers, etc.), receiving a personal email or card reminds him that there is a real person behind the information he’s been reading.
When it comes to marketing your business, it’s not a matter of either/or. A both/and approach is often more effective. If you’d like to explore this topic a bit more, we invite you to download our free Push and Pull Marketing—Why You Need Both eBook, and learn how to help your buyers recognize the need for your product or service, find the information he needs and evaluate his alternatives.