Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing: Understanding the Difference

inbound vs outbound marketing

Gone are the days when marketing was just called marketing.

In today’s tech-savvy era, there are a variety of different types of marketing. Two of the most frequently implemented strategies are inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

But what is inbound marketing? How does it differ from traditional advertising? And should you be incorporating inbound strategies into your marketing plan?

You have questions, and we have answers. Let’s dive into the inbound vs. outbound marketing debate.

Outbound Marketing: Pushing Products Onto Consumers

Outbound marketing tactics aim to get your message in front of consumers, even if they aren’t searching for it. It is often referred to as “push” marketing.

If outbound marketing strategies were a person, they would be a loud and friendly extrovert who isn’t afraid to make the first move.

Marketers use outbound approaches to increase brand awareness and spark interest in a product or service. They may push ads onto 100 potential consumers in hopes that a handful show enough interest to begin the buying journey.

The problem with outbound marketing is that it can yield a low ROI. Pushing ads onto people who aren’t looking for them is similar to cold-calling, and many consumers ignore or block the ads.

Imagine a car salesman. A customer enters looking to replace the tires on their vehicle. The salesman says they have the tires in stock, but wouldn’t the customer rather purchase a shiny new car?

The customer says no because they are not looking for a new car, they are looking for new tires.

But if the salesman continues to push new vehicles onto every customer that enters the dealership, eventually, one may say, “You know what? I do want a new car. Let’s take a look at what you’ve got.”

What Does Outbound Marketing Look Like?

If you are a human, then you have been exposed to outbound marketing tactics. 

Traditionally, outbound marketing is every television, radio, billboard, or newspaper ad you come across.

In the digital world, outbound marketing is known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

These are the ads that appear at the top of a Google Search or show up on your Facebook timeline. They are digital ads that display messages about products or services available for purchase.

Another example of digital outbound marketing is receiving emails that you did not sign up for. Outbound marketers buy email addresses and flood inboxes with BOGO subject lines and free shipping codes to increase interest in a product.

Inbound Marketing: Letting Customers Come to You

So, what is inbound marketing? Inbound marketing strategies wait for consumers to show interest before engaging with them.

Inbound marketing tactics are less sales-focused and pushy. They use helpful information to entice readers to learn more about a product or service.

If outbound marketing is an extrovert, inbound marketing is a reserved introvert. Inbound marketing tactics do not push themselves onto consumers. They play hard to get and do their best to pull consumers in. 

While outbound marketing is sales-focused, inbound marketing is conversational. Outbound marketing demands you look at the ad, while inbound marketing talks you through an answer to your question.

Inbound marketing strives to build trust in a product or brand. Companies do this by providing high-quality content in the form of blogs, videos, and podcasts.

The biggest advantage of inbound marketing is how natural it comes across. 

Instead of viewing a brand as a company that wants to sell something, consumers view the brand as an industry expert. The trust goes a long way in guiding a lead through the buying journey and promoting word-of-mouth recommendations.

The success of inbound marketing strategies has led to 74% of organizations relying on this approach for their marketing, and 75% of marketers agreeing it is an effective tool.

What Does Inbound Marketing Look Like?

Since inbound marketing was established in 2005, it has focused primarily on digital mediums.

Content marketers, social media managers, and SEO specialists utilize digital media and high-quality content to reel buyers into a sales funnel.

That being said, an inbound marketing strategy may come in the form of a:

  • Blog
  • Video
  • Opt-in email
  • E-book
  • Podcast
  • Social media post (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and Twitter)

A successful inbound marketing campaign starts by using gated content to answer a question a target demographic may have. To receive the content, the user must provide information, like an email address.

Once the company receives the email address, they can add the user to an inbound marketing funnel. Now the user is a lead. This process is how inbound marketing leads to 72% more leads for businesses.

The company can periodically send emails to the lead that offers information on the original topic the user was searching for. The more information the lead engages with, the deeper into the sales funnel they go.

Eventually, that lead converts into a customer.

Combining Inbound and Outbound Strategies

You don’t need to put all your eggs into one basket. In fact, the perfect marketing recipe calls for a healthy dose of both inbound and outbound marketing tactics.

When you team up with marketing experts and implement your strategies effectively, inbound and outbound marketing tactics develop a symbiotic relationship. They work together to produce a high-yielding ROI.

Inbound marketing strategies are effective, but they take time. While you slowly nurture leads in your inbound marketing funnel, outbound marketing services can continue boosting top-of-mind-awareness.

Likewise, outbound marketing tactics push content onto users. They identify strong prospects and establish a conversation. Once you have a lead interested, you can apply inbound marketing tactics to convert the lead into a customer.

Ready to Boost Your Business?

So, now you understand the difference between outbound and inbound marketing. The next step is to learn how to apply these tactics to your business.

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