Should You Pay for Ads or Invest in Inbound Marketing?
In the modern marketing world, there are two main approaches to consider: paid advertising and inbound marketing. Each category includes many separate strategies, but they’re distinguished by the nature of their approach. With paid advertising, you’ll be paying money for an opportunity to reach your audience with a targeted message. With inbound marketing, you’ll be building up your company’s visibility and reputation over time so it can be found easier by your customers.
So which approach is right for your business?
Advantages and Disadvantages
Inbound marketing is advantageous because it’s extremely cost-efficient. It doesn’t cost much time or money to produce blog posts, build links, and engage with your social media followers, so after a period of years, your cost per lead will be next to nothing. Inbound marketing is also beneficial because it allows your reputation to grow organically; the people who love your brand will genuinely love your brand, with no need for manipulation or persuasion.
The downside of inbound marketing is, of course, that it takes months or years to develop, which is why paid advertising is advantageous; it may cost extra money upfront, but you’ll be met with an immediate audience. Paying for banner ads, PPC ads, or even TV spots will introduce new people to your brand instantly, and in many cases, you’ll only pay for the traffic you receive from the ad.
Factors to Consider
So which approach is better? Clearly, both marketing approaches have something to offer, but if you want to know which way you should lean, consider these important variables:
- Your available capital. First, consider how much capital you have to spend. If you’re a new entrepreneur trying to bootstrap your company, you won’t have the extra few thousand dollars necessary for a decent ad strategy. Instead, inbound marketing is a better fit; instead of investing money, you can invest time, and ultimately create a strategy that’s more cost-efficient. Of course, if advertising is more advantageous to your business, you can compensate for it by raising capital through other means, such as selling your old car, hitting up friends and family members, or as a last resort, dipping into your retirement savings.
- Your time horizon. You should also consider your business’s time horizon. If you’re a fledgling startup and you need to generate as much interest and revenue as you can in the span of your first few months, paid advertising is practically your only option. Cost-efficient though it may be, inbound marketing is a slow, long-term strategy. If you have the time to spare for it, inbound marketing is superior in terms of cost-efficiency and sustainability.
- Your talent. If you have a team of people working for you, consider their skillsets. If your head of marketing has experience writing advertising copy, you’re better off catering to their strengths by pursuing a paid ad strategy. If they have more experience in writing and building social media followings, inbound marketing will be better. Of course, if your marketing team doesn’t have a preexisting specialty, or if you don’t have a marketing team at all, you’ll need to consult with an outside expert either way.
- Your industry and competition. Next, consider your industry and competition. Are other companies, similar to yours, gravitating toward paid advertising or inbound marketing? Are they finding success with it? On one hand, it pays to follow what the competition is already doing; clearly, there’s something working here, and you’d likely profit from following, On the other hand, going against the grain may be a valuable way to differentiate your brand. If no one else is paying for advertising, your ads will be even more visible and memorable.
- Your audience. Finally, think about the demographics you’re marketing to. Are these people who don’t mind seeing ads that are relevant to them, or do they avoid advertising at all costs? Are they active on social media, reading new content regularly, or do they stick to more offline channels?
For many new businesses, the best approach isn’t strictly inbound marketing or strictly paid advertising, but rather, a blend of the two. Investing in inbound marketing early and often is a good idea, so it has time to grow and flourish, but paid advertising can help you fill the gap it takes to fully develop. You’ll need to find the balance for your own company, taking advantage of the best each category has to offer.
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