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Professional Services Marketing: Inbound vs PPC. What's best?

[fa icon="calendar"] August 13, 2015 - Fred Thompson

Newspaper ad from the 60's showing GE wall clocks in professional services marketing: Inbound vs PPC. What's best?

In 1963, when my dad wanted to promote the very cool GE clocks he sold in his retail store, he’d hand off GE’s ad matte to the local newspaper and be done with it.

You’re expecting me to say, “Marketing was simpler back then.” Nope. Marketing is marketing. The decisions you make, when you make them, how you execute them, and how you budget for them still apply today as they always have.

What has changed:

  1. Media (we now have the Internet).
  2. People have changed. They are sick and tired of being bombarded by many kinds of advertisements that interrupt their engagement in their media.
  3. You have way more control over the kinds of campaigns you launch.

In professional services marketing, as well as with many other verticals, a debate is raging about which is better: Inbound marketing or Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Let's unravel the confusion and find out how to grow your business.

Inbound and PPC Defined

Let’s just clear the air on one thing: Every incarnation of marketing seeks to accomplish one thing: Get more customers. Again, it’s how you do it, what media you use, how much you spend, and this is the big one: How you track ROI.

Inbound

Let’s start with Inbound. Inbound is a unique blend of a few main components including: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Both of these rely on content + strategy to generate leads.

PPC

PPC simply is buying ads or buying ranking. If you’re billed every time someone clicks on a banner ad or top of the page Google Adword (ad), it’s PPC. You’re billed for the clicks, not for the conversions.

Inbound vs PPC Compared

Inbound and PPC have exactly the same main goal: To drive traffic to your website. But this is where all similarities disappear. PPC proponents like WordStream’s Larry Kim, like to equate Inbound with PPC. We view PPC as outbound marketing but with one similarity to Inbound: that it drives traffic to your website, just like Inbound.

Here’s where the confusion arises: SEO and PPC both seek to achieve #1 Google search ranking. PPC proponents will say, “You have to pay for PPC but you also have to pay for SEO. There is no difference.”

Not so. There are differences. Let’s look at them:

Inbound—considerations and how to execute

  • Do keyword research to see which keywords can be ranked for organically with the least effort.
  • Publish awesome, SEO optimized content (blogs, social posts) and lots of it.
  • Execute conversion paths: Add calls-to-actions on every page directing visitors to the top of the funnel offers you’ve created.
  • The visitors arrive on landing pages and a percentage of them convert into leads.
  • Leads are nurtured toward the bottom of the funnel where they become customers.
  • You compete against your competitors on quality and volume of published content.(Are any of your competitors doing Inbound?)
  • Inbound is a slow, methodical process but...
  • Inbound leads can cost up to 61% less than outbound.

PPC—considerations and how to execute

  • Do keyword research to see which keywords can be ranked for and conform to budget.
  • Create campaigns and bid against your competitors on ad or ranking display.
  • You compete against your competitors on keyword bid price.
  • PPC yeilds quick wins but at substantial cost.

Inbound is organic. You achieve ranking as visitors to the web search and find your content. This process builds both the searchablity of your content and domain authority (the overall popularity of your website against all others). It’s questionable whether PPC will build domain authority since you would be simply paying for it and that would violate everything Google is trying to accomplish in ranking sites based on content.

  • A blog article you publish today could recieve thousands of views a year from now.
  • With PPC, once you stop paying, everything stops. You are simply paying people to visit your website based on what they are searching for.

Inbound vs PPC and Why You Might Use Both

If you’ve been running consistent PPC campaigns but no Inbound, you would see greater positive ROI from your marketing efforts in repurposing some of your budget toward Inbound.

Let’s drill down: Say you have a premium content offer and a CTA linking to it. Most PPC campaigns we see drive traffic to product pages. Instead of linking to product pages, create the PPC campaign to drive traffic to the landing page where your premium content offer resides (an e-book, etc.).

Your goal would be to capture leads through the more cost-effective Inbound methodology using organic search and capture leads through paid search at the same time.

A large professional services company could develop so much positive ROI from Inbound marketing that they would have funds to spend on outbound—PPC, maybe Facebook pushes or advertising. The same company could budget for an extensive Inbound plan, some PPC, and a website with great user experience (UX) that builds their brand.


Key take-a-ways from this blog post:

  1. Both media and customers have changed. Your marketing efforts need to take both into consideration.
  2. Both Inbound and PPC drive traffic to your website, but that’s where all similarities disappear.
  3. Both Inbound and PPC need to be executed correctly for success.
  4. Inbound’s success takes more time, but returns a greater marketing investment over time.
  5. PPC returns quick wins, but everything stops once you stop.

Learn all about Inbound marketing for professional services companies with our free e-book!

Essential Step by Step Handbook to Internet Marketing

Topics: Professional Services

Fred Thompson

Written by Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson is the owner of New Destiny Media; Fred loves working side-by-side with business owners to create successful marketing campaigns that grown their business. When Fred is not working, he is spending time with his three very active children at home. He is an avid problem solver (MacGyver), Loves anything Martial Arts related and Social Media gets him excited about work.