The goal of marketing is to generate quality leads. Marketers use either inbound marketing or outbound marketing techniques to get these leads and turn them into prospects and later clients. 

But what exactly is the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, and how do you know which one is best for your brand or your campaign? 

Marketers have a lot to consider when it comes to these strategies. This overview will help you understand the differences between inbound and outbound marketing and when each type of marketing is most applicable and most likely to be effective. 

Defining Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is a marketing strategy that pushes messages out to potential customers. Email marketing, telemarketing, text messages, direct mail, and sales calls are all examples of outbound marketing. The idea is that you can cast a wide net and hopefully capture some quality leads through your messaging or values.

Inbound marketing is a strategy where you create content and try to draw people in through a variety of tactics in search, social media, video, and blogs. The idea is that you’ll create content tied to your brand so that people who are online will discover your brand and products, take an interest, and continue on in the funnel. 

Both methods are capable of capturing effective leads, and most marketers use a combination of both tactics. However, the state of the internet means that many marketers and brands have moved more toward an inbound marketing approach as their main strategy. 

Inbound marketing allows for a more natural experience for customers and more opportunities to reach them. Customers are also encountering endless marketing messages throughout their day – some estimates state that we receive up to 2000 outbound marketing interruptions per day, making them less receptive to outbound marketing efforts. On the other hand, if a customer discovers a brand or product through their own web activity, they’re more likely to engage with and be receptive to a brand and further marketing efforts. 

Here’s a chart to help you visualize the differences: 

Inbound Marketing Outbound Marketing
Invites consumers to make contact  Pushes out advertising content in a one-way interaction
Focus is on the consumer's needs Highlights the brand/ product rather than the consumer
Content is meant to add value Content is meant to "cast a wide net"
Channels include social media, blogs, search, podcasts, targeted email campaigns  Channels include mass emails, radio and TV ads, print ads, signage

This chart outlines the major differences between inbound and outbound marketing. As you think about which tactic is best for your brand, make sure you’re clear on what path you’re taking. Some mediums, like email, can be either inbound or outbound depending on how they’re used and the goal of the campaign.

Now let’s go over the pros and cons of each technique – reference the chart above as you read through the pros and cons to get the most comprehensive understanding. 

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing: Pros and Cons 

Outbound Marketing Pros

  • Casts a wide net
  • Don’t see negative reactions
  • More traditionally “advertising” focused so you know where you’re spending 

Outbound Marketing Cons

  • ROI is harder to track
  • Lower success rates
  • Less precise targeting
  • Customers can often see through marketing or find it irritating
  • Customers don’t get into your funnel and therefore don't take additional steps

Inbound Marketing Pros

  • Build a long-lasting relationship with the customer
  • Better ROI
  • Easier to track ROI
  • More precise targeting 

Inbound Marketing Cons

  • Often takes time to get leads
  • Need comprehensive (and sometimes expensive) data reporting and collection programs
  • Time-consuming to build and create

In today's world, most marketers prefer inbound over outbound marketing techniques. However, your industry may call for the opposite. Every brand and campaign has unique needs, so make sure to review all your options and how they align with your budget. 

Your budget is going to be one of your guiding tools when it comes to deciding on a marketing technique; for example, inbound marketing can be expensive to launch since you may need a group of people with different skills to make it happen. However, outbound marketing is often more expensive to maintain and gets less of a return. 

So ask yourself: what’s my budget? How do I want to spend now and later? What kind of investment am I making and why?

Finally, our last bit of advice on how to make the most of inbound and outbound marketing. 

Choosing the Right Strategy

Marketers need to employ a variety of strategies to be effective, and the most successful brands are ones that are able to quickly pivot and use multiple techniques to get the end results. 

When you’re deciding on the best strategy, consider the most recent trends and technologies. Staying up to date on social media trends and commerce platform updates will help you determine the best path forward. 

All marketing strategies should align with the goals you want to reach. For example, if you want to grow your email list with a discount offer, you might be better off with outbound marketing. Or if you’re more interested in conversions into sales, inbound is a better bet. 

Remember, most marketers do a combination of inbound and outbound marketing. Work closely with your team to determine what’s best for you. If you need support, contact us now to learn how we can help.

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