Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

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Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

July 8, 2018

You might have heard words like "inbound" or "outbound" marketing thrown around, but what do they mean? They represent the two major types of present-day marketing strategies. Outbound marketing is the most traditional form of marketing that dates back hundreds of years, although it is still changing throughout the digital age.


Inbound marketing is the "new" form of marketing that challenges traditional marketing strategies and aims to "pull" rather than "push" as traditional marketing has always done. We'll start with going over the traditional "outbound" methodology.


Outbound Marketing - Traditional "push" marketing


Marketing has traditionally been disruptive in its efforts to drive sales and reach potential customers. Companies would blast audiences with radio ads, television commercials, billboard ads, online display ads, email blasts, cold-calling, and even door-to-door selling.



These strategies are geared towards getting a companies messages about their products and services in front of as many people as possible, hoping that they drive sales and brand awareness.


Before the digital revolution, outbound marketing was basically the only practical way to get your message in front of your audience. As the marketing/advertising environment has evolved, consumers have learned to tune out the abundance of advertisements they encounter every day.


Innovations/trends such as no-call lists, ad-blockers, and the ability to skip commercials on sites like YouTube have made it even more difficult for marketers to reach their target audiences. 


Pros of Outbound Marketing


- Ability to reach a broad audience (Super Bowl commercials, for example)
- Users don't have to "opt-in" to seeing these ads
- Ability to reach audiences in specific "locations" (specific television channels, radio stations, magazines, etc.)


Cons of Outbound Marketing


- Acquiring leads can be expensive
- Ads can come off as "spammy" or annoying
- Difficult to get feedback in a "one-way" communication
- Ads are easily avoided by consumers


Inbound marketing - relationship-based "pull" marketing


As traditional marketing strategies became more difficult more difficult and (sometimes) less effective for businesses, many marketers began to turn their focus to an "inbound" approach.


The goal of marketing is to connect with your audience without interrupting their daily lives. This is accomplished by providing value BEFORE your audience decides to purchase your products or services.



Inbound marketing aims to "pull" in potential customers by providing them with blogs, engaging social media campaigns, infographics, and by developing a "two-way" street of communication.


Put yourself in the consumer's shoes. You're watching your favorite television show only to be disrupted by a sporting goods commercial that you have minimal interest in. How annoying, you'll probably just check your phone until your show is back on! That's an example of how outbound messages can be ineffective.


Now that your show is over, you decide that you're hungry for some gourmet Italian food. You jump on your phone and Google "best Italian food in town," and a list of your top options show up in your Google results.


Those restaurants have used search engine optimization as an effective inbound marketing strategy because they reached you in a place that already interested you!



Now let's pretend that you saw some outrageous Italian food prices online and elect to cook up a delicious pasta dish at home. You search Google for chicken alfredo recipes and find an excellent guide on a cooking website.


You are so impressed with the results that you decide to opt into the cooking website's weekly newsletter. That's another example of inbound marketing!


Pros of Inbound Marketing


- Cost-effective (social media posts, SEO, and blogging are basically free)
- Builds lasting relationships
- Easy access to feedback
- Avoid being "spammy" or intrusive
- Build trust with audience/customers


Cons of Inbound Marketing


- Time-consuming (SEO, blogs, and social media require time commitments)
- Difficult to reach new audiences when starting off
- Potential customers can consume content without purchasing your products and services


Now that I know the differences, which is right for my brand?


There really isn't a definitive answer for every brand out there. Outbound marketing strategies are still effective for many companies because of the ability to reach large volumes of new audiences. Outbound marketing particularly continues to play a significant role in B2B companies' marketing strategies, and we don't expect that to change anytime soon.



As a digital marketing agency, we tend to have a slight bias towards the inbound marketing methodology. We believe that creating valuable content for your audience will result in lifelong customers who have a high level of trust in your brand.


Even though inbound marketing takes a substantial time commitment, especially when first getting started, your marketing costs will decrease over time with a solid SEO, social media, blogging, and comprehensive inbound strategy.


Our recommendation


We recommend that instead of choosing an inbound OR outbound strategy, you utilize some of each to create a marketing plan that fits your unique business. You can combine SEO, blogs, and social media with search ads, commercials, and other outbound strategies to reach your business goals!


Just make sure that your brand messaging is consistent throughout your marketing efforts and measure your results to see which strategies and working and which aren't!




Inbound marketing has seemingly taken the world by storm, but there is still plenty of value in traditional marketing strategies. Hopefully, this article helped you understand the difference between the two marketing methodologies and you can begin to apply parts of each to your overall marketing strategy!


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