Marketing Myopia: Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Advertising

Can There Be A Balanced Approach to Outbound Advertising and Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is all the rage, and justifiably so. Inbound marketing is an effective way to get in front of a lot of people searching for your products and/or services online. In other words, by applying a targeted new media, inbound marketing strategy, a business or professional practice can get in front of their target audience in a way simply not possible using most outbound advertising strategies.

Hence the Debate in Marketing Today!

You see, there is a debate going on in marketing today, a kind of tug-of-war between the traditional, outbound marketing world and the young turks of the new media, those consultants and consultancies applying inbound marketing strategies often to the exclusion of all else. Significantly, what we are seeing, instead of a synthesis, instead of a synergy of old and new, the most effective of both marketing worlds being tied into a single and effective strategy, most marketers are in the “My dad can beat up your dad!” mode.

There’s Offline and Online Marketing and Never the Twain Shall Meet

What exactly does that mean? Never the twain shall meet?

It means that two things are so different there will never be an opportunity for them to unite. This mentality is at the crux of the outbound advertising – inbound marketing debate and is symptomatic of what I refer to as marketing myopia. Marketing myopia is rampant and is a typical response whenever a new idea endangers the old-guard. I will explain in greater depth in a moment but for now think of how inertia works against progress and you are on your way to understanding what is ultimately behind the debate.

Inertia and the Crux of the Matter

The ongoing debate is particularly puzzling for traditional brick and mortar business owners. If the experts can’t agree, and when do the experts agree about anything, how is a business owner to know who to believe and which strategy is best for his or her business? The ongoing debate, whether to engage in outbound advertising or inbound marketing is ongoing and is an essential marketing point requiring resolution.

However, like most debates, there are strong feelings on both sides and many ways of looking at the myriad and complex issues.

In order to understand the issues at the heart of the outbound – inbound debate, it’s important to understand that while inbound marketing is indeed all the rage, the emergent and soon to be dominant force in marketing today, there are still very complex three worlds, three overarching strategies, and three audiences (not always separate and distinct), when it comes to marketing:

The Offline World

The Online World

The Online/Offline World

Significantly, while there are three very different worlds, or target audiences. The three audiences are very broad; and can, in fact must, be broken down still further into a seemingly infinite number of niches and niches within niches. Significantly, how we reach an audience is often niche specific, having less to do with a particular advertising or marketing bias and more to do with how a particular audience receives the bulk of their information.

How a particular audience receives information has as much to do with demographics, psychographics, and firmographics as the message itself. There are also a variety of socioeconomic variables, those not addressed in the variables listed above, that come into play and must be addressed if a marketing campaign is to be truly effective. For a marketing message, an advertising campaign, to be effective it must reach the targeted segment of the market (target audience), those receptive to the message and willing to act upon it, or at least consider it.

According to Wikipedia, “psychographic variables,” or simply psychographics, “are any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles. They are also called IAO variables (for Interests, Activities, and Opinions). They can be contrasted with demographic variables (such as age and gender), behavioral variables (such as usage rate or loyalty), and firmographic variables (such as industry, seniority and functional area).”

Interestingly, many marketing consultants would have the businesses and professional practices they advise target a particular audience based on the biases of the marketing consultant rather than based upon how a particular audience receives and accepts media messages (i.e., advertising).

Unfortunately, most marketing consultants would have a client lump all their efforts into one basket, often to the exclusion of all else, based solely on the strengths of the marketing firm and not on the needs of the business and its target audience.

Hence the Phrase: Marketing Myopia!

While there can be little doubt that the offline world, meaning those who either intentionally or unintentionally are without Internet access, is disappearing. This trend is real and the growth of the online world is exponential, particular in the developing world.

While the offline world is still much larger than the online world, at least worldwide, the gap is closing.

The table below provides the numbers from Internet World Stats

World Regions Population
( 2009 Est.)
Internet Users
Dec. 31, 2000
Internet Users
Latest Data
(% Population)
Users %
of Table
Africa 991,002,342 4,514,400 86,217,900 8.7 % 1,809.8 % 4.8 %
Asia 3,808,070,503 114,304,000 764,435,900 20.1 % 568.8 % 42.4 %
Europe 803,850,858 105,096,093 425,773,571 53.0 % 305.1 % 23.6 %
Middle East 202,687,005 3,284,800 58,309,546 28.8 % 1,675.1 % 3.2 %
North America 340,831,831 108,096,800 259,561,000 76.2 % 140.1 % 14.4 %
Latin America/Caribbean 586,662,468 18,068,919 186,922,050 31.9 % 934.5 % 10.4 %
Oceania / Australia 34,700,201 7,620,480 21,110,490 60.8 % 177.0 % 1.2 %
WORLD TOTAL 6,767,805,208 360,985,492 1,802,330,457 26.6 % 399.3 % 100.0 %
NOTES: (1) Internet Usage and World Population Statistics are for December 31, 2009. (2) CLICK on each world region name for detailed regional usage information. (3) Demographic (Population) numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau . (4) Internet usage information comes from data published by Nielsen Online, by the International Telecommunications Union, byGfK, local Regulators and other reliable sources. (5) For definitions, disclaimer, and navigation help, please refer to the Site Surfing Guide. (6) Information in this site may be cited, giving the due credit to Copyright © 2000 – 2010, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Online World

In certain areas of the world, the percentage of the population with Internet access has overtaken the numbers without computer access and an Internet connection.

Interestingly, the numbers for the US, Europe, and Oceania/Australia indicate that if you are in a traditional brick and mortar business in one of these areas of the world, inbound marketing must be an integral component in your marketing strategy. However, there is still 23.8% of the population in the US without Internet access; 47% of the European population is without Internet access; and, 39.2% of the population of Oceania/Australia is without Internet access.

Additionally, and this question must be asked is, although 76.2%, 53.0%, and 60.8% of the populations in the various regions of the world, respectively, have Internet “access,” how many of the people with access actually use a computer regularly? How many of those individuals with access ever use or care to use a computer, much less log-on to the Internet? This is still a huge segment of your possible market and, if you ignore this segment of the population or simply fail to reach them, you may be leaving an incredible amount of money on the table, an audience completely untapped.

The online world is, at least in the areas of the world mentioned above, the majority and is growing rapidly.

Hence, the reason to be in front of this trend!

Consequently, it is crucial to recognize the offline segment of your target market and tailor your marketing strategy to reach them as well.

An aside: Notice the incredible growth rate in Asia, the Middle East, Latin American and the Caribbean, and, in particular, Africa with an 1809.8% growth rate. If you are considering an online business, these regions should play into your business development and marketing plans.

The online world is growing around the world and, hence, inbound marketing must play a pivotal role in your overall marketing strategy. However, engaging in an inbound marketing strategy should not be at the expense of the traditionally offline world, those individuals without computer and Internet access and/or those individuals who choose not to use a computer and the Internet in their daily lives.

The Twain Shall Meet: The Student Instructs the Teacher – The Tail Wagging the Dog!

Significantly, the online/offline world is where most consumers spend their time, attention, and money, balancing both and using whatever works, whatever they are comfortable with situationally. Other factors impacting the efficacy of outbound advertising and inbound marketing strategies are the variable mentioned above: demographics, psychographics, etc.

Interestingly, while many outbound advertising techniques no longer have the same effect they once did, either because the attention span of the target audience has been diminished, it has been segmented and fractured, because consumers no longer have the patience for the intrusive strategies engaged in by many of the outbound advertising campaigns.

  • Network Television: Consumers are no longer watching network television or, if they are they are, they’re using TiVo and DVRs to edit out commercial messages. Cable is the standard and OnDemand, as well as online versions of Netflix and Blockbuster have eliminated the need to find something to do during commercials. The old-fashioned 60 second sprint to the restroom during commercials has been dealt with by using the pause button.
  • Commercial Radio: Consumers are listening to dedicated satellite radio (e.g., XM-Sirius) instead of commercial radio stations or they are listening to their own music. Yes, the old-fashioned CD is still around. Does anyone even have a cassette player anymore? MP3s are built in to cars now, standard equipment. Of course, many listeners still do it that old fashioned way, they change the channel. Listener loyalty is only as powerful as the next commercial interruption. How much did you say you paid for a radio spot? Yeah, think again!
  • Newspapers: Newpapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post are in trouble. The Huffington Post, a completely online news service will make more money this year than either. Time, CNN, and even the network news companies are scrambling to create an online image with blogs, social media strategies, and the like as fast as they can hire competent social media management.
  • Yellow Pages: When was the last time you used the Yellow Pages? A recent study revealed that consumers are no longer using the Yellow Pages to seek information prior to purchase but are going directly to search engines. The Internet has replaced the Yellow Pages as the vehicle of choice for consumer search. This means that more local consumers of goods and services are using the Internet to find local merchants, service providers, and professional services online. The report also revealed an increased usage frequency for online sources versus that of Yellow Pages usage. Not only is the Internet being used more than traditional print media, it is being used more often. This trend promises to increase over the next decade. Significantly, in 2008 62% of all consumer search activity involved the Internet, and that included an appallingly low 1% search via mobile phones. The mobile phone data is certain to explode in the next decade as most cell phones integrate fast and inexpensive Internet access. Yellow Pages search dropped to 30% and yellow pages-type directories are scrambling to gain a footing online, something they should have been doing a decade ago.
  • Direct Mail: One of the neat new tools used to gage reader attention online is called a heat map. The heat map tracks a reader’s eye movement online, that they read first and what holds their attention the longest. If there was a “heat map” in your home or office that tracked your pattern of activity, it would be bright red from the mailbox to “File 13!” The path from the mailbox to the garbage can is well-worn and the trip is made on complete auto-pilot. You have that much time and perhaps 3 seconds at the trash can to gain your reader’s attention long enough to get them to open what you have mailed…or it is gone forever. Interestingly, the same is true for websites. You have long enough for someone to “Blink” (read Malcolm Gladwell’s awesome book “Blink”) and it is over. The reality of the situation is, most direct mail and most websites fail to make the cut…gone forever!

The question becomes, if the numbers are so powerfully skewed in favor of the Internet and inbound marketing, why do I need to use outbound advertising at all? Given the current trend, why should I consider outbound adverting, wouldn’t it be wiser to invest solely in inbound marketing?

Great questions and I hear them time and time again. The answer is surprisingly simple, because there are three worlds and while the Internet is an incredibly powerful force, there is still an incredibly deep and broad segment of almost every audience that is not plugged into the Internet. Yes, there are instances where almost 100% of your efforts should be online. If you are selling Internet access, you might want to be online. However, you must also consider the person who is not currently connected but is looking for the right online solution. For that individual, you need to be offline in order to take the prospective client online. Yes, they will undoubtedly do their research but the right outbound advertising campaign will reach that prospective client too.

The secret to Outbound Marketing?

You need to be where your target audience is and the message must be targeted. And, the content must hold the prospective client’s attention long enough to convey the targeted marketing message and prompt them to act. You have 3 seconds! Gone are the days of the full page spread with a bunch of pictures and the headline:

Biggest Selection – Lowest Prices!”

Did that every work? I wonder!

Ultimately, and this is going to fly in the face of much of the conventional wisdom and be counter to what many of the marketing “gurus” will advise, but the final component is patience, taking a long view. Rome wasn’t born in a day and you are not going to see a response to most marketing campaigns overnight, that is unless you are willing to pay the search engines a lot of money to get the exposure you want or you are willing to pay the right consultant, one with a track record for being able to get their clients to page one organically, and keep them there.

So, direct response does not mean immediate response!

I tell all my clients, whether targeted outbound advertising or direct response, new media, inbound marketing, marketing is like farming:

First you plant, then you wait, and wait, and wait………and wait; and then, you harvest!

Most of what happens occurs below the ground, out of sight, and with seemingly nothing happening it is easy to become impatient and even disillusioned. However, there is a process, just beneath the surface, and if you are patient, if you take the long view, your harvest will be amazing.

If you take the short view and fail to continually nurture your fields (i.e., continue to promote consistently), you will end up failing to reap anything close to what is possible with the right approach and the proper perspective.

It is important to have a method of tracking results and it is also important to know when to quit and move on to something else, but taking a long view in marketing is crucial.

Finally, a balanced marketing campaign is essential, one that integrates the best of outbound advertising and inbound marketing into a cohesive and targeted message that works. It is imperative to integrate what works now, today, in 2010 and beyond and not what has worked in the past, in 1964 or 1974 or even 2004.

How do you know if it will work?

Test! Test! Test!

Here’s a final observation and a question for you to think about until next time:

A spot on page one of Google has an incredibly powerful impact on your business’ bottom line, particularly if it is maintained over time and across a number of keyword phrases. An additional spot on page one (e.g., one sponsored and one organic) will not generate twice the impact, the bump is at least 3 times as pronounced! That means you don’t get double the impact, you get three or more times the effect from a double listing on page one. Now, imagine you own most of page one for a given keyword phrase across a number of SERPs (search engine results pages) and across a number of search engines. Now imagine you are aggressively promoting proven, targeted outbound advertising strategies (e.g., targeted direct mail).

What sort of a bump do you think you can expect?

Unlike other marketing strategies that rely heavily on one marketing vehicle, a linked inbound marketing and outbound advertising program accelerate results and have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.

Hopefully, we are on the way to enhancing your awareness of marketing myopia. If you can recognize it, you can avoid it. Don’t fall victim to the marketing biases of your marketing consultant, a consultant or consulting firm advising a single pronged approach is much like a boxer with one arm, you are only going to get half the punching power. Yes, it may be directed…but imagine what you can do with both arms working together!

In the next article we will address various advertising platforms, as well as linked inbound and outbound marketing strategies for brick and mortar businesses.

Contact John Zajaros today for an in depth marketing consultation and competitive analysis.

John Zajaros

The Ultimate Internet Image
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
216-712-7004 (bus)
440-821-7018 (cell)


  1. infoshelter says:

    Well done on your well informed, analytical and thoughtful article. You can read another interesting article about the definition of Marketing Myopia:
    “What is marketing myopia?” at:

  2. admin says:

    Thank you George! From one soccer fan…and a one time wanna-be center back, midfielder or anything else…to another, I enjoyed your article and citing the Harvard Business Review is never bad form, particularly when it is right on the topic. I’ll go for an article promo any time when it is backed up accordingly.

    Take care and stop back often.


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