by John Eberhard

I am reading a book now called “Inbound Marketing, Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs” by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. The authors are founders of HubSpot, makers of online marketing software.

The book has some really good stuff in it. Good advice about how to run your blog and things like that. I’m about a third of the way through.

But their second acknowledgement in the beginning is to Seth Godin, author of several books including “Permission Marketing.” I have written about him before. Let’s summarize by saying that I consider Godin’s assertion that you have to have permission from someone before you can send a marketing message to him to be nonsense, equivalent to saying “Oh pleeeeeaaaaase Mr. Prospect, would it be OK with you if I communicate?” Since I don’t consider the sending of a marketing message to someone to be offensive or bad or a crime, I don’t think we have to bend over backwards to get permission to do so.

Back to “Inbound Marketing.” The concept of the book is that we now have two types of marketing. One is called “inbound marketing,” and that is when you have someone actually reaching or looking for the type of product or service that you offer. So you put your message out there where he will see it when he starts looking. In the category of “inbound marketing” we find search engine organic (non paid) listings, pay per click advertising, blogs, and social media.

The other is “outbound marketing,” or “interruption marketing,” and this is where a marketer puts his message out there and it “interrupts” the prospect who is currently doing something else. In this category we find such things as display advertising, direct mail, radio and TV advertising, promotional emails, and even banner advertising online.

The authors write “Our conclusion was that interruption-based, outbound marketing techniques were fundamentally broken and in order to successfully break through the noise and connect to people, companies needed to rethink the way they marketed from the bottom up. In other words, they had to ensure their customers could find them using inbound marketing.”

“… The outbound marketing era is over. The next 50 years will be the era of inbound marketing.”

They go on to say that ten years ago, you could use all these various outbound marketing techniques and they worked great. But now they’re all bombing.

I agree with this assertion only up to a point. First of all, I agree that the Internet has changed the way people interact with companies. The Internet basically brought about this type of marketing which the authors call “inbound marketing.” If you can put your message in front of someone who is actively looking for your product or service right then, that’s great.

So I think inbound marketing is important and that nearly all companies should have an inbound marketing component in their marketing approach.

The problem with saying that the outbound marketing era is over, is that I don’t think that it works in actual practice. All the clients that I have use a combination of inbound marketing and outbound marketing. But if they tried to rely only on inbound marketing, I don’t think they would get enough business to be viable.

Businesses, in order to be viable today, particularly in the current economic scene, have to do everything they can to generate new leads and sales. I particularly think that with new businesses or small businesses, that you have to incorporate more “interruption” type media in order to establish yourself and survive.

Is it true that most outbound marketing methods don’t work today the way they used to? Yes, I would say so. One of the biggest challenges in marketing today is to find the type of promotional media (ads, magazines, Google AdWords, email, radio, TV, etc.) that will be productive and cost effective for a given type of business. My experience over the last five years has been that sometimes we try new things and the results are mixed.

So it is a major challenge in marketing, not only to find the right message that will motivate people, but also to find the right medium in which to communicate that message.

I believe that the best way is to utilize a combination of inbound and outbound marketing methods. Is the outbound marketing era over? No, I think that is a premature statement. Is it on the way out? Maybe. Time will tell. But for right now, I believe it is vital to utilize both.