Get expert advice on every topic you need as a small business owner, from the ideation stage to your eventual exit. Our articles, quick tips, infographics and how-to guides can offer entrepreneurs the most up-to-date information they need to flourish.

Subscribe to our blog

Inbound marketing versus outbound marketing: What Is the difference?

Posted by Shivali Anand

November 22, 2021    |     5-minute read (936 words)

When developing your company's marketing strategy, you may wonder whether an inbound or an outbound approach is best. While both types of marketing can help your company grow, they operate in completely different ways. As a result, you should expect different conversion rates for inbound versus outbound marketing strategies.

Before deciding between these marketing approaches, assess the pros and cons of each one. This will inform your overall marketing mix and help you stay ahead of competitors.

How does outbound marketing work?

Outbound marketing pushes your marketing messages out to your target demographic rather than waiting for prospects to come to you. It entails marketing your business to an audience without first obtaining their permission and prompts prospective clients to consider your brand's message.

Outbound marketing examples include print advertisements, cold phone calls, direct mail, TV and radio ads, web ads and press releases. Advertisers use these mass media methods to get their messages and products out to the public at large. With a few exceptions, most outbound marketing tactics are untargeted, meaning the message is pushed to a vast, generalized audience.

Pros of outbound marketing:

Outbound marketing efforts are easier to optimize than inbound ones. Some advantages of an automated and well-organized outbound lead-generating campaign include:
  • It serves as a form of direct market research since it allows you to get in front of your target audience and see their reactions directly.
  • It gets your message in front of many people, and you control how viewers interact with your messaging.
  • Offline advertising platforms such as TV and social media sponsorships and banner campaigns put your company name in front of your target audience, creating brand recognition.

Cons of outbound marketing:

  • It may be regarded as intrusive, with vast amounts of advertising being thrust at individuals.
  • It is impersonal, which can therefore reduce its effectiveness.
According to HubSpot, the following statistics show that traditional outbound marketing no longer works as well as it once did:

  • 86% of Americans avoid watching TV commercials.
  • 91% of people unsubscribe from emails.
  • About 44% of direct mail sent is never opened.
  • About 200 million individuals have signed up for the "Do Not Call" list.
  • 84% of 25- to 34-year-olds have abandoned a website due to intrusive or bothersome advertising.
Customers today are tired of spam emails and desire to watch movies and listen to music without being interrupted by ads. As a result, outbound marketing methods' return on investment is progressively falling.

How does inbound marketing work?

Inbound marketing is defined by HubSpot, which is widely credited with coining the term, as "a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don't always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have."

Permission-based inbound marketing is common. Such messages are targeted to a specific audience that has agreed to receive communications from a particular business. Inbound marketing focuses on gaining consumers' trust and attention through high-quality content and engaging them in a mutually beneficial relationship with the brand.

Inbound marketing combines several digital channels at the same time to pique the audience’s attention, primarily through social media and content such as blogs, forums, podcasts and the like.

Examples of common inbound marketing tactics include blogs, websites’ "call to action" buttons, video messaging, social media marketing, SEO, viral marketing campaigns and podcasts.

Pros of inbound marketing:

  • It encourages potential buyers to actively connect with your brand message, making it a platform for a two-way conversation.
  • It provides compounding returns.
  • It employs a constantly evolving approach to messaging that aligns with how buyers today make purchasing decisions.
  • Rather than pushing your message out to customers, it allows buyers to come to you.
These HubSpot statistics reflect the efficacy of inbound marketing:

  • 60% of smartphone users have directly contacted a company using search results such as the "click to call" feature.
  • Blogs rank as one of the top three kinds of media employed in content strategies today.
  • Over 100 million Americans listen to podcasts each month.
  • Facebook's free business tools are used by more than 80 million small enterprises.
  • Among worldwide industry experts, increased visibility is the most-frequently cited benefit of using social media for marketing objectives.

Cons of inbound marketing:

  • An inbound marketing strategy necessitates a regular investment of time to develop high-quality content.
  • Since the process is inherently lengthier, measuring the efficacy of an inbound marketing campaign can be difficult.

Consider a strategy that integrates inbound and outbound marketing

The ideal marketing approach is the one that works best for your company. That said, combining inbound and outbound marketing tactics can be highly effective. According to HubSpot's "Not Another State of Marketing Report," businesses that combine the approaches tend to see more success.

On the inbound front, your sales and marketing teams could collaborate to develop tailored messages and content for potential customers. This tactic will result in more leads and a higher conversion rate. Research finds that 47% of customers look at three to five pieces of information before speaking with a salesperson.

After potential customers have learned about your business, you can switch to an outbound approach to pique their interest and guide them to the sales funnel. A prospect may, for example, offer their contact information to receive a white paper or case study. Once they’ve had some time to process the information, a sales rep could reach out to them by email or phone, which are both types of outbound marketing. This strategy fosters conversation and allows the potential buyer to make a purchase.

Learn how we can put more time back in your day.