What’s the Difference Between Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing?


Most marketers spend most of their time strategizing how they can better push ads out to large groups of people. They want to maximize exposure by placing ads where people can see them. Marketing companies help organizations develop advertising campaigns in print media, television, online, radio, and many other marketing channels. All of that is what’s commonly referred to as outbound marketing. It’s also often referred to as ‘traditional marketing’ because outbound marketing is essentially the way things have always been done. Before the internet started growing, that is. 

The growth of online commerce made marketers and their organizations think about how they were spending money to attract business. Outbound marketing can be extremely expensive, and it usually takes a massive effort to reach the people you want to target and get them to act by buying a product or enrolling in a service. The internet made it possible, more than ever before, to build an organic audience and bring your target customers to you. 

What Is Inbound Marketing?

With inbound marketing, there’s a lot more effort that goes into understanding what your audience thinks and needs. It focuses on creating content, a virtual gathering place, and an interactive relationship between consumers and the brands they want to associate with. You’re finding your people and developing a long-term relationship with them. A lot of inbound marketing exists on:

  • Facebook and other social media platforms
  • Blogs
  • Email newsletters
  • Websites
  • eBooks and other guides

Inbound marketing effectively delivers the right content to the people who are looking for it. Digital books, how-to guides, video tutorials are all great examples of inbound marketing. For example, if someone online is looking for how to change a car battery, an ad that’s tied to the keywords used in that person’s search pops up an ad for a video tutorial. The video tutorial ad shows perfectly how to change a car tire and then talks about how you can find a great deal on performance tires at the advertising company’s tire store. You’re creating content that draws people in and delivering products and services that meet their needs. 

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

So which type of marketing is better? Certainly, inbound marketing has gotten a lot of attention lately because of how much activity is occurring online says Ross Kernez of Marble. TV viewership is done, newspapers are going out of business, and who listens to the radio anymore? Traditional, or outbound marketing, will exist for years to come, but companies and influencers go where the audience is, not vice versa. 

Inbound marketing is also a lot easier to measure. Mass mailing campaigns, billboards, tv commercials, and other forms of outbound marketing attempt to show an ad to as many people as possible in hopes that a small fraction of them will act in response. With inbound marketing, however, companies can curate audiences that are more likely to act and do whatever the ad is encouraging them to do. 

Online media giants like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn do a terrific job of helping you know how effective your marketing efforts are. That’s a godsend for companies who have struggled in the past to know how much their marketing dollar spent was worth. With inbound marketing, you can analyze how many dollars in sales result for every ten email addresses that sign up for your newsletter.

Another benefit of inbound marketing is that you’re creating audiences that are loyal and passionate about your brand. Consumers don’t typically get to choose which outbound marketing advertisements they see. We just drive by billboards and watch commercials and tell ourselves whether we like what they’re marketing or not. With inbound marketing, you know whoever’s in your target audience has some relationship with your brand and what you’re doing. Even before you establish a relationship, you can separate targeted leads that already have some peripheral relationships who are most likely to respond to marketing efforts. 

Why You Should Emphasize Inbound Marketing 

Online trends aren’t slowing. There’s not going to be any return to sitting through commercials on cable after dinner. More people research and buy online than ever, and that’s only going to keep increasing. People are becoming more aware of how marketing targets them and are increasingly resistant to outbound marketing strategies. Consumers want more control, not less. They also are sensitive to how they and their personal information is treated by the companies they engage with. How you use that data also needs to be a concern.

Inbound marketing needs to be part of every organization’s core strategy. Creating brand awareness and a dedicated audience is crucial to success. Think about how you can solve customer’s needs and go from there. Start making content that’s interactive with readers and helps them accomplish their goals or fill a need. 

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