What’s the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

September 27, 2017

If you’ve got even the most basic understanding of marketing, you probably know that there are two common methods: inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

What’s the difference? They’re both used to bring in customers, right? Well, yes, but that’s where the similarity ends. Let’s dig in and get the lowdown on the tactics that are the hallmarks of each type of marketing, so you can decide which is best for you.

Outbound Marketing

For centuries, marketers have been trying to get people to buy their products— even before the term “marketing” existed. Our friends at HubSpot created this fun infographic that shows you exactly how far back marketing stretches, and how it has changed over the course of the 20th century.

Outbound marketing is intrusive. It demands that prospects pay attention. It uses a variety of methods to get the word out about products or services. Here are some of the most popular outlets for outbound marketing:

  • Print and direct mail marketing— Practically since the advent of the printing press, there have been advertisers schilling their wares. The first magazine was printed in America in the mid-18th century, and they’ve been filled with ads ever since. Then there’s direct mail. Every time you open your mailbox, it’s full of catalogs, flyers, and other “junk mail” that goes directly into the recycling bin. Despite its bad rep, it continues to be a popular source of advertising. As a matter of fact, in 2015, marketers spent $46.8 billion on direct mail.
  • TV and radio ads— When the radio became popular in the 1920s, advertisers began sponsoring shows. As television came on the scene, the radio shows died out, but the ads stayed put. Turn on the car radio, and you’ll likely be inundated with ads between songs. Marketers became aware of the popularity of television and created creative and innovative ads to capture the attention (and the wallets) of viewers. (That’s not to say that all ads are created equal— for every Apple “1984” ad, there’s a local car dealer awkwardly hawking his upcoming sale.)
  • Telemarketing— You just sat down to dinner, and before you can enjoy your first bite, the phone rings. You answer, and it’s a telemarketer. Sigh. Since the early 1980s, businesses have been spending billions of dollars to place millions of calls per hour.
  • Billboards—  Billboards first popped up in North America in the late 19th century, but they didn’t become ubiquitous until the early 20th century. If you’ve ever passed a two story picture of a burger and pulled off onto the next exit to eat lunch, the billboard has done its job.  

What do these methods have in common? They’re tough to avoid. Sure, people can change the channel when a commercial comes on, flip past the ads in the magazine, or toss the direct mailers as soon as they walk in the door, but they can’t stop them altogether.

Outbound marketing lacks personalization, which makes it less effective. It’s tough to tell what’s working and what’s not. As an outbound marketer, you won’t know if the direct mailer you sent last month, or the radio ad running at the same time brought a customer to you. Outbound means that you often lack the data needed to adjust your tactics and your budget.

Here’s the biggest issue with it— it’s expensive. How expensive? Well, it’s estimated that an outbound marketing campaign costs 62% more per lead than its inbound counterpart. In other words, you’re paying more to irritate people who aren’t necessarily interested in what you have to offer.

Inbound Marketing

The term inbound marketing was first coined by HubSpot co-founder Brian Halligan in the late 1990s. The seeds for inbound marketing were sown before then, with ideas such as permission marketing and relationship marketing. Both of these focused on taking a less aggressive and more personalized approach to selling, creating lasting relationships with satisfied customers over time.

Here’s a quick rundown on commonly-used inbound marketing tactics:

  • SEO— SEO, or search engine optimization, helps your page rank higher in internet searches. There are several search engines used by people around the globe—Google alone fields 40,000 searches per second— and it’s important that your website is ranked high on the list of responses to certain keywords or key phrases. How do you do that? We can help, regardless of your level of knowledge.
  • Content marketing—More and more businesses are incorporating blogs into their websites, and you can thank content marketing for that. Content marketing gives businesses the opportunity to inform and educate their consumers without being too “in-your-face” about it. They offer the information, and consumers can find it when they’re ready for it. With that in mind, it’s important to have content that’s relevant to all stages of the buyer’s journey on your website. That way, you can meet your customers where they are.
  • Social media— If you don’t have an account on at least one social media platform, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to connect with your audience. You can interact with actual customers, developing a relationship over Twitter or Facebook that will earn you their loyalty over time. Additionally, you can score major points by directly addressing customers who have problems with your service or product. Here are just a few companies who are doing social media right.
  • Email workflow— No, we don’t mean spam. We’re talking about carefully crafted emails that are sent at particular trigger points throughout the buyer’s journey toward becoming a customer. These emails offer valuable information and useful content that a customer can use. The right email at the right time can pull a lead further down your marketing funnel and closer to being a paying customer.

Why is Inbound Marketing Right For You?

The advent of inbound marketing marks a shift of power— now, the power resides with the buyer rather than the seller. The buyer isn’t dependent on the sales team to inform them about the product anymore. The internet brings them all the information they need, and they can get answers to their specific pain points without having to sift through tons of non-relevant information (or a sales pitch).

Inbound marketing is significantly less expensive than outbound, and it’s more effective. For example, an estimated 14.6% of SEO leads result in a close, while outbound leads have a 1.7% close rate.  You can measure the success of your inbound campaign via A/B testing, (so you can see which email subject line gets more opens, or what Call-to-Action gets more clicks).

Another bonus of inbound marketing is its agility. If you determine that your TV ad isn’t garnering the results you hoped for, you’re kind of stuck. You’ve shot it, and paid for the time slots in advance— there’s not much you can do. If you launch an inbound campaign and find that it’s not as successful as you hoped it would be, you can rework it on the fly. Change the keywords, revamp the content, switch social media platforms — it’s significantly easier to switch things up when it’s all digital. (It’s also a lot cheaper.) You don’t have to wait until your budget is replenished, by which time you’ve probably lost a portion of your audience.

We believe inbound marketing gets measurable results that impact your bottomline— and we’re not the only ones. Inbound marketing makes sense for a lot of businesses who are seeking a new way to boost their sales numbers without increasing their marketing budget.

Interested in learning more about inbound marketing? We’d love to help. Contact us to discuss how you can develop an inbound marketing strategy today.

Still Looking For Answers? We Can Help!