Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: What the Difference Is, and Why You Need Both

Outbound marketing is what used to be known only as “marketing,” in that it encompasses the traditional art of broadcasting print, radio, TV, and digital ads and signage. Inbound marketing takes the opposite approach by employing strategies that help one’s business become “found” by consumers already researching and shopping in your niche or industry.

Whereas outbound marketing is the equivalent of shouting at the top of your lungs into the void, hoping that someone hears it, inbound marketing is akin to holding a flashy neon sign on a dark street corner, commanding the attention of all passersby. 

Inbound and outbound marketing leverage “pull” and “push” tactics, respectively, to rope in new prospects and generate leads. For your business to succeed in today’s market, you must be putting equal stock in inbound and outbound marketing strategies—otherwise, you’re bound to bleed sales to your competitors that are. 

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Most of us intuitively understand the basics of outbound marketing. It involves interruptive methods to get your message to as many people as possible. The most common interruptive outbound methods are cold calling, mail campaigns, and ad spends. 

By contrast, the definition of inbound marketing is often described as the technique of drawing customers to one’s business through content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), branding, and social media marketing. In other words, inbound marketing makes it easier for customers and leads to find your business on their own, without having to be exposed to disruptive, expensive, and often counter-productive ads that can turn off non-interested parties.

Why Your Business Needs Inbound Marketing

Most businesses overinvest in their outbound marketing efforts usually for no reason other than the fact that they’re unfamiliar with the benefits afforded to them by inbound strategies. Below, we’ve listed some of the top reasons why you need to leverage inbound techniques to attract more targeted leads and prospects. 

Cost Savings

There’s no denying that outbound marketing strategies cost considerably more than inbound ones. The costs of preparing physical print and mailing materials, or ad spends on radio or television, cost many times more than a WordPress-hosted website and a robust content marketing strategy. 

Blog content, social media promotion, and front-end web development and SEO hold the potential to generate more qualified leads than a standard radio or online banner advertisement at a lower price point. In fact, studies have shown that the average outbound marketing lead costs over $330 compared to the $130 price tag of an inbound marketing lead. 

Stretching Your Per-Dollar Spend

According to a recent Hubspot survey, inbound marketing spurs nearly 55% more leads than outbound marketing tactics for every dollar spent. In other words, not only are outbound ads more expensive than inbound marketing content, but they also aren’t as effective as their inbound counterparts.

Capitalize On The Awareness Stage

It’s rare that customers decide where they’re going to spend their money on the day of their purchase. There are three stages in the buyer’s journey that every customer undergoes before making a transaction online:

  • Awareness Stage: The customer has identified a problem that they require a good or service to solve, and are actively researching brands to help find a resolution.
  • Consideration Stage: The customer understands there are various solutions to their problem, and is weighing their options.
  • Decision Stage: The customer has limited their choice of solution to a select few, and is about to decide which to invest in.

Having quality, well-researching blog content on your company’s website allows potential customers to discover your brand organically while searching for a solution to their problem. Consequently, your brand remains in their memory and they eventually associate your brand with the solution to their problem. Thus, you enter their perception at the “awareness” stage of the buying journey. 

Lateral Communication

Traditional advertisements are mute objects that cannot be interacted with. Inbound marketing channels, such as curated Facebook page, provide an opportunity for your customers to have a dialogue with your brand by asking questions or writing comments. 

Exchanging messages with your prospective customers makes them feel as though they’re in control which, in turn, generates a more positive view of your brand experience.

Examples of Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing isn’t as clearly defined or concrete as outbound marketing examples. To avoid confusion, we’ve listed some examples of inbound vs. outbound marketing methods below.

  • Inbound: A viral 4-minute YouTube video with your brand name and logo included.
  • Outbound: A 30-second TV commercial during the Super Bowl.
  • Inbound: A 3,000-word blog post about what qualities to look for when shopping for football equipment.
  • Outbound: A 15-second radio advertisement.
  • Inbound: Complete, highly active company Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.
  • Outbound: Banner advertisement at the top of a news website.
  • Inbound: Relevant Search Engine Optimized (SEO) text on all landing pages on your company’s websites.

Although outbound marketing techniques make more noise, inbound tactics provide non-disruptive content that appeals to your niche customer base at the earliest stages of their buying journey. It’s no surprise, then, that leads generated by inbound marketing are more likely to convert than leads gathered by TV commercials or paid radio segments.

Inbound Marketing: Limited But Necessary

One of the cardinal problems of inbound marketing is that it’s hard to measure its ROI. Unlike outbound marketing, which focuses on the hard sell, inbound has to do with improving brand awareness and providing value-added content to prospective customers. 

A practical, forward-looking marketing strategy in the 2020s involves a healthy mix of inbound and outbound tactics. One which builds around valuable content that establishes your brand as a trusted authority in your niche, while also proactively reaching out to prospects with a modest and minimally-disruptive outbound strategy.

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