What's More Effective, Inbound Marketing or Advertising?

In a word, both. But its important to have content on your website before you invest in advertising. Here's why.

In a word, both. But its important to have content on your website before you invest in advertising. Here's why.

Oh, how the marketing game has changed and the mighty are falling. Marketing for a built environment formerly involved direct mail, TV and radio commercials, billboards, and most predominantly, magazine ads. We shouted our marketing message to the masses in hopes that it would stick. Many times it did.

The Internet, and social media, in particular, has changed all that. Consumers aren’t all that receptive to those one-directional messages. They do their research when they’re looking for an architect, interior designer or design-build firm. They expect more personalized two-way interaction with us now, and they expect us to prove our worth, not buy it.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is all about creating valuable content that brings customers to us because they’re genuinely interested in what we have to say. It involves blogs, white papers, videos, search engine optimization, social media posts, interactive websites and more. It’s marketing for a built environment (or any industry, for that matter) that communicates with potential customers on their terms, not ours.

As with traditional marketing, there are stages of inbound marketing for a built environment. After creating and promoting content through all the appropriate channels, architects, designers and design-build firms have to focus on converting those visitors to leads. You can offer a free white paper download in exchange for an email address or a clickable call-to-action button on your website offering an exclusive deal. Then there’s the process of closing those leads through strategies like email marketing and continuing to interest and engage those customers so they will remember us and refer us.

Pros and Cons of Inbound Marketing for a Built Environment

Inbound strategies work because the customers come to you. They feel empowered to choose your company based on what they’ve read and researched, not because they feel pressured. That’s simply how modern consumers want to interact with the people they choose to design and build their homes.

Inbound marketing is also highly effective for creating long-term brand loyalty. Clients feel connected to us like they know us personally because they follow our blogs for advice and interact with us regularly through social media. Clients are apt to refer companies they trust, and referrals are essential to marketing for a built environment.

Is Advertising Dying Off?

No, not completely. Think about TV ads during the Super Bowl: They commanded $133,000 per second this year. Outbound marketing still has its place, particularly for giant corporations. But its effectiveness is in decline overall.  

Print circulation spending already fell from $9.8 billion in 2008 to $7.9 billion in 2012, and is estimated to fall at a compound annual growth rate of 4 percent to $6.4 billion in 2017.
— Price Waterhouse Cooper

Consumers want to see Super Bowl ads, but in many other cases they’re trying to avoid outbound marketing. They record TV shows so they can skip the commercials, and they have caller ID to avoid telemarketers. Even newer forms of outbound marketing like pop-up ads turn them off - some people will just close the page.

Content marketing using inbound strategies have not only proven more effective when marketing for a built environment; they’re less expensive. You’ll gather more leads and connect with more clients for a fraction of the cost. The next time you put together a marketing plan, consider using inbound techniques - it may save you money.

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Michael Conway

Owner of Means-of-Production. A marketing agency for architects, interior designers, landscape and design-build firms. We're dedicated to increasing website visits, lead conversion and sales growth through through the use of content marketing, PR and website design.