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Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: Which Is The Best?


There is a scary amount of people who don’t know where to start with marketing. With the mass influx of information on the internet today, it can be quite overwhelming deciding what techniques to use to reach your customers.

And choosing to neglect marketing altogether is a huge no-no. 

So, what marketing techniques can small businesses invest in to increase the traffic their business receives? Well, that starts with identifying the different types of marketing that are available.

Surprisingly, there is really only two forms of marketing out there today.

And that’s inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

You may or may not already be familiar with some of the methods of each.

For example, outbound marketing techniques include TV, radio, tradeshows, and the infamous outbound sales calls. These are all traditional methods that have been used in marketing for years.

Inbound marketing techniques on the other hand include search engine optimization, Ebooks, and even blogs like this one.

But which one is a more effective method of attracting leads?

To answer this, we have to take a closer look at each type of marketing and how they can provide value to your business.

Seeing as no two businesses are the same, it’s important to identify what means of marketing YOUR business can specifically use to generate the most traffic.

As an agency who’s generated millions of hits while testing billboards, blogging, cold calling, and social media, we’re no stranger to the functions of both inbound and outbound marketing methods.

In this blog, we will highlight the key attributes to each method and ultimately, help you decide which route is best for your business.

With that said, let’s jump in by defining inbound vs outbound marketing.

What Is Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is the set actions you put into place that help bring in leads to you. More simply put, it is when you are pitching value before sales. And usually you’re coming from a place of high value. 

This method allows your leads to learn about what your business has to offer and the value you can provide before you try to sell them on anything.

Imagine you’re a customer in the market of buying a new car.

When you first walk into a dealership or even do research online, you don’t want a bunch of new car ads being thrown in your face. 

Maybe you don’t want to buy a car today, but you do want to know the difference in the engines, the technology, the features, and anything else that you want in a car. 

You’re purpose of car shopping today is not to actually purchase a car, but to learn more about the options you have available. This is so you can make the best decision on what vehicle is right for you. After all, a car is a big purchase.

Then maybe in the future, if a particular business has provided you with enough value on the cars you are looking for, you will go to them when you’re finally ready to buy a car. 

As a business owner, you want to meet your customers where they are. That means going with the flow of their needs and identifying what is important to them.

So they may not be looking to purchase today but that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage them to purchase in the future.

On the other hand, outbound marketing is the opposite.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is simply when you are selling before providing value. You are promoting a sale at the very beginning of an interaction with a lead.

Usually, with outbound marketing you’re coming from a place of need as opposed to value.

Let’s imagine that same car scenario.

Imagine you are in the market to buy a new car. However, this time it’s more of an urgent need because your old car broke down on you recently and you have no transportation.

In this instance, a car salesman trying to sell you a car would be a good thing because you are actively looking to buy a new car.

And on the flip side, this is a win for the car salesman because they are encouraging the sale of a product a customer needs.

In short, if your product fulfills a strong desire or need, then you’ll likely earn their business. 

Anytime your consumers have a problem, you want to be able to solve that problem. That’s how you build connections and covert leads into customers.

So, we’ve covered the basic definitions of inbound and outbound marketing and looked at a scenario where either can be used. But you may be asking “what is the difference between the two? Why should I choose one over the other?”

Alright, we know you’re eager to get the answers to these questions, so let’s discuss that next.

What Is the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

Now some people may tag social media as inbound marketing, however that may not always be the case.

That’s because it’s all about how you use the channels. In some situations, social media can be used as effective outbound marketing. And other outbound methods can be used as inbound methods as well.

For example, Facebook is a massive social media platform. Millions of users are on Facebook and many businesses are too.

But if you’re only posting about how “your business” can help them then you’re really doing outbound marketing.

This is because you are trying to sell your business before providing value to your leads. If you find your business page mainly consisting of “Buy Now” ads, then this is a key sign that you’re performing outbound marketing.

And this type of method may not be most effective for your business.

On the reverse, if you’re using Facebook to help your audience breakdown definitions in your industry, explain certain topics, and give insightful tips, then you’re using inbound marketing.

You are providing value to your audience before you are trying to sell to them.

Other example channels that are outbound in their nature are press releases and really any type of advertising because they are more actively trying to sell something or get more leads.

Other examples of some channels that are inbound in nature are public speaking, video content, and books. All these methods work to provide meaningful information to your audience that will encourage them to do business with you.

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: Which Is Best?

Okay, now that we understand inbound vs outbound marketing let’s finally try to determine which one is best for your business.

With that, we have to look at the main pros and cons of each method.

Outbound Marketing Pro

A Pro of outbound marketing is speed. If you know how to reach your audience then you can quickly start selling. 

With this speed, you’ll be able to generate more new business in a shorter amount of time. As long as you know who to target, you’re all set.

The only thing holding you back would be your capacity and the amount of people you have the ability to reach. But despite that, you really have the ability to reach your audience directly.

Outbound Marketing Con

Now for the cons. The biggest con of outbound marketing is cost.

Usually, you’ll have to spend a lot of money to reach your audience and you have to keep spending money to reach new people. 

As a small business, you may not have the budget to continuously spend on advertising your content and reaching your audience. This is especially true if your audience isn’t in urgent need of your product or service. You would be spending money and not getting a return, which can hurt your ROI in the long run.

Therefore, the stakes are high with outbound marketing because you have to spend more money and hit people when their in that sweet spot of needing your product (like in the car scenario we mentioned earlier.)

Inbound Marketing Pro

Now, as you may expect, the PRO of inbound marketing is cost. This is because you are spending far less money trying to reach your audience because they typically come to you.

You can start creating valuable content now, and in the long run you’re cost will be extremely low. That’s because the content you create today can still be valuable to someone YEARS into the future. 

This means you are creating a compounding effect. And unlike outbound marketing, your inbound marketing efforts won’t expire.

For example, we still have blogs from 2013 that people are still reading. These blogs are filled with insightful information that many business owners have found valuable. They have been able to apply the tips we provide into their business’s and will be able to now and in the future.

Valuable information like this is ultimately what has helped businesses grow in the long run.

Inbound Marketing Con

We mentioned the main pro of outbound marketing was speed, but in regards to inbound marketing, speed is a major con.

It can take years before you start seeing the compounding benefits of inbound marketing. Yes, you can write a great blog, but if your audience doesn’t see it until months down the line, then this could also negatively impact your ROI in the long term.

Thus, the major deciding factors are between inbound marketing and outbound marketing are speed and cost.

Do you want to focus more on the ability to get more leads in a shorter amount of time or do you want to acquire leads at a lower cost?

You have to make a decision…But it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

That’s right. The best decision for any business is to do both! 

This is because when you combine outbound with inbound then you can accelerate your growth. The two work pretty well on their own, but together they are a powerhouse duo for your marketing efforts.

Having said that, let’s look at some examples of how a business would combine inbound and outbound marketing effectively!

Inbound and Outbound Marketing Together

Say for instance you are selling a virtual remote training membership. 

Here’s what you could do to combine both inbound and outbound methods in your marketing. 

  • You can create social media posts with tips around working out and staying healthy. This content would serve as your inbound marketing portion.
  • Then, you can advertise those posts. This would serve as your outbound marketing and would help boost the impressions your social media posts receive.

But maybe you want to be a little more aggressive.

  • So you create a video about your passion for personal training. This is inbound marketing.
  • Then, you create a retargeting ad promoting that video which targets everyone who has engaged with your posts. This is outbound marketing.

This way you’re hitting people with valuable content fast! 

Now, let’s look at one more combination.  

Say for instance your company sells mattresses and you have the goal to do just that.

Here’s how you could combine inbound and outbound marketing to achieve that goal. 

  • You can create a blog about sleeping and joint pains for your audience to gain information about their sleeping problems. This blog is an inbound tactic.
  • After that, you can advertise that blog on your social media channels like Facebook. This is the outbound portion. 

But you want to be a little more aggressive in your marketing,

  • So you can create a video commercial about how your mattresses help your customers sleep better. This provides valuable information to your audience and is an inbound marketing method.
  • Then, for your outbound method you create a retargeting ad of everyone who visits that blog.

In turn, these two methods will provide you with a highly engaged audience to sell to! 

The main takeaway to remember when combining the two methods is you have to first create a piece of valuable content that will interest your audience. Then, once you do that, you have to use ads to promote that content you created.

This is how you will see the most qualified traffic flock to your business in a short amount of time.

In conclusion, inbound and outbound marketing are extremely important. The key is to use them in combination with one another to create a strategy that provides value and allows you to sell! 

We know taking the first step in marketing can be hard. But that’s because you don’t want to start in one direction and wind up having to turn around.

That’s why it’s really important to think carefully about your approach to marketing. When you do that it will lead you to the best methods for your business.

If you want to learn more about how you can help your business grow with effective marketing tips, we’re ready to help! We can give you the insight you need to take your business to the next level so you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us here or talk to an expert now at (404) 596-7925.



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