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IMG_1923-47The increase in inbound marketing strategies versus outbound has been one of the biggest changes within marketing organizations over the last ten years. This is especially true with digital marketing.

Create content, value and interest with your website, newsletters and social media that allows potential business partners to choose where they want to be versus bombarding a larger audience with messages that they don’t necessarily want to receive. This sounds very reasonable but is it the most effective tool for developing partnerships? Absolutely not.

Here are the reasons an outbound approach will still be the most effective for your brand and organization:

  1. Inbound requests are targeting you based on their interests.  It’s great to have partners coming to you but the partnership they are offering started with a strategy centered on their marketing goals rather than yours.
  2. Outbound marketing allows much more specific targeting.  An outbound approach allows you to target exactly who you want to target.  An inbound prospect has already developed interest in your company but is likely to be further from the perfect fit you are seeking.  Inbound marketing is more effective in reaching large audiences and partnership marketing is almost always about targeting a very small niche.
  3. Partnership marketing is still in its infancy.  This means that many organizations haven’t made partnership marketing a priority yet or part of their overall marketing plan.  As a result the vast majority of marketers are not looking for partnerships or content on partnerships.   At this early stage you have to be an agent of change and that means reaching out and championing partnerships with your brand(s).
  4. Decision makers with limited time and busy schedules. Time is precious for most marketers and to get their attention you will usually need a very defined and targeted approach. An outbound approach is going to get you in front of the right decision makers much quicker than an inbound approach.
  5. Inbound marketing only brings a fraction of the partnerships you’ll generate with an outbound approach. Hearst Magazines is one of the top magazine publishers in the world with titles such as Good Housekeeping, O, The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Cosmopolitan and many other recognized titles. Before I joined Hearst in 2004, they relied on an inbound approach for the most part.  With such well known brand names, Hearst was a frequent target for partnerships and had many they could develop. After pursuing an outbound strategy we were able to increase magazine subscriptions through partnerships by ten-fold. If you are receiving frequent inbound partnership requests you should think about expanding your overall efforts.

Inbound marketing techniques can be an effective tool for develop partnerships but should be a much smaller consideration.  It’s always a good idea to communicate that you are open to partnerships and to define the partnerships you are seeking through appropriate inbound marketing channels.  That said, most business  should be spending less than 5% of their time and partnership marketing budget on inbound strategies.