Marketing: Referral vs Inbound vs Direct – Which is the Most Effective?

First, lets define what these three marketing strategies are.  I’ll go with Wikipedia here:

Referral marketing  is a method of promoting services to new customers through referrals, usually by word of mouth.  Such referrals often happen spontaneously.  As with most businesses, the best leads a business can generate come from referrals.  They convert 30% better than leads generated from all other marketing channels.

Inbound marketing, which has become virtually synonymous with content marketing, refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in.  As more buyers search for solutions to their business needs, first and foremost, getting found where they are searching can establish you as an expert among an audience that has never heard of you prior to your search.

Direct marketing (direct mail, telemarketing, etc.) is all about targeting the buyers with whom you want to work with, and using outbound efforts to reach them.

I’ve already mentioned that referral leads convert a whopping 30% higher than all other leads.  So, end of story, referral marketing is where all of your focus should be – right?  Well, that depends on your goals for growth.

We often get calls that start with “we’ve gotten this far on 100% referrals, but now we want to grow faster.”  The reason for the call is simple: the firm wants to grow, and referrals are not going to get them all the way to where they want to go.  That doesn’t mean they will (or should!) ever stop asking for them…but now they need to do more to hit a faster growth rate.  (If you can meet your all of your objectives with referrals, you can stop reading here, and congratulations!)

Inbound marketing is what you’ve been hearing about for years now.  It’s pretty awesome.  If you build it, they will come.  This time last year, our parent company Haley Marketing ran a “90 blog posts in 90 days contest” internally, and you can read about the excellent results they had here.  The sky seems to be the limit for how effective this type of content marketing can be.  So that’s the answer to growth beyond referral marketing and word-of-mouth, right?  Well, yes for some, but not all!

If you’re business deals with more of a niche market (geographical, industry, etc), that focus often allows you to effectively target and reach your entire audience target audience through word-of-mouth, SEO and content marketing.  But another firm that has grown through word of mouth may now need a bigger picture focus, one where it would be very difficult to increase relevant organic search traffic through a typical content and social marketing strategy.

So direct marketing still most certainly has it’s place!  And ironically, as technology continues to evolve, your mailbox is likely the least-crowded information receptacle you have today.  While most people can barely return emails to the people they know, they get fewer than 10 physical pieces of mail a day.  Once you identify the list of who you want to work with, strategic direct marketing can be the most effective way to get first appointments and grow business, because you have the best chance of getting someone’s attention – the first thing any successful marketing strategy must accomplish.

Your goals and your audience determine what combination of these marketing strategies will be most effective at growing your business.  As with most things in life, there is a time and a place for each!  Contact BARQAR Marketing today and we’ll help you develop a plan that will get your business on the road to further growth.

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