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Outbound Marketing: When to Use Paid Search and PPC

Posted by David O'Sullivan

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If you've stumbled across an inbound marketing blog, you're probably well familiar with the benefits of inbound marketing versus outbound marketing methodologies. 
 
Dollar for dollar, inbound marketing simply makes sense. Inbound leads are 60% cheaper than leads acquired through traditionally outbound methods, including telemarketing, trade show booths, direct mail, and television commercials. Among business decision makers, 80% prefer to research products and make decisions by consuming series of articles or other forms of content marketing. If your brand's marketing mix consists primarily of radio advertising and billboards instead of custom content, email, and social media, you probably haven't optimized your ROI.
 
However, great marketers are never dogmatic. For some brands, a mix of outbound and inbound methodologies is the right approach. If your buyer personas rarely Google and prefer to keep up through industry print publications, you're probably working for an organization that can benefit from a mix of inbound and outbound marketing. Pay-per-click advertising and paid search are two forms of marketing that straddle the line between inbound and outbound. In this blog, you'll learn if these methods can benefit you, and how to tell whether or not they're the right fit.

Are Paid Search and PPC Inbound Marketing?

The answer to this question isn't really simple. Simply put, paid search and PPC marketing have characteristics of both inbound and outbound marketing. They're inbound because they're essentially permission-based. You're not interrupting anyone's life with a Google ad. These methods of advertising exist in search engines, which are a common mode of product discovery among modern consumers.
 
However, PPC and paid search have some characteristics in common with outbound marketing. Depending on your industry and key search terms, they can be extremely costly. And they don't offer long-term benefits. As soon as you turn "off" your PPC campaign, the results stop pouring in. While a piece of evergreen content can offer benefits for years, PPC only yields leads and sales as long as your campaign is actively running. 
 
Ultimately, are PPC and paid search inbound or outbound? I suppose the answer to that is up to individual interpretation. However, for marketers with the smarts to use PPC and paid search in ROI-driven campaigns, they're sometimes the right answer. Here's how to tell.
 

1. You Need Results Fast

For organizations that need a rapid influx of new leads, PPC can drive results much quicker than pure inbound marketing methodologies. Optimizing your website through content and SEO can take time. It can also be time-consuming to build an engaged social media following. Blogger Douglas Burdett reports it can take 6-9 months to see your full potential for inbound marketing results, though that figure can vary significantly according to industry. 
 
If your marketing team has aggressive lead generation goals to meet in a short period of time, paid search and PPC can be used as a tool for bridging a gap. As long as you don't become overly "addicted" to the easy results and let your inbound efforts slide, it can allow you to generate leads while working behind-the-scenes on a resource library and site improvements.
 

2. Your Traffic isn't Right

For brands that have some existing organic traffic but poor visitor-to-lead conversion rates, there can be a number of culprits. Perhaps your conversion pathways need optimization. Or maybe your local SEO efforts are off, and you're simply not attracting the right types of website visitors. Fortunately, it's easy to tell with a tool like Google Analytics. For locally-focused brands getting a strange influx of global traffic, PPC can allow you to perform geographic targeting while working on your local SEO.
 

3. You Have a Specific Amount of Budget

One of the most beneficial aspects of PPC is that you control the cost. You're able to control you're own budget when bidding on keywords and planning campaigns. For companies with a very specific amount of budgetary excess, PPC can be a tool for driving traffic.
 

4. You're Testing Ideas

PPC offers the extremely unique benefit of real-time feedback. For brands with a small following or audience, this can be an enormous benefit. If you're considering developing a new product or launching a new service line, PPC offers the benefit of targeted audience reaction. Same goes if you're testing out ideas for a new audience or developing new buyer personas. By monitoring real-time conversions from prospective customers, you can test ideas and concepts with lower cost input than going through a full product development cycle or inbound marketing campaign. 
 

5. You're Promoting a Limited-Time Offer

Does your brand offer 30% off all sale items every December? Is your annual conference for architects held in August? PPC and paid search can be powerful tools for supplementing inbound when it comes to time-sensitive deals or events. 
 

6. Your Lead Value is High

How much is the value of a lead to your organization? If you're unsure, it's important to do a bit more digging before you commit to a PPC or paid search campaign.
 
Ultimately, your average customer lifetime value (LTV) divided by your lead-to-customer conversion rate can reveal how much a lead is worth. For example, if your average customer spends $10,000 and 1 in 10 of your leads convert to customers, the value of a lead to your organization is approximately $1,000.
 
There are a few metrics that matter in the PPC and paid search process. You're essentially bidding on click-through rates. Some percentage of your "clicks" will convert to leads. While brands can -- and should -- work to optimize their visitor to lead conversions, you'll almost always have some percentage of visitors who "bounce" off your site instead of becoming contacts. Ultimately, the value of a lead to your organization should well exceed the cost per click times the average conversion rate. If your cost per click is $100 and you have a 50% conversion rate, you're averaging $200 per lead.
 
By understanding how the average cost of a lead from paid search and PPC compares to the average value of a lead to your organization, you can better determine whether PPC and paid search make sense for you. For some brands, PPC can be a cost-effective method of getting highly-qualified contacts. For other industries, the economics of PPC simply don't work. Generally, most marketers find that PPC and paid search are an ineffective way of promoting low-cost products or services.
 

7. You're Performing Audience Research

Perhaps your company is new to inbound marketing. Maybe you have a pretty limited understanding of your ideal customers or how leads find you. That's perfectly okay. When combined with other forms of market research, PPC and paid search can actually be pretty effective market research tools.
 
Ultimately, your organization can use paid advertising as a method to test the best keyword triggers and offers for your ideal customers. By running limited PPC and paid search campaigns on your offers and high-performing keywords, you can gain additional insight into the terms that matter during the initial phases of your buyer's journey.
 
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