In this digital age, all marketing falls under two categories: outbound marketing and inbound marketing.
But which is right for your business? Or should you tackle both?
In this article, we’ll go over the differences between outbound marketing and inbound marketing. We’ll also explain which strategies work best for your brand.
The Difference Between Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing
First, let’s look at the difference between outbound marketing and inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing, for the most part, is your father’s marketing. It’s what people did before the Internet became popular in the 1990s.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is digital. It consists of ways to attract customers online.
There’s more to it than that, though.
Outbound marketing is more “salesy” in nature. It’s clearly a hard attempt to land a sale.
Inbound marketing is is more subtle. It’s used to attract people who are already interested in what you’re offering.
Let’s look at some examples of each type of marketing for further clarification.
Top Outbound Marketing Strategies
As we’ve seen, outbound marketing consists primarily of offline marketing. You can think of it as “old school” marketing.
That’s not to say it isn’t useful, though. Some brands still dump millions of dollars annually into outbound marketing.
Here are a few of the top outbound marketing strategies.
– It’s hard to believe that, at one time, TV was considered “new” media. So was radio. As technology evolved, so did marketing strategies. There’s still a demand for TV ads, though. That’s why a single 30-second commercial during the 2020 Super Bowl cost more than $5 million.
– Some people are under the impression that the days of cold-calling are gone just because the Information Age has arrived. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Salesforce is a high-tech company that achieved a $78 billion market cap because it produced software that supports outbound sales reps. That’s just one example of using “new school” technology to support “old school” marketing.
– Some marketers do a great job at getting the word out about their companies by making regular appearances at relevant trade shows. They shake hands with potential clients, chit-chat with business partners, and network their way to success. Those pros swear up and down that the recall value of making an appearance at a trade show is far superior to an advertisement or any online marketing.
– Yes, snail mail is still a thing. In fact, some marketers view their direct mail efforts as a way to gain an advantage over competitors who think it’s useless. They also like the fact that direct mail literature can be put aside on a desk and read later on, whereas emails that are glossed over are usually deleted and never seen again.
– Entrepreneurs still use newsletters as a way to build brand name awareness. They have to be mailed out consistently, though. Any on-again, off-again efforts at newsletter marketing probably won’t bear much fruit.
– One of the best old-fashioned ways to get the word out about your company or something new that you’re offering is with a press release. Although the statement itself won’t reach the general public, it might catch the eye of one or two journalists who will contact you for further information. Then, they’ll provide some free advertising in the form of an article.
– A great way to be in the right place at the right time is to be everywhere all the time. Some strategists try to do that with branded marketing. They hand out flash drives with company logos on them. They distribute calendars with contact info. They give away branded pens, paperweights, hampers, sticky notes, and other knick-knacks.
– There are still people who read newspapers and magazines. Those people have money to spend as well. That’s why some marketers even invest part of their budgets into print advertising.
– As a rule of thumb, billboards are best suited to local businesses. However, companies with easy-to-remember names or website URLs can still benefit from them.
Top Inbound Marketing Strategies
When the Internet went mainstream, savvy marketers saw dollar signs. They viewed it as a new marketing channel.
They were right.
As a result of the Information Age, a whole new class of marketing was created: inbound marketing.
As Hubspot explains, inbound marketing involves several steps:
- Attract people from your target market to your website
- Convert those people into leads
- Close the sale on those leads, so they become paying customers
- Delight those customers, so they become brand evangelists
Here are the top inbound marketing strategies.
– What brought you to this article? Chances are pretty good that you typed in a subject or keyword into a search engine. You saw a link to this blog post in the search results, clicked on it, and here you are. That’s just one way that content marketing can reach potential customers.
– Although most content marketing is blogging, not all blogging is content marketing. Usually, content marketing focuses on ranking content in the search engines for a particular keyword. Blogging, on the other hand, offers content that’s of interest to people in a market segment so that they voluntarily visit a website over and over again.
Social media marketing
– Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest aren’t just for jokes and cat videos. Marketers use them to promote products and services with relevant updates.
– Digital marketers use online forms to convert visitors into leads. That’s why they take great pains to ensure that their forms appeal to people in their target market.
– Although some people consider email marketing a type of outbound marketing, we’ll include it in this list because it’s digital. It should be noted, though, that excellent email marketing is not the same thing as spam. That’s because an effective email marketing campaign only targets people who’ve opted into an email distribution list.
– One of the best sources of “free” advertising is a high rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs). That’s why online marketers try to secure backlinks from reputable websites to gain page rank. They’ll also practice on-site optimization strategies, such as adding a sitemap, to secure a top spot.
PPC – Alas, not every listing in the search results appears organically. The top spots are usually riddled with advertisements. Although they cost money, great search ads can also generate a healthy return. Some marketers even opt for display ads that appear on blogs frequented by people in their market.
– Although content marketing and PPC can reel in visitors, those visitors don’t always become customers. But they might open up their wallets if they’re given a second chance. Enter remarketing: an online strategy that enables marketers to reach people who’ve already connected with their brand.
– The Information Age didn’t just bless us with new a marketing channel. It also gave us software that made marketing a whole lot easier. With the aid of automation tools, strategists can now schedule social media postings, distribute targeted emails, receive alerts about key performance indicators, and let algorithms handle routine, tedious tasks on their behalf.
– It’s not enough just to get people to a website, it’s also important that they convert. They need to take some action, such as buying a product or signing up for an email distribution list. That’s why marketers design entire web pages around the idea of turning visitors into customers.
Controversy Abounds (Of Course)
It should be noted that there’s some disagreement about the various examples of outbound and inbound marketing.
Depending on which blog you read, which marketer you follow, and possibly even which day of the week it is, you might find that some people consider all forms of advertisement (even online ads) as a type of outbound marketing.
Other analysts disagree.
Your mileage may vary, but for our purposes, any digital attempt to reach people who are likely members of your target market is considered inbound marketing.
Contrasting Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing
Now that we’ve defined both outbound marketing and inbound marketing, let’s look at some fundamental differences between the two so that you can get a better understanding of them.
First, outbound marketing is interruptive in while inbound marketing is permissive. That’s because outbound marketing hits people with ads when they don’t want to see them. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, reaches people when they’re looking for info related to a brand.
Also, outbound marketing provides little to no value while inbound marketing offers value. Think about it: a 30-second TV ad usually doesn’t usually offer anything beyond a sales pitch, but a great content marketing blog post can answer an important question provide a lot of value.
Outbound marketing is push-marketing whereas inbound marketing is pull-marketing. That’s because outbound efforts tend to “butt in” where they’re not wanted while inbound marketing meets people when they’re willing to learn more.
With outbound strategies, businesses chase customers. With inbound strategies, customers come to businesses.
As you can see, inbound marketing seems to offer a more user-friendly way to reach people. There are, however, advantages and disadvantages to each option. Let’s look at those next.
Advantages of Outbound Marketing
As far as advantages go, outbound marketing stands the test of time. It was around long before the Internet became a “thing” and was effectively used to reach customers for decades in the 20th century.
Indeed, as we’ve seen, it’s still used to this day.
Also, outbound offers some great opportunities if you’re into omnichannel marketing. Even though you might be “sold” on the idea that older marketing methods aren’t as effective as digital, they still offer additional ways to get the word out about your brand.
Keep in mind: there are plenty of consumers on the planet who aren’t tech-savvy. You’ll more likely reach those folks with outbound strategies.
Disadvantages of Outbound Marketing
On the other hand, outbound marketing does have its limitations.
For starters, it’s tough to calculate ROI with traditional marketing methods. For example, if you run a TV ad and your sales go up after a week or so, was it because of your commercial or was it just a coincidence?
Sure, you can poll customers to find out how they heard about your business, but those results are going to be woefully unscientific.
Also, outbound marketing tends to cost more than inbound marketing. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than “traditional marketing.”
Outbound marketing also lacks personalization. Everyone sees the same ad ocopy, hears the same narration, or watches the same video. It’s difficult to reach people in different segments with that kind of mass marketing.
It’s also a little more challenging to target specific market segments with outbound marketing strategies. A TV ad, for example, will often appear in front of many people from various demographics.
There are also several stats that give marketers concern about outbound strategies.
For example, 200 million people have registered on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list. That means people aren’t interested in being interrupted with a sales pitch.
Also, 84% of 25-to-34-year-olds have left a website because of intrusive or irrelevant advertising. Millennials don’t like interruption marketing.
Additionally, 44% of direct mail is never opened. That means almost half of all recipients just aren’t interested in what they probably call “junk mail.”
Advantages of Inbound Marketing
There are also advantages and disadvantages to inbound marketing. We’ll look at the advantages first.
First, as we’ve seen, there are cost advantages. The DemandMetric study shows that content marketing generates three times as many leads per dollar spent as traditional marketing methods.
Also, according to a poll by Ironpaper, 46% of marketers report that inbound marketing generates a higher ROI than outbound marketing. Only 12% said the reverse was true.
Inbound marketing also gives consumers more control over how they receive brand info. DemandMetric for example, says that 86% of people skip TV commercials. However, 60% of consumers are inspired to learn more about a product after they’ve read some content about it.
There’s also the quality factor. According to the Ironpaper poll, marketers prefer inbound marketing to get warm leads over outbound marketing by a margin of 59-16.
Hubspot claims about a third of marketers think that outbound strategies are overrated.
Inbound marketing tends to be more immediate as well. When people search for a term related to your business and find one of your articles from the results list, they could become customers almost instantly.
Disadvantages of Inbound Marketing
On the other hand, people who listen to a radio ad usually don’t click on anything right away. They have to remember the ad and then do some online searching to learn more about the offer.
It’s also usually a lot easier to measure ROI with inbound marketing efforts. That’s because you can check analytics to see which search ads, articles, or keywords brought visitors to your site. Then, you can allocate resources to similar campaigns.
There are some disadvantages with inbound marketing, though.
For starters, it requires constant attention. It’s not likely that you can write one article that will carry your brand for months just as some companies do with TV commercials.
Instead, you’ll likely need to produce several articles per week just to stay competitive. That will probably cost you a lot of time or money (or both).
Inbound marketing also requires a diverse skill set. You’ll need to know about copywriting, web technology, aesthetics, SEO, PPC, SEM, and SMM. That’s why a lot of companies outsource their inbound efforts to a reputable firm. That can get expensive, though.
Is Outbound Marketing or Inbound Marketing Right for Your Business?
It’s time to answer the critical question: should you choose outbound or inbound marketing for your business?
The answer is yes.
You should choose both options.
Now the question becomes: how much of your budget should you allocate to each type of marketing?
The answer to that question depends on your business model and the nature of your target market.
Usually, when you have to give potential customers “the warm and fuzzies” before you can expect them to make a purchase, you’re better off with outbound. That’s because you need to connect with people in real life during sales calls, at trade shows, or by some other means.
Of course, you also need a personality that’s suited for selling in that case. If you don’t have that kind of personality, you’re going to need to hire somebody who does.
Also, when people in your market tend to get their information from more traditional sources, it’s probably best to use outbound marketing. If you’re targeting people who watch a lot of afternoon television, for example, then it’s a great idea to run ads during the most popular programs in that time slot.
If you’re marketing to people who are in a hurry, you’ll likely benefit from outbound marketing.
Why? Because it’s often the case that those folks don’t have time to do a whole lot of research. When it comes time to make a purchase, they’ll rely on brands that they’ve heard about through good advertising.
There are also times when you’ll find that inbound marketing is far superior to outbound marketing.
For example, if you’re targeting people who are tech-savvy, you’re not likely to attract them with a print ad. Instead, it’s best to reach them with content marketing that uses keywords they’d likely plug into a search engine.
As a rule of thumb, millennials tend to be very tech-savvy. If they make up a large part of your market, then the lion’s share of your resources should probably be directed to inbound efforts.
In fact, if you’re selling high-tech products, then you’re almost certainly appealing to a tech-savvy market. In that case, you’ll want to opt for some online strategies.
That’s also true because people who buy high-tech products also prefer to do quite a bit of research before they make a purchase. They want to make sure they spend their money wisely.
You should target those kinds of consumers with content marketing, remarketing, and paid search ads.
Finally, if your market consists of people who prefer to consume information online, then you should prioritize inbound marketing over outbound marketing.
Yes, You Should Do Both
No matter what the nature of your business, you should probably invest some resources into both types of marketing.
Why? Because you’re likely to find people with one strategy that you might miss with the other.
If you watched TV during this past Christmas season, you might have noticed that Amazon was running commercials. Even though Amazon is a high-tech business that operates almost exclusively online, the company found some value in promoting its brand on television.
Follow that lead.
Also, even if you’re audience consists mostly of people who get their info from print sources, that doesn’t mean they will always be that way.
The human race is evolving. The people in your target market will evolve with it.
That’s why you should always have a forward-looking strategy. Adopt some inbound strategies even if they won’t generate immediate dividends.
Wrapping Up Outbound Marketing vs Inbound Marketing
Both outbound marketing and inbound marketing have their advantages and disadvantages. Although the future does seem to lean heavily in favor of inbound marketing, that’s not to say that you should disregard outbound completely.
Find the right fit for your brand, pay attention to your results, and make the necessary adjustments. That’s how you’ll succeed.