by Sarah Warlick, copywriter and editor
Your firm’s marketing style makes a real difference in the way your audience thinks about you. Marketing techniques may share a goal, but their effects on your audience vary based on your choice to use an inbound or outbound approach. Both exist to draw new clients, enhance firm reputation and increase business. But the approaches are more than stylistically different. The fundamental divide is one between giving and taking. And by pursuing their respective tactics to create a similar end result, inbound and outbound marketing bring about very different feelings in their audiences.
In outbound marketing (let’s use advertising as the specific tactic for the purposes of this article), firms deliver a message by making a claim, and sometimes accompanying it by an offer. “We do this well,” is the kernel of communication that lies at the bottom of almost every advertising message. “Please give us your time to listen while we tell you that you should use our services.” In well crafted advertising that’s not a terrible burden since the message is accompanied by some entertainment value and hopefully, some supporting evidence. Even so, it boils down to taking time and attention from people to convince them you’re the right provider, and promising them that it will be worth their investment.
With content marketing (blogging, for example), this equation is turned upside down. The firm isn’t taking – it’s giving. Offering information that is freely available to be read by those who want to. Without asking for anything in return, bloggers are sharing news, industry insight, commentary and advice with anyone who finds that information valuable enough to commit their limited time to reading it.
Readers become educated and in the process, they may decide that the firm sharing this valuable content is the best provider for their needs or the best source to turn to for help determining those needs. Good content marketing seeks to shape this impression, to be sure, but the conversion from reader to client is perceived to be an internal one.
Another advantage of content marketing is the built-in transparency. When readers observe you in conversation, answering questions and weighing in on issues, they can see how you think. Your firm’s responsiveness and flexibility is right there in front of them, in real time, as is the scope of your knowledge. Even personal style comes through to some degree, which gives readers a sense of what it will be like to be your client.
Outbound marketing is telling people – on their time – to use your services; content marketing is showing them – on your time – why they may want to do so. This difference creates a subtle but important distinction in the feelings of clients who come to you by the two strategies. Content marketing conversions have normally convinced themselves that you are knowledgeable, competent and trustworthy. They have often already decided that you are an individual and/or a firm they can work with comfortably. Those who succumbed to advertising are quite willing for you to prove these things to them, but still wary. You’re in a far better position with the former group.