Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Marketing your products or services to the right audience will help your business grow, but marketing trends are always changing. Customers’ needs shift quickly, and it can be hard for businesses to keep up. In order to keep your business on a growth trajectory, it’s important to understand how to reach your customers at their level. Inbound marketing and outbound marketing are two different approaches to getting the word out about your company, but what are the differences between the two?

Here we’ll discuss both inbound and outbound marketing, and how your business can discover a marketing strategy that’s a perfect fit.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Consumers today have a lot of choices. With the internet always at our fingertips, we can research the problems we are having and choose the product or service that will solve that problem. Instead of being told what to buy and why, your potential customers want to be in control of the decision making.

inbound marketing concept; blackboard drawing of content turning into revenue

Inbound marketing is a marketing tactic that focuses on providing consumers with information and education during every step of their buying journey. When it comes time for them to make a purchase, they have learned to trust your brand and the information it provides.

Inbound marketing focuses on what the customer needs, so it’s absolutely essential to understand your audience. What are their problems? What kind of information are they looking for? What methods of communication do they prefer?

Once you know this information, you can create rich, informative content for them to consume. Blog posts, email newsletters, videos, eBooks, website content are all extremely helpful to audiences.

Here’s a good example. Let’s say a person has a problem with dry skin and your business is trying to market a new moisturizer. Their first step may be to Google “causes of dry skin.”  You may create a blog post called “What Causes Dry Skin,” and include a subtle call to action like “enter your email for more information and special offers.” 

From there, you can send them an email with dry skin remedies, including your product, and then offer them a 10% coupon code. When the customer finally decides on a product to buy to help with their dry skin, they will remember your brand and use the coupon you provided.

This is a great example of inbound marketing. The purchasing decision is in the consumer’s hands, and you are simply nudging them gently towards trying out your product.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is marketing driven by the marketer, while inbound marketing is marketing driven by the consumer. Outbound marketing is viewed as a more traditional form of advertising, and it tends to be more aggressive. Examples of outbound marketing are TV ads, radio ads, telemarketing, and print ads. These forms of advertising are sometimes called “interruption marketing,” and many consumers may find this type of marketing annoying and invasive.

Before the dawn of the internet, outbound was the way to go. It was your job to convince the audience they had a problem and needed your help, and the only way to solve their problem was to buy your product or service. In many cases, outbound marketing is considered outdated, but sometimes, outbound strategies can still be used to raise awareness about products or services. It can still be effective when looking to reach older audiences or B2B marketing.

Outbound marketing’s message is “buy our product because you need a solution to your problem.” Inbound marketing focuses more on educating the consumer about the source of their problem, potential solutions to this problem, and why their product may be an effective solution.

Many businesses wonder if there’s still value in pursuing outbound strategies. It’s helpful to consider all angles when looking to reach your audience. While it is true that outbound marketing tactics may be outdated, there’s still a high demand for TV commercials and radio ads, so these marketing tactics definitely still have a place. In the modern era, we see examples of outbound marketing in YouTube ads and social media ads.

Which Is Better for Your Business?

It’s important to remember that there’s no single marketing format that works for every business, and many businesses may want to use a blend of both inbound and outbound marketing tactics. Inbound marketing is the preferred route for many businesses today. Consumers like having the power to make their own decisions, and it makes sense to try to reach them organically.

Create content that offers your audience value. Let them know that you can help solve their problems and answer their questions. When they see you as a trusted resource for assistance and education, they’re more likely to remember your brand when it comes time for them to make a purchase.

Many customers respond to inbound marketing tactics because they feel like they’re in control of decisions. They are seeking out information, learning about the options available to them, and finally coming to a conclusion on their own. Some people view outbound marketing as pushy, deceptive, or too “in-your-face.”

It’s true that inbound tactics are often highlighted in today’s marketing campaigns. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore outbound tactics altogether. When used correctly, they can still offer some value to your business. 

It’s important to take a serious look at what your potential customers need and want, and try to reach them in ways that will engage them. Creating a deep resource of blog posts is great to draw in organic traffic, but there’s no reason to totally ignore strategies like YouTube ads. Sometimes these types of strategies can help to raise awareness about your product or service.

It’s a great idea to create a comprehensive marketing plan that hits all the points and takes your audience demographics into consideration. This may mean blending inbound and outbound marketing. Pay attention to key details like how your audience seeks out information, what platforms they use, what communication methods they prefer, and what kind of messaging they respond to.

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