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.

Is Content Marketing or Advertising Better For Lead Gen?

Oh, how the marketing game has changed and the mighty have fallen. Residential construction marketing formerly involved direct mail, TV and radio commercials, billboards, and most predominantly, magazine ads. A marketing message was shouted at the masses in hopes that it would stick and they would pick up the phone. Many times it did but it was a numbers game in which you paid a substantial amount of cash to reach hundreds of thousands of people who could care less to attract a few interested prospects.

Better websites, blogging, social media, online advertising and email marketing, in particular, has changed all that. Consumers aren’t all that receptive to those one-directional, often annoying messages any longer. 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, by demonstrating expertise and professionalism.

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 marketing and content marketing strategies work because the customers come to you over time and you get to demonstrate your expertise through blogging and email marketing. They feel empowered to choose your company based on what they’ve read and researched, not because they feel pressured. Virtual conversations are how today’s 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.  Here’s the rub, if your an architect, interior designer or design-build contractor, most advertising is so broad that your wasting precious marketing dollars by sending your message to people who will never use your services. It is not targeting your ideal clients. One area where traditional advertising still works well for built environment firms is print advertising. But print advertising is not enough on its own, it should be part of a content marketing strategy that includes blogging, social posting frequent website updates and and inbound lead capture initiative.

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.

About Michael Conway and Means-of-Production

My firm builds Squarespace websites, email marketing campaigns, and advertising solutions for built environment professionals. Our all-in-one content marketing approach will help you attract better clients to your website, gather contact information and keep in touch with them over the long run.