Perhaps the most important step you can take as an entrepreneur is to effectively market your goods and services. You can have the best products in the world, but if nobody knows about them, your business will fail! When it comes to successfully promoting your business, you can choose from a variety of inbound and outbound marketing techniques.

Outbound marketing is the proactive process of finding potential customers and motivate them to buy your products and services. It is a traditional form of marketing that involves promoting your products to people who are not actively looking for them. Common outbound marketing techniques include television and radio advertising, newspaper and magazine advertising, telemarketing, trade shows, direct mail (both electronic and paper), email blasts, and public relations activities.

Outbound marketing has a long history of success and typically provides faster results than inbound marketing. Unfortunately, it also has its weaknesses. Advertising, trade shows, telemarketing and the like can be prohibitively expensive. Also, outbound marketing is intrusive. In many cases, you try to sell your goods and services to people who have no interest in them. This has led to many attempts to block outbound marketing efforts such as caller ID, call blocking, spam filters, and popup blockers, making it difficult to reach your niche.

In contrast, inbound marketing consists of promotional efforts that focus on to be found by customers The idea is to take proactive steps to attract potential customers and motivate them to buy your products and services because of the quality content you provide in various formats. Inbound marketing techniques include blogging, articles, white papers, search engine optimization, video, and social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Inbound marketing has the advantage of being much less expensive to implement than outbound marketing. In fact, you can facilitate a successful inbound marketing campaign without spending a dime. You can also provide valuable content for potential customers and distribute information about your business in a non-intrusive way. This is one of the great benefits of inbound marketing. It is often a more welcome form of promotion for consumers because it provides valuable content rather than a sales pitch.

Of course, inbound marketing also has its weaknesses. While the monetary cost is small, the cost is huge when it comes to time. Developing and maintaining a blog, writing articles, creating videos, and maintaining a constant presence through social media all take a significant amount of your time, especially when compared to the time required for most outbound marketing campaigns. Another weakness of inbound marketing is that it can take a long time to achieve success.

So what’s the bottom line when it comes to inbound vs. outbound marketing? My recommendation is to incorporate elements of each. Both marketing approaches can be successful when used correctly, and each offers unique benefits. Think about how you can incorporate both approaches into a marketing strategy that gives you the highest return possible. For example, an experienced business coach might decide to use (outbound) email marketing because he has a long list of clients that he can use for distributing his product information. He could also use (inbound) blogging as a way to spread useful business information and demonstrate his expertise to potential customers.

Similarly, an engineering consultant can effectively use print advertising as an outbound marketing technique while using social media to position themselves as an expert, network with a wide range of people, and become a respected member of engineering social communities. The key is to be clear about what you want to achieve with your marketing strategy and select techniques that allow you to achieve your goals.

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