Tomasz Banas

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

When it comes to spending your marketing dollars, there are two primary forms of marketing to consider: inbound marketing and outbound marketing. How these two different styles of marketing compare?

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

Seth Godin tweet this quote

When it comes to spending your marketing dollars, there are two primary forms of marketing to consider: inbound marketing and outbound marketing. Although most businesses can benefit from a bit of both types of marketing, it's important to consider the pros and cons of both forms of marketing, especially when you try to determine which type of marketing you should focus on the most. To that end, here's a look at how these two different styles of marketing compare.

The Approach

At the most basic level, outbound marketing and inbound marketing differ from each other in the approach that they utilize. With inbound marketing, the goal is to bring the customer to you. With outbound marketing, on the other hand, you create ads that bring your products or services to the customer. Due to the difference in this approach, outbound marketing is considered to be a “cold” approach, while inbound marketing is considered to be a “warm” approach. In other words, the customers are “warm” toward your products or services once they find you through the inbound marketing approach because they have already expressed an interest in your type of business by performing some type of search.

The Cost

Inbound marketing is significantly less costly than outbound marketing. Whereas outbound marketing campaigns can easily cost thousands of dollars to execute, inbound marketing campaigns can be generally started with just a few hundred dollars. In fact, some aspects of an inbound marketing campaign can be easily completed by the business owner or team members.

The Time

The amount of time it takes to get results can be quite different when comparing outbound marketing to inbound marketing. With a successful outbound marketing campaign, you could potentially see results right away. With an inbound marketing campaign, on the other hand, ypu're almost guaranteed to wait a while before you see results. This is because it will take time for the content and search engine optimization techniques you use to increase the ranking of your site in order to get noticed on the Web.

Long-Term Effects

While outbound marketing can potentially create quick results, these campaigns usually have only a very short-term effect. Once you stop running your television commercials and print ads, your target audience isn’t likely to remember you. With a properly implemented and maintained inbound marketing campaign, on the other hand, you're likely to enjoy results for quite a long time. In fact, the return on an inbound marketing campaign generally just gets better over time.
When deciding on how you’ll market your business, it is important to always consider all of the options that are available to you. In this way, you can make sure you're implementing the best marketing campaign for your business needs.

Inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on putting the right structures in place to allow customers to find you. A number of different strategies may be used to increase the likelihood of being found by customers.

Inbound marketingPromoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to bring customers in closer to the brand. [...]


These include:

  • Creating relevant content
  • Implementing search engine optimization strategies
  • Utilizing social media

The most successful inbound marketing campaigns utilize all three of these strategies. In fact, the most common approach to creating a successful inbound marketing campaign involves the following 3-step approach:

Step 1: Create content in a blog, eBook, video, white paper or other medium of choice

Step 2: Perform a keyword analysis and utilize search engine optimization techniques to help increase the rank of the content, while also making it more accessible.

Step 3: Use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to help spread the content throughout the Internet

One example of a highly successful inbound marketing campaign would be the one that was used by President Barack Obama. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama hired Chris Hughes, who was the co-founder of Facebook, to serve as his Internet Strategist. Through the use of text messages, email and online networks such as Facebook and YouTube - Hughes opened up the lines of communication and made it easier to spread Obama’s message to the voters. Obama went on to win the presidency and currently has more than 47.8 million Facebook supporters, more than 44.3 million Twitter followers and more than 294.6 million YouTube views.

Permission marketingSeth Godin has proposed a new idea-permission marketing. Here, consumers provide marketers with the permission to send them certain types of promotional messages. This is seen as reducing clutter and search costs for the consumer while improving targeting precision for marketers.

Seth Godin

Aside from having the potential to reach a large number of people, inbound marketing offers a number of potential benefits. One of these benefits is the fact that inbound marketing is a cost-effective method for gaining new customers. In fact, according to a 2013 study titled “2013 State of Inbound Marketing” those businesses that use inbound marketing strategies enjoy a 50 percent average lower cost per lead. This is largely because many avenues for inbound marketing are available for free or for very little cost. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, for example, don't cost anything to use. Yet, they can both be highly effective at reaching thousands or even millions of people. Similarly, optimizing content generally costs less than paying for costly advertisements, even when a professional SEO company is hired to do the work.

Another benefit to concentrating on inbound marketing is the fact that the techniques are geared toward a very specific target audience. Rather than trying to cast a net over a broad group of people, inbound marketing strategists identify the target audience and then put the right tools in place to help members of that target audience find the products or services that are being advertised.

While inbound marketing focuses on getting the customer to find you, this doesn’t mean all of the basics of traditional marketing are tossed out the window. With inbound marketing, it's still important to monitor and to measure your progress while continually strategizing for the future.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is a term used to refer to traditional forms of advertising, all of which involve taking steps to send a particular message to the target audience. Examples of outbound marketing techniques include:

Outbound marketing - non pejorativeMarketing communications are messages and related media used to communicate with a market. Marketing communications is the "promotion" part of the "marketing mix" or the "4 P". It can also refer to the strategy used by a company or individual to reach their target market through various types of communication. [...]

more ... Wikipedia

  • Cold calling
  • Email bursts
  • Print advertisements
  • Tradeshows
  • TV commercials

As the Internet continues to grow in popularity and continues to present more creative methods for advertising, outbound marketing is losing its popularity as a form of advertising. Nonetheless, some companies spend as much as 90 percent of their marketing dollars toward outbound marketing.

Since outbound marketing involves paying to place advertisements in various forms of media, it is more costly than its counterpart known as inbound marketing. Not only does outbound marketing cost more to implement, but there are many difficulties involved with this strategy as well. For example, a recent CRM Daily report found that inbound marketing strategies offer a greater return on investment than outbound marketing strategies do. This happens due to a combination of high initial cost, difficulty with targeting a specific audience and an increased usage of blocking techniques - such as spam filters and do not call lists, which make it more difficult for these ads to reach consumers. Furthermore, tracking the actual return on investment is difficult when using outbound marketing strategies.

Outbound marketing - pejorativeInterruption marketing is a pejorative term that refers to promoting a product through continued advertising, promotions, public relations and sales. It is considered to be an annoying version of the traditional way of doing marketing whereby companies focus on finding customers through advertising. [...]

more ... Wikipedia

All of this doesn’t mean that outbound marketing is obsolete. For certain types of products and services, outbound marketing can still be an effective strategy. In addition, for some businesses, using a combination of inbound and outbound marketing strategies may be the best option. For smaller businesses, however, the costs that are associated with outbound marketing are generally too great to justify the expense.

What experiences have you had with outbound marketing? Where you able to reach new customers and grow your business with the help of these techniques? What kind of strategies have worked for you in terms of pushing your business to the next level? Let’s hear your stories!
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