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The Big Myth About Inside-Out Marketing

The name of my company is InsideOut Marketing, so obviously, I find value in this approach. I’m a contrarian. A lot of marketers disagree with me quite strongly about the validity of this approach. Those who disagree with me say inside-out marketing is an old school strategy and washed up. They are climbing over one another to be the most outside-in marketers possible. Here’s why they are dead wrong.

Inside-Out vs. Outside-In Marketing

Inside-out marketing, by definition, focuses on the internal aspects of an organization first. That means identifying what it does well, its strengths, weaknesses, available resources and processes. On the other hand, outside-in marketing begins by identifying customer needs and trends, and addressing those. As a result, the inside-out approach is developing its offering and then finding a market that fits. The outside-in approach is finding a customer to serve, then developing a solution.

So, by these definitions, how could Inside-out Marketing possibly be the place to begin? Doesn’t everyone agree the customer should be our primary focus? In truth, the difference between the strategies isn’t what is addressed; it is the order in which they are addressed.

A Side-by-side Comparison of Inside-Out and Outside-In Strategies

What Today’s Marketers Overlook

The key difference factor between the two approaches, besides the order they are undertaken, is the source of the organization’s “why”. In the Inside-Out approach the organization has a purpose and reason to exist that it fulfills by serving its customers. Additionally, it has been supported that customers don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. This is even truer for younger generations.

A brand without its own “why” is like an individual with no personality; bland and uninteresting.

For the Outside-in marketing approach, the organization builds itself around the consumer’s expressed wants. Those become its reason for existing. While this may sound altruistic, it is a long-term problem for the organization. The problem arises from notoriously changeable customer needs and wants. Additionally, since it is relying on customers to drive its offering, it loses much of its opportunity to be truly innovative. Customer wants are framed by what already exists. They have no idea what is possible in the mind of the inventor.

Can Both Approaches be Successful?

In reality, every successful organization uses both inside-out and outside in approaches to round out their marketing. Instead of seeing the two approaches as an either/or , they leverage them like a continuous feedback cycle of improvement and adaptation.

There are two notoriously successful primarily inside-out organizations that have truly disrupted our culture and transformed it. The first is the Ford Motor Company, and the second is Apple. While there are outside-in success stories as well, such as Amazon, the dismissal of inside-out as a valid approach ignores the power of “why” as the main attractor of new customers and organizational sustainability.

Both approaches have valid arguments, but only Inside-out marketing builds the unique brand persona and unbreakable emotional bonds with customers that are so necessary for standing out today.

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