A few weeks ago, I posted about attending speed networking events to connect my knowledge of inbound marketing with the needs of local business owners. I've come away from these events with new insight into what services my prospects need, the gaps in their knowledge when it comes to inbound marketing and social media B2B, the distance between where they want to be in social media and where they really are, and (of course) stacks of business cards.
Each event is enlightening and helpful for several reasons, and one of the goals I have for these events is to create crossover between my real-world connections and my inbound marketing connections. Remember, as you build your strategic marketing plan to include a mix of real-world networking, face-to-face meetings, social media marketing, Webinars and other aspects of inbound marketing, your audience will, largely, have the same needs, challenges, gaps and goals. Does that mean you can substitute one for the other? Not at all.
Just as building a website in the earlier days of the Internet didn't mean giving up your Yellow Pages ad (yet!) inbound marketing does not replace real-world networking or other traditional marketing efforts -- in your area or region or across the world. And there's a big difference. I'd venture to say that inbound marketing will never entirely replace traditional marketing... and especially not face-to-face networking. Every strategic marketing plan needs the right mix.
So what is the right marketing mix? How much of your monthly, quarterly or annual marketing spend should be devoted to inbound marketing vs. traditional marketing? And how heavily should your business rely on those local connections? It's impossible to make an estimate that would apply to every business owner and marketing director reading this. The current intelligence shows that inbound marketing reaps greater rewards at a lower cost-per-lead than outbound marketing.
The most practical answer is to invest what you feel you can afford now and, as your inbound marketing results grow, begin re-allocating your budget dollars and fine-tuning your marketing mix. Keep doing the things you know have a measurable, positive impact on your business - it would be foolish not to put the dollars where the results are, right? Keeping at least one foot in the door of traditional marketing efforts is taking the safe route, to some degree. Newspaper ads? Magazine advertising? Local cable commercials? At a minimum, integrate your traditional marketing with your online efforts to increase results. But keep in mind that many forms of push marketing are just not as profitable as they used to be.
But I don't think I'd ever recommend foregoing those person-to-person connections at industry events and local networking meetings. If nothing else, it reminds you that the people on the other end of your Wifi connection are just that -- people.