The Ultimate Guide to Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Over the last ten years or so, the marketing world has flipped on its head.

The tactics that most businesses considered solid lead magnets, like taking out ads in popular newspapers or running TV commercials, have lost their appeal and been replaced with more acceptable forms of promotion, such as value-packed blog posts, podcasts, and social media campaigns. The shift has created a heated debate among marketers — inbound vs outbound marketing (and which is better?), starting a new chapter in the history of marketing.

With most businesses adopting an ‘inbound first’ strategy today, outbound marketing has taken a back seat, but it would be unfair to write it off completely. If you’re struggling to decide which approach would generate better results for your business, let me walk you through the most important aspects that you need to take into consideration. In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What is inbound marketing?
  • What is outbound marketing?
  • The pros and cons of inbound and outbound marketing
  • How to get started with inbound marketing
  • How to get started with outbound marketing
  • Things you can do today to upgrade your inbound and outbound marketing game
  • Best inbound and outbound marketing resources

When it comes to choosing a side in the inbound vs outbound debate, it’s best to have all the facts straight and think through all the possible scenarios; maybe a combination of both would work wonders for you?

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a very broad term, but, in essence, it refers to all the marketing efforts that are geared towards earning customers’ interest and aligning with their needs rather than pushing your product or service no matter what.

It’s a relatively new marketing approach that emerged as a result of changing buyer expectations and can be seen as a product of the modern world. The rise of the internet and social media prompted marketers to look for new ways to engage with potential customers that relied more on the ‘pull’ than ‘push’ factor. According to Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to learn about a new brand via an article series rather than via ads. This speaks volumes about why inbound marketing has become the go-to approach, with 3 out of 4 marketers across the globe prioritizing inbound campaigns to outbound marketing.

Image Source: HubSpot

Blogging is inbound marketer’s bread and butter, with 60% focusing their efforts on creating valuable blog content. Other inbound marketing projects include, but are not limited to, SEO optimization and improving organic presence, content distribution and amplification, marketing automation, interactive content creation, long-form content (eBooks, guides, whitepapers, etc), visual content creation (infographics, slides, etc), online tools, how-to videos, webinars, and more.

The sole purpose of creating all this content is to ‘get found’ by potential customers who are actively looking for information online. Inbound marketing is designed to help businesses to better align with the natural search process of a modern buyer (search engines, referrals, social media, etc) and facilitate the buyer’s journey instead of interrupting it.

Since it allows a more targeted form of advertising, enabling a business to connect with a prospect in the ‘moment of relevance’, which is the time when a buyer is searching for a particular product, service or information, inbound marketing campaigns cost 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing.

What is outbound marketing?

The main goal of an outbound marketing campaign is to market to the masses in hopes of grabbing the interest of a small number of people who actually need your product or service at that time. Considered a more “classic form” of marketing, outbound marketing has been around, literally, forever, with the earliest example of billboard advertising being traced to Pompeii, which had its walls blanketed with promotional messages.

Outbound marketing techniques focus on pushing the message out, without taking the buyer’s journey into consideration. It most often employs well-known (and highly disliked) techniques, such as TV commercials, cold calling, direct mail, pay-per-click ads, print ads, email blasts to purchased lists, and billboards. As an “in your face” kind of approach, outbound marketing has been suffering a decline in popularity among both advertisers and consumers ever since consumers got a taste of a more personalized shopping experience online.

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