Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing: understand the key differences

Inbound or outbound marketing, which is better? This is a question you would likely encounter as you go about finding customers for your business. However, the answer to this is not always clear-cut.This is because both outbound and inbound marketing can provide several opportunities. That is when you understand their system of operation. Understanding how they operate will give you an idea of how best to utilize them in different situations.

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Nonetheless, in recent times, several marketers are embracing inbound over outbound marketing due to its effectiveness. This is not to say outbound marketing has lost its significance.

In fact, many marketing companies combine both outbound and inbound to capture a wider audience.

In this article, we will be considering every aspect of inbound and outbound marketing. This includes their differences, the pros, and the cons of each.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Another term for outbound marketing is “push” or “interruption” marketing. This is a marketing strategy employed to get your campaign in front of people who may not necessarily be searching for it.

Some of the traditional outbound advertising channels include tv, radio ads, billboards, and print. On the other hand, the digital includes landing pages, sponsored social media posts, and cold emails.

These outbound channels of advertising are present for everybody to see. It is not streamlined for a certain group of people.

In this digital age, many traditional marketers still make use of the outbound marketing approach to access a large audience. This is primarily through the use of paid ads.

Be it traditional or the digital channels of advertising, the style of outbound marketing remains the same.

Many marketers use this approach, hoping that some will be interested in their message among the crowd. And consequently those interested will become customers in the end.

However, outbound advertising is not so successful when it comes to click-through rate (CTR), especially for Display ads. And this is because they come up without anybody asking for it.

Going by the CTR of outbound marketing, many people seem to be putting outbound marketing aside. However, irrespective of this, when properly tailored, outbound advertising can be effective.

According to HubSpot, with tactics such as cold emailing, marketers have seen an open rate of 22.15%1. Also, outbound marketing campaigns can produce a high CTR when the content is relevant to a large number of people.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

While outbound marketing takes the message to the audience, inbound marketing makes the audience come for the message.

Inbound Marketing has always existed. But recently, there seems to be an increase regarding those using the approach.

This is because inbound marketing draws the attention of potential customers by engaging them with relevant content. Doing this consequently creates high-quality leads.

The typical channels of inbound marketing are Google, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter e.t.c. Also, it essentially involves the use of search engine optimization (SEO).

Relevant content is made public using these channels in the end, converting random visitors to die-hard customers.

Inbound marketing may not be as forceful as outbound marketing. But this does not make it an easy approach.

Just like outbound marketing, it takes a strong strategy and skills in execution to turn inbound marketing into a growth channel.

This is because getting your content found by prospects takes time, upfront investment, including relevant content. It also involves promotional expertise.

Whether it be outbound or inbound marketing, one thing determines success. And that is creating useful content for the audience.

When you create relevant content, people will love to see it. It doesn’t matter whether they went in search of it or it was forced on them.

Hence, you can use any of the approaches and achieve success as long as you have a great strategy in place.

Likewise, both approaches have their moments when you can use them. This constitutes their pros and cons.

Key Differences between Outbound and Inbound Marketing

The primary purpose of both inbound or outbound marketing is to convert prospects into customers. Although they might have the same purpose, they differ in application. Here are some of their key difference:

1. Push vs. pull tactics

When you create relevant content that your target audience can seek and discover, then you have successfully pulled them in.

This enables them to consequently know about your business and possibly purchase your goods or services. When this happens, you have successfully used inbound marketing tactics.

The inbound marketing strategy requires that you create content that addresses unfamiliar topics or common questions. These topics and questions would be what prospects are already searching for on the internet.

You can discover these topics and common queries via keywords research. Keywords essentially give you an idea of the content to put out that will draw in potential customers.

Also, proper use of keywords in your blog posts can help you generate high-quality leads.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, operates based on push tactics. It doesn’t wait for the customer to come by; it goes in search of them.

Using an outbound marketing strategy involves creating content and dispersing it to the public. This is done with the hope that it gets to the target audience.

When you push advertising on people who may or may not be interested, you have used the outbound marketing strategy.

Outbound marketing is similar to taking a blind shot without being sure if you would hit the target or not. Sometimes it works, as some people may get to know about your business through the means. And they may even message you to purchase your goods or services.

2. Generic vs. specific

Outbound advertising tends to be generic. Mediums such as TV, radio, billboards, and print ads go out to the general public. And because of this, the messages try to appeal to almost everyone. This is to capture the attention of a large fraction of the audience.

This is not the case with the inbound approach. Instead, inbound marketing aligns with a specific approach. The inbound core feature is creating content that solves a problem peculiar to a specific audience.

In this situation, even if everyone may be experiencing the same problem, a company only concerns itself with its target audience.

The effect of this is the creation of content like blogs, newsletters, social media posts, or the use of SEO techniques. The use of SEO is aimed at targeting a particular audience.

3. Interruptive vs. permissive

Several people often use search engines to look for answers to their questions or to help them solve a problem. Every time your target audience uses the search engine, they give the search engine permission. This permission involves showing them answers relevant to their queries.

Consequently, this allows the search engine to place your content in front of your target audience. But, this is when you have accurately applied the SEO techniques.

Also, on social media, prospective buyers follow companies and people they trust. Following these entities is the same as permitting them to disperse content that appears on their feeds.

This same pattern also applies to email newsletters. When someone signs up for your newsletter, they have permitted you to send content to their emails.

The primary idea behind inbound marketing is that you are dispersing your content based on the permission of the audience. This gives inbound marketing a more permissive marketing outlook.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t seek permission. Also called interruption marketing, it is essentially interruptive.

When watching a television program or listening to a radio program, nobody asks for an ad to come up, but it does. And, traditional marketers still use the outbound marketing tactic even in the digital age.

Today, outbound marketing has gone past the traditional TV, radio, print, billboard channels. Outbound marketing approach has been introduced into the digital system.

For instance, when you scroll through social media, you notice some unsolicited ads on your feeds. Or, when watching a YouTube video, you get ads regularly interrupting.

There are times where you may scroll through or skip the ads. Other times they might catch your attention, and you may try to learn more about it.

This shows that both outbound and inbound marketing can be successful when strategically executed.

Pros and Cons of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some of the pros of inbound marketing techniques:

  • When it comes to inbound marketing, it is cost-effective. This makes it suitable for businesses of all sizes, from startups to large companies.
  • Inbound marketing has a wide reach when used strategically.
  • Inbound marketing concentrates on releasing rich content, which helps to build brand awareness.
  • Inbound marketing allows you to interact with your audience. Interaction with the audience builds trust and loyalty for your brand.

Below are the cons of Inbound marketing tactics.

  • To properly benefit from inbound marketing, you will need to create a well-built website that is search engine optimized. Furthermore, this will be a website that has a blog section and also offers email marketing.
  • It takes time to get leads organically from search engine optimization. For a website to appear at the top of the search result pages, it takes an amount of time. It is a marketing strategy that produces results in the long term.
  • To have widespread content, there is the issue of generating as much followership as possible. This can be a difficult task that may take time and different strategies to accomplish.

Pros and Cons of Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing also has some benefits and disbenefits. They constitute the pros and the cons. The pros of outbound marketing techniques:

  • Outbound marketing allows a marketer to advertise their products and services to a wider audience.
  • Outbound marketing tends to produce results in the short term. So if you are looking to get so much awareness in a short time, you may consider outbound marketing. But the fact that your business is all over the place doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. This is because people tend to find outbound marketing as forceful and interruptive and most times skip or block them from coming up.
  • Outbound marketing advertising such as cold calling has proven to be effective. Cold calling has to do with randomly calling individuals unexpectedly to tell them about your products or services.

The cons of outbound marketing tactics:

  • One of the major cons of outbound marketing is that it is difficult to track return on investment (ROI). Consequently, this makes it difficult to track the effectiveness of your marketing methods.
  • Some people often block outbound ads as they find them intrusive.
  • Outbound marketing can cost you a significant amount of money. And you might not be able to track if the money spent has produced the needed result. You may have to pay for sponsored posts and. Also, under outbound marketing, you have the idea of pay per click (PPC).