Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing (and why you need both)

In the world of marketing, there are two primary schools of thought: Inbound and Outbound. Traditional, outbound marketing ruled the scene for, like, literally forever, but has recently taken a backseat to the newcomer in marketing strategy: Inbound.

First, we’ll take a look at inbound and outbound marketing and how they differ, then we’ll discuss how to apply it to your own marketing strategy.

Inbound Marketing

The customer-centric approach, inbound marketing operates under the philosophy that buyers should be educated and entertained. In this approach, engagement is earned by providing value to your audience without frequent pressure to buy, buy, buy. You’re offering them something they want, solving a problem or making their lives easier. Buyers aren’t interested simply in buying, they are looking for you to enrich their lives.

Inbound marketing is effective because we’ve conditioned ourselves to tune out marketing and sales pushes. Instead, buyers are now empowering themselves to do their own research and make informed decisions about their purchases. Providing your potential customers with valuable information gives them the opportunity to discover your brand and engage with content they find relevant.

The more tech savvy the consumer, the further along their buyer’s journey they’ll be when they start to raise their hands and say, “I’m ready to purchase!” Giving them just what they want to see at the right moment can be the nudge it takes to solidify their sale.

Outbound Marketing

Also referred to as interruption marketing, outbound marketing uses traditional marketing methods to find customers and get their attention. You’re feeding them with marketing material, encouraging them to purchase your service or product.
Many marketers find that inbound marketing alone isn’t strong enough to make the splash they want to really drive sales and reach their goals. When used in tandem, outbound marketing can lead your desired audience to the inbound marketing journey, then guiding them through the sales funnel.

Inbound marketing, or pull marketing, can be very powerful and cost effective, and many business are adopting this strategy as a first priority in their marketing efforts.

Outbound marketing, or push marketing, still has its place, too. While inbound marketing might take center stage, outbound marketing is a classic for a reason. And when you have crafted your outstanding inbound content, how else will you find an audience to interact with it?

In the tourism industry, outbound marketing is essential to inspire and inform potential visitors about your destination. Consider yourself lucky if you are a tourism marketer, because you are given the unique opportunity to win them over with beautiful and creative content, giving your audience the chance to daydream with their heads way up in the clouds.

When choosing your stance in the great Inbound vs. Outbound debate, it’s important to do your research on all possibilities to see which might be best for your goals. Regardless of which side of the fence you may lie, incorporating a little bit of both can make all the difference on your bottom line.

Inbound vs Outbound marketing comparison. Image Source: Invoiceberry


As with any form of marketing, there are pros and cons to both inbound and outbound marketing efforts. Here are a few of the big-league pros and cons to each.

    The Pros and Cons of Inbound Marketing:

Advantages – These methods won’t cost you a nickel if you already have a website that’s up and running. Customers who respond to your ads have a higher likelihood of converting because they’re already looking for you instead of you searching for them.

Disadvantages – Not only does crafting the perfect content take a lot of time and effort, it can take quite a while for buyers to convert. You’ll need to exercise patience while you’re diligently nurturing them, and many marketers find the pace to be discouraging.

The Pros and Cons of Outbound Marketing:
Advantageous – Allows you to reach a vast audience, quickly. Displaying to a wide range of people can make a big impact on brand awareness, reaching customers you didn’t know existed.

Disadvantages – The quality of leads can be quite low, as not everyone you reach will be ready to buy. It also costs (sometimes a lot) more than earned channels, and the ROI can be paltry.

How to Apply it to Your Marketing Strategy

Image Source: Studio 7042 from Pexels

Perform an Honest Inventory. Look over your marketing assets with a critical microscope and evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Look for gaps and areas that need help and build from there. It doesn’t need to be a daunting task if you break it into smaller portions and illuminate opportunities for improvement, especially if there are segments that are missing completely.

Determine your budget and the capabilities of your existing team to guide your planning. How much can you invest in paid search? Does your website need a facelift but nobody in your office has the technical ability to implement an upgrade? Are you a talented copywriter but don’t have the time to find the right photos? Get clear on where you can handle the tasks yourself and where you’ll need some extra help.

Do Your Homework. Research your audience and what they want. What are their demographics? How do they prefer to interact with you? What are their pain points?

Building specific buyer personas will help you to create really relevant messaging and deliver that messaging in a way that your audience wants it. You can get started with a rough idea and refine the personas over time as you learn more about your prospects.

Establish Marketing Goals. Don’t skip or skimp – this is a crucial step. Get really clear on your business goals and use those goals to establish your marketing strategy. We love the SMART method – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

As you draft your strategy, it’s totally acceptable to make this a living, breathing plan that changes as you collect data over time. Start with some small goals and work through them until they become well defined goals. For example, you may start with, “We want more website traffic and more people to book trips.” That could evolve into, “We want to rank highest in this keyword search term to drive more traffic to our site.”, which could evolve into, “We will generate 20,000 new visitors to our site monthly, which will result in 50 new bookings.” See what I mean?

Nurture your leads at every stage in the buyer’s journey. Learn how to segment your audience based on where they are in the sales funnel. Are they just lurking around, thinking about a vacation sometime next summer? Are they settled on a travel destination, but not sure when they’ll visit? Are they ready to book accommodations and excursions and just need to nail them down?

Each of these behaviors should be treated differently and given unique content that will assist them in their decision making. We call this lead scoring. Crafting just the right nurture campaign for each stage of the buying journey will give your buyers what they want, when they want it. Think of it as a winding pathway, and you are holding the flashlight. You’re simply assisting your buyers on the way to their destination.

Slay it with exceptional content. You probably already know this by now, but content can make or break your marketing efforts. High quality, relevant content at the appropriate time is crucial to the efficacy of your strategy, whether it be inbound or outbound.

Don’t let your audience yawn and pass right over your messaging. Be concise, get inside the mind of your ideal customer, and give them what they want. What inspires visitors to come to your destination? What is their story, and where do you fit in? One of the best ways to generate killer content is to picture someone you know and love, or someone you’d like to know and love, and create content especially for them. This allows you to picture the reader as a real person, not just a faceless, nameless market segment. Then your content will really shine, because it’s personal and flows naturally.


So, there you have it. We hope this information assist you when choosing how to allocate your marketing budget and time. If you have any questions or need guidance, we’re always here for you.

Conditional Content Basics for Emails in Tourism Engine™

This will show how to create content that shows for specific conditions. You can show content based on the data in Tourism Engine™. That includes all the data imported into Tourism Engine™ as well. 

Why You’d Use It

Being able to control what content shows based on conditions allows you to understand what engages your audience. Are they more invested in deals or video content? How early in the season and they planning? 

How It Works

Tourism Engine™ reads script inside curly brackets: {}. These scripts will control what content shows to whom and where. You can use any variable from the user profile (so first_name, email, statefield, or any other custom field you created). These are case-insensitive.  You can use these operators:

  • = (which means equal)
  • != (which means not equal to)
  • > (greater than, think revenue)
  • < (less than)
  • ~ (contains the string)
  • !~ (does not contain the string)



#1. Show a special offer to in-state People.  

{if:statefield=CO}Hello Locals! To show you how much we love you, here’s an offer just for you. Take 15% with this link: 15% Off. {/if}


#2. Display text based on the user’s interests 

If you create a custom field with checkboxes to capture a user’s interests, you should then use the operator “~” as a user may have several interests.


#3. Display text according to the list subscription

If you want to display some text according to the list subscription, you can use the tag giving all lists the user is subscribed to. Then search if your list name is inside: 

{if:var.{list:names}~your first list name}Message for your first list{/if}
{if:var.{list:names}~your second list name}Message for your second list{/if}

Essential Email Marketing for DMOs


Remember this movie? And the excitement of hearing that “You’ve got mail!” jingle? Those were the days…

It’s 1998. You’ve Got Mail is in theaters. Tom Hanks in his hey-day.

The internet is now available to the masses (with dial-up connection!) and email is EXCITING. You got 1, maybe 2 emails a week and it was almost always your mom or grandma writing you.

Email marketing has come a long way since then. Pretty much every business organization has, at the very least, an email subscriber list and a basic newsletter they send on a regular basis. 

The tools to help these businesses make the most of landing in a subscribers inbox have come a long way too. The options can be overwhelming.

Since we’ve worked in this space for years, and helped many clients with email marketing solutions, we’ve boiled the key focus areas down pretty well. For DMOs, here are our tips below.


Pique curiosity during a traveler’s decision making window and inspire them year round with interesting and informative content. As a DMO, you are the ultimate expert on traveling in your region.

Email is a great way to deliver fun, catchy content at scale to an engaged audience. After all, they’ve already expressed interest in hearing from you. Now is your time to wow them with a professionally designed and expertly written email delivered straight to their inbox. Extra Pro Tip: Make your email stand out with an animated GIF, providing movement in an otherwise static environment.

Make it Personal

Many on your email list will get there from your website form. Make sure to collect as much as you can while balancing the fact that too long of a form will leave people wanting to bounce.

First things first: Collect their First Name! This allows you to speak directly with your subscribers, providing just a small touch of personalization can increase your open rates by 10-15%!

Besides knowing WHO your subscribers are, you can also learn what interests them about your destination, when they might visit, how they might visit (solo, group, with family, etc) and if they will need lodging. This seems like a lot – and it is – but with the power of email automation, you can provide engaging and relevant content to each of these segments with very little effort.

Visit Fort Collins collects lots of great info about their subscribers.

Be There for Them (while they’re… there)

Have a clue that a subscriber has booked a trip to your destination? Now what? Leave it up to fate to make sure they’re all set for a smooth, enjoyable trip? I don’t think so!

Automated campaigns can be sent before a subscribers trip begins with insider tips or an offer for an activity from one of your partners. Going one step further, deploy these messages as SMS messages to make sure you are being heard and communicate with your visitors while they are at your designation. Some email platforms have cross-channel functionality to deploy SMS messages to (like Tourism Engine™).

Get Them Talking

It’s been pretty much a one-sided conversion thus far, hasn’t it? You’ve given your subscribers a lot of (great) information, but haven’t heard a peep from them!

If you collected travel dates like we mentioned before, make sure to follow up with them to see how their trip went. Going one step further, ask them to share some of their favorite vacation memories on social media.

Ready to take the next step in creating a brilliant email marketing strategy for your destination? Contact us and let us know.

Creating an Animated Slideshow GIF for Use in Email

We’ve been using animated GIFs in email marketing for over a decade. It’s still an easy way to stand out a little and provide some movement in the otherwise static medium of email. There are virtually no drawbacks to using GIFs, other than the short amount of time it takes to create them. They’re compatible with just about every email client out there, and for users of Outlook 2005, they fail gracefully and simply show the first frame of animation.

Here, we’ll show you how to create a simple slideshow of four header images using Photoshop.

Create a file with four photos in four layers:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.16.01 PM

Bring up the Timeline palette by clicking on Window > Timeline, and then create 3 more animation frames by clicking on the little “Page” icon in the Timeline palette:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.19.56 PM
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.21.48 PM

Select the first frame in the Timeline and then “hide” all of the layers in the Layers palette:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.26.09 PM

Select the second frame in the Timeline and then “un-hide” Layer 2 in the Layers palette:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.27.53 PM

Do the same thing with Layers 3 and 4, so that each frame in the Timeline corresponds with a Layer in the Layers palette. Then change the Frame Delay from “0 sec.” to “2.5 sec” by clicking on the tiny triangle and selecting Other and entering “2.5”:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.31.38 PM

 You should also change your Loop from “once” to “forever” (unless you want to end the animation on a specific frame):
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.34.01 PM

You can test the animation with the Play button (right-pointing triangle). To finally save the file, click on File > Save for Web:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.37.09 PM

From the Save for Web dialog, select “GIF” as the image type, then click “save”:
Screen Shot 2018 03 08 at 4.39.06 PM

You can then upload the image to Tourism Engine and treat it the same as if it were a JPG or PNG file. We’re going to use this one in the header section of an email. Here’s the result:
seaside animation

Note: Animated GIFs are limited to 256 colors. If your animated GIF looks too “grainy”, then you can reduce the number of animation frames, or use images that have more similar colors, fewer colors, or less color variation.

Pro-Protip: Transparent colors don’t add to the filesize, so feel free to use layer transparency in your animations.

 Here’s something fun that Bobby created for his personal website:
super mario footer background

Marketing Opportunities for Tourism in 2018


The new year symbolizes opportunity, renewal, and a fresh start for many. This time of year, that means we’re assessing the digital landscape and helping clients seize the opportunities that arise from shifts in technology and consumer behavior. Below are a few things to know.

Social Media 

Prepare to delegate more budget to social media this year. The reasons:

  1. Organic impression share will continue to decline as social media platforms want more brands to “pay to play”. Paid media will be required for maintaining reach.
  2. Social media is becoming increasingly more vital to reaching travelers at all points in the funnel, from building awareness to the decisions they make once they arrive. More sophisticated strategies, consistency and measurement will be necessary to obtaining reach, engagement and conversion.

Key Opportunities

There are increasingly more opportunities to reach and engage with travelers and more targeting opportunities on social media to reach your ideal traveler, than anywhere else.

In 2018, Instagram and Pinterest are key platforms for reaching travelers in a visually appealing way and a thoughtful approach to expanding your presence on these platforms will be needed in 2018. Establish appropriate KPIs for each individual channel, track and measure performance. And don’t rule out Twitter just yet. Many are neglecting this channel, but it’s still a great way to communicate WITH your audience and be active in conversations around travel & your destination.

Tip: The visuals you choose for these platforms is just as important as the message. Make sure you develop a strong visual asset strategy in conjunction with a messaging strategy, & build an asset library with beautiful, attention-catching imagery you can choose from when crafting your posts.


The ever-changing world of SEO continues to be a point of frustration for many. Ranking is hard, and you need to play the long game with SEO. You’ll also need to stay on top of the algorithm changes and adapt accordingly. SEO audits are recommended at least once per year, depending on the size of your site.  Often times an audit will uncover simple, actionable tactics for improving your rankings on search engines and give you some bigger, long-term goals to work towards. 

Key Opportunities

SERP features are continuing to rise. These are the knowledge graphs, featured snippets, top stories, shopping results you see in search results. They’re driving traffic away from organic listings because they provide quick, relevant information for the search. There are many opportunities for you to get ranked on any number of these features, helping drive traffic to your site. You may also want to test out an influencer or affiliate strategy to reach an audience you don’t normally reach organically. These tactics can also build quality backlinks to strategic website pages to help your rankings.


Our inboxes are perpetually full, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on email marketing. There’s a few ways we can still stand out amongst the crowd.

Key Opportunities

Did you know that automated emails are 70.5% more likely to be opened? It’s because your emails are giving subscribers the information they want, when they want it. If better results aren’t enough, automation also saves you time and money. That’s why our Tourism Engine™ clients are so happy! :)

There’s so much valuable information we can collect from prospective travelers when they fill out a form, like date or season of potential travel, where they live (think drive market vs. fly market), and what activities they’re interested in. Having this information allows us to speak with travelers in a much more personal way. When we understand how and when a person is traveling, we can speak to them in a much more personal way and serve them content that’s valuable to their trip. And the ability to automate these personalized communications means more time for you to focus on other aspects of your business.

In addition to automation and personalization, you can leverage your email database to reach travelers on other channels too. Google AdWords Customer Match and Facebook Custom Audiences can fill the gaps and move customers further along the funnel when email can’t. 

These are just three opportunities for you to ponder as you shape your marketing strategy for the next year. Call or email us anytime for more insight and to see how we can support your efforts in 2018.

Attracting Tourists to Local Businesses

How local businesses can tap into the tourism economy.

Here’s to your success in reaching tourists!

Not a DMO or typical tourist attraction? You can still position your business in front of tourists! A few tactics are below.

Strong presence on social

  • Tourists are using social media more and more to find dining options on their vacations. Instagram allows users to save posts now, so that process begins at the time of booking. Help them get stoked on your brand and anticipate their arrival by:
    • Curating strong brand imagery
      • Cultivate a following and get them to save your posts!
      • Professional images help immensely.
    • Consistent efforts
      • Remember hashtags to gain visibility to the tourism audience
    • Coincides with blogging efforts
      • Push your blog content out on social, especially if your blog provides that “insider knowledge” travelers are looking for! Driving traffic to your blog will boost your SEO and if you have tracking installed properly, you can run retargeting campaigns on social or Google.

Programs with DMOs

    • Leads programs with Tourism Engine™
    • Email marketing/automated campaigns based on travel dates
      • Reach tourists while they’re here with relevant content
        • Summer tourists will want to see summer imagery & content around summer activities and elements of the outdoors
        • Winter tourists will have a much different experience and expect to see winter imagery and things to do indoors.


    • Start a blog that showcases your expertise in the local tourism scene
      • Create stories around what to do in your town or city, involving your business when appropriate
        • Breweries can gain visibility with outdoor enthusiasts by creating great content around these activities.
        • Coffee shops can position themselves as a place for pre-activity fuel by developing content around this.
    • Leverage your blogging efforts by repurposing for social media and email marketing. Pushing your blog content out on social and email will drive traffic to the blog, helping gain visibility in search results. It’s full circle!

Why you should invest in visual content in 2018

What’s the ROI on Visual Content?

It’s a brand-building effort that requires more time than, say, a promotion or ad campaign. You won’t see the ROI immediately, but any good investment in brand will pay off immensely over time. I gathered some stats to support this argument for our clients (partners) who need to bring hard data to their board or decision makers.

I’ll lead off by saying that I think we all get it on some level. Our world is becoming increasingly more and more visual. Social media is highly influential in the purchasing-decision process. People use memes to communicate thoughts and ideas (don’t even get me started). We live in an era where people don’t have the time, patience, or brain capacity to read long articles, magazines, and newspapers, so we have to show up where they do spend time (the internet!) and give them content that’s meaningful and consumable.

Ponder over these stats (and take ‘em to your boss if you need to!):

  • 78% of consumers believe that companies focused on custom content are more trustworthy than companies who simply churn out generic content. When companies create custom content, their audience is more likely to believe that the company cares about the consumer’s time.

  • Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than we process words.

  • 60.8% of marketers said visuals are absolutely necessary to their 2017 marketing strategy (source)

  • 35.5% of marketers said they would spend more than ⅓ of their entire marketing budget on visual content in 2017. (source)
  • 94% more page views when content has relative images (source)

Storytelling through images should be a key marketing decision for your brand in 2018. Images make you feel something, and people would rather hear a great story (and hopefully, be part of that story) than be sold something. Let’s get started – we’re here to help!

AGENCY Tourism Marketing

Portland, OR | Bend, OR | Denver, CO

[email protected]