Digital Marketing

Inbound vs. outbound marketing

Today’s marketing landscape is dominated by two separate but equally prominent models: outbound marketing and inbound marketing. Both inbound and outbound marketing tactics are incredibly important in today’s marketing landscape. 

Each tactic has its benefits and drawbacks that you may encounter through trial and error – which we will explore further, there is always room for gaining additional knowledge to help your business grow. Fortunately, there are resources available to you such as online marketing courses covering both types.   

What is inbound marketing? 

Given its name in 2005 by HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan, inbound marketing is a business strategy that strives to bring new potential customers to your company, drive engagement with those potential customers and potentially deliver satisfaction through that engagement.  

Here are some examples of inbound marketing: 

  • Content developed for specific audiences: 
  • Whitepapers, guides, and ebooks 
  • Video content  
  • Blogging 
  • SEO strategies that optimize content based on targeted keywords and phrases 
  • Social media listening and customer response strategies 
  • Email marketing using smart content, workflows and automation 
  • Digital ads targeted to specific audiences who may be seeking information about products and services you offer 

While this is overall a straightforward aim that drives inbound marketing, the path to achieving it is considerably more complex and utilizes a wide variety of specific strategies to achieve these goals. However, even with the strategies themselves being more complex, they still fall within three categories set out by these goals. 

  • Customer attraction looks to draw potential customers to your business through specific tactics such as content marketing, social media, blogging, targeted digital ads that are relevant to a specific audience who is often seeking the products or services you offer, and video content.  
  • Customer engagement looks to retain potential or current customers through various tactics such as lead flows, email marketing, lead management, chatbots, automation and social media. Personalization for specific individuals within these tactics is a highly important facet of this strategy.  
  • Customer satisfaction looks to retain customers after conversion to establish brand loyalty that will hopefully become repeat or even ongoing conversions from a single person through tactics such as smart content, email marketing, attribution reporting and automation. 

The cycle of customer attraction, engagement, and satisfaction fits HubSpot’s flywheel model — an updated version of the classic marketing funnel model. This model provides a more active view of how customers impact a business and its growth on an ongoing basis in comparison to the more passive view of the former marketing funnel model.  

Benefits of inbound marketing 

Inbound marketing can be an incredibly effective strategy for all businesses that may vary depending on the business, individual, or marketing campaign. Here are some of the most consistent benefits of inbound marketing across the board: 

  • Cost-efficiency: While you can still expect to spend money on inbound marketing and this price tag can grow tremendously as you scale your marketing scope and tactics, this is still much smaller than what you can expect out of traditional advertising and other outbound marketing tactics.  
  • Customer relationships: This type of marketing helps you build relationships with your customers due to the personal nature of your content during every stage of customer acquisition — whether it be through the initial customer attraction, customer engagement or customer satisfaction. 
  • Wide accessibility: Not everyone can create a traditional advertising campaign for their business nor have the assets needed to create things like a TV commercial. However, if the correct strategy is applied, anyone can create online content that could attract potential customers to their business. 

While not everyone has the specific skill set or knowledge base to enact an inbound marketing strategy successfully right out of the gate, there are many resources available to gain these skills, such as online courses that can help you gain or reinforce the skills needed for inbound marketing.   

Drawbacks of inbound marketing 

While inbound marketing has many benefits and can potentially assist in your business’s successful journey, it does have certain drawbacks as well. Here are some common drawbacks of outbound marketing to be aware of: 

  • Long wait time to see results: Unfortunately, with inbound marketing, there can be a long wait time to see the results of your strategies. It can take a great deal of time before potential customers get their eyes on the content you create (if they ever do) and cultivating relationships with customers is also a lengthy process itself.  
  • A strategic approach is necessary: Another drawback of inbound marketing is that it requires a well-thought-out and strategic approach to everything you do. Putting in this energy to assure your efforts are going to reach the correct audience and help establish and nurture these customer relationships can bring your business amazing results, but you have to be committed to the ongoing effort.  

What is outbound marketing? 

While inbound marketing looks to bring specific customers in through engagement with their content targeted at smaller groups of people, outbound marketing looks to grow its customer base through a wider content distribution model. Outbound marketing resembles traditional advertising in comparison to inbound marketing.  

Here are some examples of common outbound marketing tactics, which are typically offline ads that reach customers who may or may not be looking for your products and services: 

  • Print advertising 
  • TV commercials 
  • Direct mail 

Benefits of outbound marketing 

Just like inbound marketing, the benefits of outbound marketing can range depending on the business, individual, or marketing campaign. However, there are consistent benefits for outbound marketing, including: 

  • The ability to reach a larger audience: With traditional advertising, you have more guarantee that your message will reach a large audience than you do with inbound marketing content.  
  • Easy measurements: With outbound marketing, you also have more easily measured metrics and benchmarks than those in inbound marketing.  

Drawbacks of outbound marketing 

Considering these benefits, there are drawbacks to outbound marketing that could affect your business’s success. Here are some common drawbacks of outbound marketing to be aware of: 

  • More expensive: Outbound marketing strategies can be significantly more expensive than those used in inbound marketing. For example, it’s far more expensive to shoot a TV commercial than to post a blog article. 
  • Disruptive: Due to the wide net it casts in search of a target audience, outbound marketing can also be disruptive to people not interested in your product or service. This kind of disruption can create negative brand awareness for these audiences. 

Which is right for your business? 

It can be incredibly difficult to decide whether inbound or outbound marketing is right for your business. There are many factors to consider, such as your budget, the type of product or service you are selling, your target market, and your marketing goals. With all of these factors to consider, you must have a deep understanding of both inbound and outbound marketing tactics to make the best decision for you and your business.  

Fortunately, there is always room for both organizational and personal improvement, and learning new marketing skills that you can apply to your business is more widely accessible than ever through online marketing courses that will help you grow both your inbound and outbound marketing skills.