There are so many terms to know when it comes to marketing. It can be overwhelming for a small business marketer or entrepreneur to keep all the marketing terms straight let alone know how to execute all the different marketing tactics out there. Two terms that seem to be dominant in marketing lingo these days is “inbound marketing” and “outbound marketing”. Not sure which is which and how to do either (or both)?  Here are the differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

What is Inbound Marketing?

content marketingIf you Google this term, there are pages of definitions on what inbound marketing is and isn’t. We like the definition presented by Marketo which is pretty short and sweet: Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of “pull marketing” – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. Pull marketing is getting the customers to come to you, hence the term pull, where marketers are attempting to pull customers in. Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company’s service or product through delivering relevant content, where and when they need it the most. The idea is to attract people to your website by providing the information they’re looking for. Content marketing is a powerful component of inbound marketing as the premise of content marketing is to provide information people are looking for instead of pushing out information you want them to know about you, your company, your product or your service.

What is Outbound Marketing?

print marketingWordstream gives a great definition for outbound marketing. They say it refers to any kind of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience. This includes more traditional forms of marketing and advertising such as TV commercials, radio ads, print advertisements, trade shows, and outbound sales calls. Others refer to outbound marketing as “interruption marketing”. It is an annoying version of the traditional way of doing marketing whereby companies focus on finding customers through advertising. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with interruption or outbound marketing, the problem lies in the way today’s consumers interact with this type of marketing strategy. According to a 2017 study reported by Forbes, consumers are exposed to 4000 to 10,000 marketing and advertising messages per day. Consumers can quickly be overwhelmed by too much outbound marketing which is bad news for your company’s marketing efforts.

The differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing

Below are a few key points to differentiate inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing:

  • Inbound marketing pulls customers in; outbound marketing pushes messaging out
  • Inbound marketing is two-way communication; outbound marketing is one-way communication
  • Inbound marketing is permissive; outbound marketing is interruptive
  • Inbound marketing provides desired information; outbound marketing imposes on consumers without regard for the consumers’ desire to receive it.

 Should small businesses only do inbound marketing?

what should you doAll the information above seems to support that inbound marketing is in, and outbound marketing is out, but don’t be so fast to throw traditional, outbound marketing tactics out the window! Traditional marketing still works! As a small business owner, it’s important to understand the limitations of outbound marketing, and how inbound marketing can enhance those efforts but as with any effective small business marketing strategy, the key is diversity. Depending on your target audience, there are many outbound marketing tactics that can still work, including:

  • Print ads
  • TV ads
  • Billboards
  • Magazine ads
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Direct mail

The limitations of ONLY doing outbound marketing are telling. Outbound marketing makes it easy for potential customers to tune it out (change the channel, toss the direct mail piece or turn the page in a magazine). Furthermore, outbound marketing is more expensive and less effective than inbound marketing because methods of delivery cost more and they’re broadcast to a wide audience, most of which has no interest at all in your product or service. Those who are interested typically need to see your message multiple times before they act on it, hence the redundancy built into most ad cycles. It’s also typically less agile if you need to pivot your marketing message to something different. On the other hand, just doing inbound marketing can results in marketing efforts that lack diversity, may not reach your intended audience, and can limit your reach if not done correctly.

inbound and outbound marketing togetherThe answer is do both inbound and outbound marketing. Outbound marketing is valuable when it’s done correctly and can greatly complement inbound marketing. Duct Tape Marketing provided great insights on how to use inbound and outbound marketing together for the best results:

  • Tailor your inbound approach based on outbound success – see which message is resonating in your outbound messages and leverage that in videos, blog posts and other content marketing efforts
  • Use outbound marketing to determine strongest prospects – If someone goes out of their way to react to your outbound efforts, it’s likely that they’re very enthusiastic about your business.
  • Connect with prospects at any decision stage – Outbound and inbound marketing come into play at different stages. Outbound strategies are deployed at the top of the funnel or hourglass, where new customers are just getting to know and like your brand. Inbound strategies become useful a bit further down the road.

Just like digital marketing and traditional marketing, using a solid, measurable mix of both is the best approach overall.

Understanding the differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is important not to decide which you should use, but how you should use both synergistically.

Patty Hughes
Follow Us!