An Introductory Guide: Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

In ancient days, people either grew their own food, or hunted for their food. The difference is massive. How does this apply here? Growing signifies inbound marketing and hunting signifies outbound marketing.

Although these days we prefer buying our food. Regardless, to keep with the analogy above, buying your customer from a source that sells customer data would mean grocery shopping. This essentially falls under the outbound marketing category.

A second analogy would be, one’s a loudspeaker (outbound sometimes known as interruption marketing) and the other is a magnet (inbound aka information marketing).

So, this begs the question …

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in the customer buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.

Inbound marketing is a 3-step method: content creation, search engine optimization and amplification through social media.

You create high-value pieces of content, optimize them with proper SEO practices so Google or any other search engine can match it with people’s search queries and lastly, you amplify it through social media (this is you taking charge of getting in front of people who are actively looking for your content).

Content can be created in many forms:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Whitepapers
  • Info-graphics
  • Presentations
  • E-Books
  • How-To Guides

Each piece of content needs to be properly optimized for search engines. SEO tactics include:

  • On-page SEO (Content housed on your website)
  • Off-page SEO (content housed on other platforms such as YouTube, Slide Share, etc.)
  • Keyword building
  • Keyword analyzing
  • Link building

Lastly, the content needs to be amplified via social media so it can reach your targeted demographic. You can do this via:

  • Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Online forums
  • Email newsletters

Okay. Now that you’re familiar with inbound marketing, let’s introduce outbound marketing. Later, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both methods.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing refers to any kind of marketing where a company initiates the conversation first and sends its message out to an audience.

Outbound marketing examples include more traditional forms of marketing and advertising such as:

  • TV commercials
  • Radio ads
  • Print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogs, etc.)
  • Tradeshows
  • Outbound sales calls (AKA “cold calls”)
  • Cold emailing

So, which marketing method should you use? Inbound? Outbound? Both?

Read my first rule of marketing and ponder upon it.

Mayur’s First Rule of Marketing

Marketing activities should always be thought in terms of its effectiveness, never in terms of good or bad.

In today’s world, using inbound marketing methods makes sense in majority of the cases. However, there are times when outbound marketing methods can also be equally or more effective. But, it’s rare these days.

Now, to get a better understanding between the two methods, let’s take a deeper look at the pros and cons of inbound and outbound marketing methods.

Pros of Inbound Marketing

Cost Effective – Compared to outbound marketing campaigns, inbound marketing campaigns are highly cost effective. Because of its targeted segmentation, you usually get a higher return on your investment.

Tracks ROI – Since inbound marketing happens completely online, its easy to add a tracker at each stage of the sales and marketing process. It’s important to track ROI at each stage of the process. This tells you if something is not working as intended and needs to tweaked at any given stage to increase conversion rates.

Builds trust and long-term relationships – The way inbound marketing works is customers find you online and initiate a conversation as opposed to you shoving content down their throat. Normally, this will only happen if the customer trust your content. Once the customer open the communication door, you can add a lot of value and build long-term relationships.

It the gift that keeps on giving – Lastly, inbound marketing is a gift that keeps giving. Since content stays online forever, customers will often find a blog post, or a video or a PowerPoint you created years ago and reach out to you. Hence, if properly optimized for ROI, a piece of content you created today can continue bringing you business five years down the line.

Cons of Inbound Marketing

It can be time consuming – Inbound marketing relies heavily on content creation. Hence, it can be very time consuming. A good way to create more content is to re-purpose a large piece of content. Also batching similar activities should help free up time.

You don’t see immediate results – Like I said earlier, inbound marketing is like farming. You don’t sow seeds today and expect the crop tomorrow. That’s not how it works. Inbound marketing takes time, but once it works, it will keep producing results for a very long time.

It is competitive – If it’s working, everyone’s doing it. Today, inbound marketing is working. Hence, you will find everyone trying to break in. Find a way to differentiate yourself and rise to the top. Remember, when everyone zigs, you zag.

Requires diverse skills and knowledge of new technology – Because Inbound marketing is heavily depended on fast-paced changing technology, you need to be able to keep up with all the changes and acquire skills needed to succeed. If you don’t personally have those skills, you need a team of professionals who do. People are your secret and unique weapon in the crowded field of marketing.

Pros of Outbound Marketing

Reaches a wide audience – Inbound marketing is usually targeted to a niche audience for increased ROI. That’s not the case with outbound marketing. The reach of outbound marketing methods are far and wide. A radio ad does not discriminate against who hears it and who does not. You could be a child or a senior citizen. If you’re listening to the radio, you probably hear the ad.

Results can be achieved quickly – Cold calling done right can get many customers interested right away.

Cons of Outbound Marketing

Audience not always ready for purchase – Outbound marketing is often referred to as interruption marketing. Hence, the audience is not always ready to take action when they are exposed to the message.

Often ignored by audience – On average we are bombarded by several hundred marketing messages in just one day – online and offline. Due to this, we’ve developed immunity against marketing messages that we are not interested in. Hence, even if we do come across a in-your-face marketing message, we most likely ignore it because it does not interest us at the given moment in time.

Low ROI – Outbound marketing offers a low return on investment. The initial cost of producing a marketing campaigns are very high and the conversion rates are extremely low.

In conclusion

Inbound marketing is when customer seeks you voluntarily and connect with you asking for more information or to conduct a transaction.

Outgoing marketing is where you interrupt the customer in their daily activities to get their attention.

I hope this guide gave you insight into Inbound and Outbound marketing methodologies. Neither is right or wrong. They’re either effective or ineffective depending on who your audience is. In today’s day and age, your best bet is to go with inbound marketing. That’s what I do.

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