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Here’s the dirty secret of inbound and outbound marketing: they complement each other. They’re both important. They each play a vital role in getting a product, a brand, or a company off the ground, and there’s a time and a place for both strategies in your marketing plan.

Here’s the promise of outbound: WIN AT YELLING. Buy ads, send press releases, reach out to reporters, fax till you drop, retweet influencers, blast email… you know the drill. Hit every medium as hard as possible, get as much attention as possible, and you’ll win.

Here’s the promise of inbound: Build it and they will come. Make great content. Make superb content. Make INSANELY GREAT CONTENT (as often as humanly possible). Be awesome. Be generous. Overshare everything. Be a good person. Be human. Be helpful. Do all the right things, play nicely, and the world will beat a path to your doorstep.

Both are lies in their pure form, in that they claim nearly-exclusive paths to victory in their promises. Neither will get you to the finish line alone. More important, there’s a timing to both to make them effective. Consider what you know about how you find out about things, about how you buy things. Something has to interrupt you. It might be that wonderful, golden promise of a friend or colleague telling you about something via word of mouth, but that’s still an interruption to the status quo. It could be an ad. It could be an email. It could be any kind of attention-getter at all – but it has to be something that captures your attention.

From there, once you are aware of the stimulus, you go into research mode, into Google’s Zero Moment of Truth. You research, you ask, you learn, and then you buy, the First Moment of Truth. If the brand’s promise is kept, then you develop and mature the relationship and it becomes truly about the relationship between you and the brand, the Second Moment of Truth. That’s outbound and inbound working together, in the right order.

Fire in the fireplace

Think about it like lighting a campfire. Outbound is your tinder, your firestarter, some lighter fluid. Lots of flash, lots of heat, but it goes quickly. Inbound is your kindling, your logs, your fuel. If you rely only on outbound, you will have warmth and light for a very short time and then you’ll be the dark for a long while. If you rely only on inbound, you’ll have a beautiful pile of unburnt wood come morning. If you do it in the wrong order, you’ll be putting matches to foot-wide logs and be out of matches and frustrated why, even though you have all the right tools, you are cold and it is dark.

Put them together in the right order, and you’ll have warmth, light, and maybe a nice meal. That’s the real promise of both inbound and outbound: use them both intelligently and at the right time, and you’ll be successful.


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