Combine and Conquer


Content marketing is effective beyond a shadow of doubt, yet this wildly popular business development technique is also frequently misunderstood. Firm leaders often falsely believe that they must make a choice between two competing approaches: a traditional outbound marketing strategy or content marketing. In truth, the two create maximum success when marketers use them in tandem.

Outbound and inbound marketing (another term for content marketing) are the perfect couple. Separately, each may perform well. But like the most successful marriages, when paired, the partners complement and strengthen one another, empowering each to reach its full potential. Both share the same goals – attracting new clients and building awareness of the firm – but use different styles. The key difference is one of autonomy; who is initiating the contact, you or your audience?

Outbound techniques are overt. Outbound tactics like direct mail, advertisements in printed or digital publications, and similar efforts are great for reaching new audiences, but you’re touching them with a blunt tool. Targeting capacity is limited. Most of those you reach won’t be interested, and it can get very expensive to create the high number of touches required to inspire action in those who might be.

Inbound marketing is more subtle. When you offer content like blogs, social media posts, forum discussions, well-crafted web pages, or case studies, you’re providing answers and leaving them where precisely the folks you want to meet will find them. Your SEO efforts are designed to help this audience find your content, to be sure, but the recipients have asked questions that lead them to it. That creates a self-selected audience composed entirely of those who are interested in what you offer, in terms of both your content and your professional services. This is something to be desired, but it isn’t always enough to generate the business you want.

If your audience is seeking answers and finding them through your content, they’ll probably return. And when you invest in direct marketing, you are making more people aware of the fact that you exist and may have the answers they need. By combining inbound and outbound marketing, you not only increase the number of people who look for you but also enhance the positive impression they will form when they find you.

No responsible content marketer would advise clients to abandon outbound tactics. That said, if a limited marketing budget requires hard choices, I’d go for the inbound approach every time. It’s rare that you must choose one or the other though. Even low-cost activities like attending networking events count as outbound marketing efforts. There’s sure to be some appropriate outbound method that can expand your reach, which allows your inbound tactics to perform their magic.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking of inbound and outbound marketing as competitors. They’re the best kind of partners, and the kind you definitely want at your firm.




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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!