Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

2 years ago 4 minute read
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

Inbound vs outbound marketing boils down to two different types of people. Those who will go seek out your product and those who you need to seek out. This is not an article to discuss the ethics of either approach of marketing, rather simply to discuss the differences. These two marketing methods are very different, but no one can deny that they both work. You might find that one or the other works best for you. Typically, you do not choose one or the other exclusively. You will run both types of marketing efforts but focus more heavily on the one that works best for you. Now, what’s the difference between inbound vs outbound marketing? 

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is typically referred to as the more ethical way to market your product/service. This is because inbound marketing is more subtle and not in your typical sales hunting way. It is the way of attracting customers with helpful information until they become your customers. This is typically done through marketers that focus their efforts on content marketing, SEO, and social media. These are all ways you can get in front of your ideal customers and have them come to you. Inbound marketing may be non-promotional (in a way) and not forced onto people, but that’s not to say it’s easy. Marketers spend hours upon hours creating content, developing social media strategies, and pouring over SEO criteria to rank higher. Like any campaign, you need a solid strategy to see any success. 

This type of marketing takes upfront investment, lots of time, excellent content creation, a clear outline, and promotional experience, therefore it can be very difficult to get right. Regardless of whether we are discussing inbound vs outbound marketing, the one thing that can bring your efforts to collapse around you is content. If your content is not up to par or is not engaging, everything else won’t matter. 

When to Use Inbound Marketing

As great as you think your inbound marketing efforts are, you will not see immediate results, regardless if you are in a niche with little to no competition. This is due to the search index ranking. It takes time to understand what content works for your niche, tailor your content to that niche, and have search engines rank you high enough to be seen. On the other hand, in the long-term, inbound marketing can cost over 60% less compared to outbound tactics. Once you have your content out in the world, you can drive evergreen organic traffic, pull visitors, leads, and customers. Once you start ranking well and the content you post starts ranking well, it can remain there for some time. You can see why inbound marketing is typically the preferred approach for those of you who are looking for long-term efforts. 

Unfortunately, that sounds easier than it really is. You can’t just create content when it is convenient and sit back for your success to grow. This is where a clearly defined strategy comes in. Your strategy has to cover everything from audience research, competitive analysis, link building, and a clear outline for your blog and social media. This is not to say that if you build your strategy, it is set in stone. You must always be tracking, testing, comparing, and adapting your strategy. Algorithms, your audience, topics, etc. are always changing and it is your job to stay on top of it. 

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is also known as “push” marketing and is the use of marketing tactics to get your product/service in front of people that are not searching for it. Traditional outbound marketing like TV, radio, print, billboards, etc. is there for everyone to see (or hear). However, in the digital era, there are still outbound marketing efforts, but they look a little different. Today, this looks like paid ads in various forms. Whether you are talking about more traditional outbound marketing or digital, the goal is the same. 

Marketers use this marketing strategy with the hope that a fraction of the audience that sees their ads will take an interest in their product/service. This was more of a shotgun approach in traditional outbound marketing where you can only narrow down the field so much. In digital outbound marketing, you have the ability to narrow down your field more and get in front of more of the target audience. However, there is a downside of this and a reason why the clickthrough rates of display ads are so poor, nobody is asking for them. 

Fortunately, not every outbound marketing tactic has such a low conversion rate. With tailored tactics such as cold email outreach, you can see open rates of over 15% and CTR rates of up to 14%. In other words, outbound marketing still works. 

When to Use Outbound Marketing?

Think to yourself. Have you ever clicked on an ad while scrolling through social media, watching a Youtube video, or going through the promotions tab in your email account? Yes? Good. Now, what about more traditional outbound marketing tactics, such as TV/radio ads, billboards, etc? I know I have done both, but through the digital tacts more often. Typically, I was not familiar with the brands that I have clicked on through social media or other forms of ads online. Through those outbound campaigns, I was made aware of new brands and in some cases, I have recommended them to others or have gone back to make purchases on multiple occasions. 

If you are a new brand, this is why it is important to involve yourself in outbound sales tactics in order to build your brand awareness. Without brand awareness, you would be sitting back waiting for your content to rank and by the time that happens, you would be out of business. By fully understanding who your target audience is, you can then dive into the analytics to identify more data points on them. You can learn their online behaviours, interests, geodata, etc. This will allow you to understand where your outbound marketing tactics should be in order to get in front of them. Then you can develop ad messages and a marketing strategy that resonates with your researched target audiences. 

Which is Better?

Trying to determine which one is better is like comparing apple and milk. They are not necessarily comparable but they have their times where you would prefer one over the other. It all depends on a particular situation, for instance, you wouldn’t reach for an apple if you were thirsty. Nor would you reach for an inbound marketing strategy if you were trying to get your 2-week old brand in front of your target audience quickly. 

Instead of inbound vs outbound marketing, combine these marketing tactics until you are able to see the performance of your tactics and can decide where to invest more. This isn’t like ordering at a restaurant when the waiter asks if you want fries or salad, you shouldn’t choose one or the other. Any good marketing strategy involves both of these strategies. It will take some time to develop your full marketing strategy and where you put the majority of your marketing efforts. As mentioned, this is a continually evolving process and is never set in stone. 

It’s all about having a good strategy and tracking, testing, and adapting as you go.

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Written by

Nick Hollinger | CEO

I am the CEO and Co-founder of Visitor Queue. Currently working with ~5000 companies across the globe including Microsoft and Jones Lang Lasalle. In my spare time, I am also the Game Day Director for one of Canada's most successful Junior Hockey Teams (the London Knights). Previously, I held Head of Marketing/Sales roles at SMB B2B organizations. A strong believer that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. I enjoy sharing my knowledge, experience, and opinion on Marketing, Sales, SaaS, and Entrepreneurship.