Think about your favorite brand in any industry and how it was that you discovered it. It may have been through an internet search that took you to a blog post on the website, a TV commercial, or magazine feature. Unless it was a referral, your interaction is an offshoot of the marketing strategy–either inbound or outbound–that they employed. To determine which marketing strategy is most effective for a brand, it’s necessary to analyze how inbound vs outbound marketing helps to achieve different marketing objectives.
In this guide, we explore the intricacies of inbound and outbound marketing strategies—the key differences, their benefits, and their shortcomings. We’ll also provide some examples for each, so you can see which methods successful brands use to get their target customers hooked.
Inbound Vs Outbound Marketing
These two types of marketing techniques–the definitions of which we’re about to explain–have proven to yield significant ROIs for various brands. However, to determine which one to use and when, it’s necessary to understand how each works and at which stage of the customer journey it's most effective.
Inbound marketing is a strategy that employs a suite of techniques and tools to 'pull' potential customers and clients in organically. Think of it like an indirect wooing process, where a brand shows up when their target customer needs something and is looking for it, and so they offer valuable content around it.
A simple online search for a product or service yields tons of results, and brands with great SEO strategy—a form of inbound marketing—show up in the SERPS to provide the information you need. The content then provides the answers you seek, while also helping you learn about the brand. According to a Hubspot report, this is one of the tactics marketers consider most effective.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is less personal and more direct with its sales approach. It involves using various methods to initiate conversation with potential customers through a 'push' of brand messages and offers. It’s an all-out approach that uses methods such as seminars, pop-ups, and traditional media to reach a wider audience.
If the drink ad on a billboard ever made you consider buying it the next time you visit the store, that’s the result of an outbound marketing strategy.
While both inbound and outbound marketing strategies have great benefits, they can also pose significant marketing challenges.
Examples Of Inbound Marketing
Marketing and sales teams use various inbound marketing techniques to pull potential customers in. Here are a few examples.
A common inbound marketing technique is to create content that informs, educates, or addresses the pain points of your target audience. This is done by providing information about your product or service that potential customers may be interested in. Blogs remain an outstanding content marketing example, through which you can position your company as a subject matter expert. High-quality video content, infographics, case studies, and social media posts are also key ways brands use content marketing to reach prospective customers.
Email Marketing Campaigns
After initial contact, email marketing campaigns are used to keep in touch with inbound leads who have willingly supplied their email addresses. Your goal is to send emails containing information and resources they might find useful. You may also use email to notify subscribers of upcoming webinars, new products, or blogs that might be of interest. Brands use this to connect with a prospect on a personal level to help clients trust them enough to transact with them.
Another inbound marketing approach is to create informational guides describing the features of your product to a customer. This is particularly important to educate interested folks about a solution a brand has designed to help solve a problem. The goal is to build your prospective customer’s confidence in your brand enough that they'll eventually pay for your services.
In a world where knowledge is highly sought after and networking is of utmost importance, webinars are a great inbound marketing strategy to pique your target audience’s interest. A free webinar on a subject that resonates can get prospective customers stoked to learn more about your brand, and all they have to do is tune in. This in turn can help foster the trust that a prospective client needs to do business with you. Plus, 95% of respondents in a survey confirmed that great content from a brand helped them trust it more.
Benefits Of Inbound Marketing
One of the key benefits of inbound marketing is that it’s relatively cheaper than outbound marketing. It’s more cost-effective for a new brand seeking to reach a wider audience than traditional media, such as TV or radio, tends to be. For example, a simple blog post can easily attract a newer brand’s ideal audience.
There are benefits to the digital side of inbound marketing, too. Your campaigns can more easily be tracked and your audience can be retargeted for future deals. It makes it easier to access website visitors, where they’re coming from, and determine which marketing campaign to tweak for more results.
A final key benefit of most inbound marketing tactics is automation. As you watch your customers journey through each stage of the marketing funnel, you can identify areas that can be streamlined, or automate content that addresses concerns that cause customers to drop out of the funnel. With inbound marketing strategies such as content marketing and email, for example, it's easier to learn and make tweaks to improve campaigns as you go.
Challenges Of Inbound Marketing
As great as the benefits of inbounding marketing are, it can still be challenging to manage. Since various campaigns are often running simultaneously, it requires consistent marketing efforts to monitor all of them effectively.
The best results obtained from inbound marketing come from using a range of marketing automation tools and integrating digital marketing tools to optimize them. Without the right supporting tech stack, your efforts only go so far.
Also, inbound marketing is restrictive as it only works with online marketing. It requires an in-depth understanding of marketing analytics and metrics, to be able to interpret the results and make the best use of available data.
A major downside of inbound marketing is that the strategy keeps changing as prospects’ needs keep evolving. It can be difficult to continue to apply the same approach in the long term as the market trend keeps changing.
Examples Of Outbound Marketing
Here are some examples of outbound marketing tactics that are used to generate results.
Billboard Ads or Print Ads:
This involves marketing a product in common areas of attention such as on large, eye-catching billboards or in magazines, to attract an audience and build brand awareness in the hopes of making a purchase.
TV Ads or Radio Ads:
Using traditional media channels like TV or radio to reach the aligned audience of a show has worked for marketers for decades. It involves advertising a product on a channel that helps it to reach a wide range of people who watch TV or listen to the radio.
Trade Show Promotions:
Brands organize trade shows as part of a traditional marketing approach to get the attention of potential buyers. Trade shows are open events organized to boost product and brand awareness. They’re often open to the public and done with the hope of attracting new leads who will become paying customers.
This involves reaching out to prospects via phone to inform them about a brand’s products or services that they may be interested in. Cold emailing outreach also follows this approach, by sending newsletters about products and services to people on acquired email lists. Be careful with this–we only recommend sending emails to people who directly opted in to hear from you.
Benefits Of Outbound Marketing
The internet is becoming increasingly saturated with information and people now use blockers to keep themselves from the barrage of sales messages targeted at them. Outbound marketing is an effective offline strategy to reach prospects that may be difficult to reach online.
It also makes it easy for prospects to decide if they want to interact with a brand’s offering, without the need to overload them with information that they don’t need. This way, the brand doesn’t need to spend more, trying to pursue a lead that may not eventually buy. On the path of the buyer, it gives them control of how they continue to interact with a brand.
As one of the oldest marketing methods buyers are familiar with, something as simple as seeing the same billboard on the way to work every day can make a buyer trust a brand unconsciously.
Another great benefit of outbound marketing is that it allows a broader reach without the need to pay continuously for each individual that comes in contact with the brand through the same channel. In inbound marketing, methods like pay-per-click advertising and social media ads will charge for individual interactions with a brand’s ads in terms of impressions or clicks, which may still not generate a sale.
Challenges Of Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketers often face challenges such as difficulty in tracking the reach and effectiveness of campaigns. This is a major downside as it’s almost impossible to know how well the campaign performed or didn’t perform. Likewise, it’s difficult to know the audience that might need retargeting, follow-up, or those who aren’t interested.
While inbound marketing can commence with a low budget, outbound marketing can be expensive, as it requires a large budget to effectively execute.
Lastly, it can make an audience averse to a brand’s messaging because it's interruptive. TV or radio audiences may choose to change channels or quickly attend to something while a commercial is being aired so that they can listen or watch their favorite programs without distraction after the commercial. A lot of televisions also provide the ability to fast-forward or skip commercials entirely. This turns out to be a waste of resources spent by the brand.
Which Is More Effective In A Marketing Strategy?
Generally, for brands seeking to build a strong online audience, inbound marketing is more effective since it involves meeting your audience at the point of their interest. For brands seeking a broader reach, outbound marketing may be a great option. But truly great brands know enough to milk both marketing strategies to maximize their profit.
Ready to delve deeper into inbound marketing or learn more about outbound marketing? Start by subscribing to The CMO newsletter to get updates on the latest marketing trends, tools, techniques and strategies.