Ads are everywhere, and this can feel especially true when you’re trying to avoid them. And believe me, people try their hardest to do just that: Nearly 200 million people worldwide admit to employing some sort of ad blocking software, according to the 2015 PageFair Ad Blocking Report.
Consumers don’t want interruptions, and the ability to block ads has fundamentally changed the consumer/brand relationship. Instead of overly promotional content that has little to no value to them, consumers are looking for brands that offer valuable content–something that ignites a conversation. And this is the key difference between inbound and outbound marketing.
More and more brands are embracing their new role as a content creator because it drives inbound traffic and increases their authority, but arguably the biggest benefit to inbound is that it typically generates a higher return on investment than outbound. At Fractl, we looked into how this works with our latest research with Moz, “Inbound vs. Outbound: Consumer Perspectives on Marketing Effectiveness.” We began by going straight to the source, surveying more than 1,000 individuals about various marketing tactics–both traditional advertising along with newer channels such as content marketing–and then we took a closer look at what the same budget could buy across inbound and outbound channels.
Here, I’ll walk you through two major insights from our study to consider when planning your next outreach strategy, and how you can implement them in an effective content marketing campaign:
Insight #1: Leverage inbound marketing to control your online presence
Thanks in large part to the rise of digital publishers, consumers can no longer be clumped together because of varying levels of awareness. They’re educating themselves about brands because they spend more time online, doing their own research. Because of this self-directed journey, what one consumer knows about your brand is not guaranteed to be understood by another. This is why it’s important to grow and control your online brand presence.
Inbound marketing makes it easier for brands to gain awareness because it focuses on earning a person’s attention, rather than buying it, by offering highly engaging content. However, you can’t focus your efforts on just any channel. When it comes to learning more about a company or brand, consumers tend to have a preference for online media. In fact, when we asked consumers in our study how likely they are to buy a product or service they heard about through an online search, 77% of respondents said their purchase decision would be positively influenced by it.
So where should you focus your online efforts? More than 55% of our respondents agreed that online articles positively influence their purchase decisions, so tailor your outreach efforts to earn coverage on high authority sites like The Huffington Post, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, and The Washington Post. Aside from being household names, what makes these sites authoritative is their high level of engagement and natural syndication networks. Similar sites are easy to locate with help from tools like BuzzSumo, in which you can easily identify publishers that are sharing related content and see the total shares per article. Another bonus to getting top-tier placements? These backlinks will help boost your search rankings–an invaluable asset to any inbound marketer.
Insight #2: Content marketing can earn your brand nearly three times the exposure of more traditional marketing efforts
The second part of our study compared the cost of three outbound tactics–magazine ads, TV spots, and direct mail–to content marketing, a popular inbound tactic. Our results revealed that with a similar budget, the three outbound efforts combined earned slightly more than 1,032,000 views, while a successful content marketing campaign earned more than 3,000,000 views with just a single placement on a high-authority site like BuzzFeed.
What does this mean for marketers? If a majority of consumers prefer to use a simple online searches to learn more about brands, marketers should invest in a content marketing strategy if you want to see high returns for a relatively low investment. You should also consider this inbound tactic if they want to remain competitive. In fact, research from the Content Marketing Institute found that, on average, companies are planning to allocate nearly a third of their total marketing budget to content marketing.
Put theory to practice
To optimize your efforts, outline a content marketing strategy that combines a highly-targeted, off-site promotions process with valuable on-site content. Keep in mind that the goal of any content is to encourage engagement with consumers in hopes of developing a relationship that ends in a conversion. An effective strategy will target authoritative sites through a focused outreach process, realizing that this off-site content is what will lead consumers back to the site’s more valuable on-site content.
In terms of promotion, success relies heavily on authoritative publishers, and luckily for marketers, these publishers are always looking for a steady stream of great content. A great example of an effective outreach strategy is Groove’s highly targeted guest blogging efforts, which helped the software startup reach more than 1 million people. Remember, though, that the purpose of driving conversions is to have off-site content lead back to more valuable on-site content. For instance, BuzzStream promotes multiple large-scale, research-based campaigns that earned placements on high-authority sites. These campaigns are hyper-targeted to their audience, and because all off-site content led to a gated on-site asset, the company managed to break its record for new subscriber sign-ups.
The biggest takeaway from our research? Your target audience isn’t asking for content–it’s demanding it. Although traditional advertising and other forms of outbound marketing tend to have shorter sales cycles and faster ROI, consumers simply aren’t as responsive as they used to be to these tactics. No one likes a gnat, so rather than putting your brand in front of an audience and nagging them to learn more about your product, distinguish yourself as a thought leader in your industry by providing interesting, informative content. You’ll earn your audience’s trust, business, and–most importantly–references to additional customers.