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Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: An Ultimate Guide

Martin Mensbo Christiansen

Head of HubSpot

Martin is one of the few in Denmark with deep knowledge in HubSpot. He masters everything from code, marketing, automation, and data.

´What if you could save 62% on every new lead you bring into your business? What if you could create a system that could automatically drive qualified leads to your sales department?

Inbound marketing is the answer to these questions, but many people still have questions about what inbound marketing is and how it's different from traditional marketing. 

Don't worry if you're still confused about inbound marketing vs outbound marketing and how you can best utilize both for your company because you're in the right place. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to drive new qualified leads to your business every day and scale your business to the next level.


What Is Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing?

The action of marketing involves promoting and selling your product. There are many different types of marketing, including influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, and email marketing. The majority of these can be grouped into two main categories: inbound and outbound. 

When it comes to marketing, you're either pushing out your message to your audience or you're drawing your audience towards your brand. This is the essence of inbound vs outbound, or permission vs interruption, marketing. 

To define inbound marketing in simple terms, inbound marketing is about attracting people to your brand. It's about creating and sharing valuable content in the hopes that potential customers find you and learn more about your business. Your inbound marketing focus is to make your customers want to learn more about your brand and seek out your business. 

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is about pushing your message to the people in hopes that they will buy your product or service. It's like standing in a field and shouting to see who pays attention.

Outbound marketing involves contacting your audience through several channels such as direct mail or email, phone calls, and billboards. Rather than building a relationship with your current and potential customers, the outbound marketer creates a demand.

Outbound Marketing Examples

Outbound marketing is advertising your message to the masses. When you think of marketing, you likely think of television ad spots, billboards, or direct mailing. These are all traditional examples of pushing your message out to your potential prospects. 

Examples of outbound marketing strategies include cold calling, telemarketing, email marketing, direct mailers, and billboards. If you're an insurance agent or realtor, you might consider sending postcards to every homeowner within the neighborhood you'd like to work.

However, you have no idea how many will land in the hands of your potential prospects and how many will end up in the recycling bin. It's essentially interrupting strangers and asking them for business. This can be frustrating for consumers receiving calls or emails from businesses they don't care about. 

Unfortunately, for the majority of outbound marketing tactics, determining true return on investment is incredibly difficult. That's why many business owners are turning to inbound marketing instead.

Inbound Marketing Examples

Inbound marketing is no longer just about blogging and social media. It has evolved and become a primary means for companies to build their brand, increase sales, and grow revenue. 

The key to inbound marketing is that your prospects don't feel like they're being sold to. Instead, create your content to inform, educate, and entertain your audience. 

Some popular forms of inbound marketing include social media posts, blog articles, ebooks, infographics, videos, podcasts, and even chatbots on your website. Any content that you create that engages with your audience with the purpose to help them is considered inbound marketing. 

Inbound marketing includes building brand awareness and usually happens online. Truly great inbound marketing content will include these three steps: 

  1. Attraction
  2. Engagement 
  3. Providing value

If you want to create a winning inbound marketing strategy, you'll keep these three steps in mind. We've got more tips below to draw in your potential clients.


What Are the Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

Traditionally, a business might have purchased a list of cold leads. They would then spend days calling those leads to offer their products or services. Additionally, businesses would create television or billboard ads and pay large amounts of money to push those ads out to their audience. 

The biggest difference between inbound and outbound marketing is this push vs pull dichotomy. Are you creating marketing content that you will push out to your audience? Or are you creating content that will pull in your audience naturally? 

When you create your marketing, you need to understand these differences. This will help you create content that resonates with your audience. Unfortunately, if you don't understand these differences between inbound and outbound marketing, then they can be difficult to distinguish.

Both methods of marketing rely on the use of information. But one method pushes your message to your audience, while the other draws your audience to you with your message.

Additionally, as you create your content, you'll see that your outbound marketing is more generic. Your inbound marketing content will be more targeted and specific.

When you create a television commercial, you need to attract as wide an audience as possible. However, when you create a social media post, you want to narrow your target market and speak specifically to one demographic, or avatar. 

The more specific you can be when creating your target audience, the more effective your content will be. Inbound marketing is the best way to build a relationship with your audience. It's more affordable, gives you room for creativity, and is easier to track your results than outbound marketing strategies.


Who Should Move From Outbound to Inbound Marketing?

Many companies will find that outbound marketing continues to work for them. These will usually include large corporations with large budgets. But most business owners find that inbound marketing has many more advantages and a much lower barrier to entry. 

Inbound marketing is a less expensive and more creative option than its outbound counterpart. It gives businesses room for creativity by allowing you to personalize your story and build relationships with your audience. This will help make your potential customers feel like they're part of something larger.

This is especially important considering 8 out of 10 customers say that brand engagement in corporate social responsibility is important to them. As a business owner, you need to show your customers what you believe in and value and how it aligns with their values and beliefs. 

If you're wondering whether you should transition from an outbound strategy to the inbound method, then you need to consider a few factors.

1. Your Goals

The first factor you need to consider is to clearly define your end goals. What do you want to achieve with your marketing plan? Goals can often be a starting point for many marketers so they know where to go with their content. 

However, it can also be helpful to start here so that you know what type of content to create. Take the time to look at where you want to take your company in terms of improved sales and growth. Then use this information to help you decide on the best marketing strategy. 

For many business owners, since their goals align with reaching their audience and building their brand, content marketing is a clear winner. When you continually align your strategy with your goals, you will know when you've reached them. This will save you time and money as you won't waste any chasing new trends. 

2. Your Customer

Second, consider your customer. Many of today's savvy customers want to work with companies they know and trust. Your content marketing strategy can help you build that trust with your audience and lead to increased sales and conversions. 

The main tenet of marketing is to reach your audience and share your product with them. That's why it makes sense that you need to consider your customer as you consider creating your marketing strategy. Additionally, since inbound marketing keeps your target audience at its core, you'll need this information when you start creating content. 

That's why it's so important to take the time now to map out your ideal customer. Successful customer marketing focuses on building relationships and increasing engagement with your audience. When you keep your audience at the center of everything you do, you will increase retention, which will naturally lead to exponential growth. 

3. Your Company

Lastly, take a look at your business. Are you a budding startup or an established organization? This will determine whether you need to build your audience or push out your products. 

Where you are with your company will determine your marketing strategy. Creating a growth strategy will look different than a strategy increasing conversions with your current customer list. Either way, you need to know where you currently stand with your organization and where you want to take it.


Pros vs Cons of Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

As mentioned earlier, the goal of marketing is to reach your audience and sell your product. We've shown that there are several different ways to do that. You can either push out your message to a wide audience with outbound marketing or draw in your specific targeted audience with inbound marketing. 

Many businesses find that their marketing strategies combine a cohesive mix of both. However, if you're still unsure about which method to choose, we've got the benefits and disadvantages of each. Let's jump into some pros and cons of inbound vs outbound marketing so you can see how they compare.

Pros of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is often seen as the new kid on the marketing block. However, the truth is that it's older than many realize. Ever since John Deere started mailing their magazine to farmers and the Jell-O brand mailed out its first cookbook, companies have been trying to draw in new customers through content.  

Today's marketers can harness the power of the internet to reach their audience. Never before have companies been able to get such immediate and personal connection with their audience as they can through social media and the internet. Some other pros of inbound marketing include: 

  • Increased visibility
  • Show authority and give credibility
  • Reduce expenses
  • Increase conversions

The beauty of inbound marketing relies on its relentless pursuit to help your audience. With permission marketing, you aren't interrupting your customer's day with advertisements or relying on the wandering eye of drivers with billboards. Instead, you meet your customers where they are and provide them with the information they need when they're searching for it.

Cons of Inbound Marketing

The biggest problem many marketers have when pitching inbound marketing to their C-suite executives is that it takes a long time to see results. Too many business owners and executives want to see results this week or month. And outbound marketing can give you that. 

We help our clients see incredible returns on their paid advertising campaigns. However, if your budget is tight or you want a scalable marketing method, you will eventually need inbound marketing. That's why we encourage all our clients to enjoy the short-term returns they can see from advertising while also building a solid foundation of inbound marketing content.

Pros of Outbound Marketing

As you're building your business, you need a way to increase awareness around your brand. And paid advertising can be the perfect vehicle to do just that. Outbound marketing allows you to reach a large audience. 

This can be a great method for growing awareness for your business. Many businesses have found great success in running paid advertising online. When working in conjunction with inbound marketing, a robust outbound marketing plan can bring in new business. Unfortunately, it's also hard to scale as the only way to grow is to increase your budget. 

Many businesses will find that they soon outgrow outbound awareness marketing. As you start to grow your business, you don't need to focus as much on wide marketing. Instead, you'll want to move on to a more targeted approach that inbound marketing can offer.

Cons of Outbound Marketing

For many businesses, the barriers to entry when it comes to outbound entry have kept many small businesses out of the marketing arena. As you can see, the disadvantages of outbound marketing start with the high cost of running ads.  

  • High cost
  • Interruption and disruptive to your audience
  • Unable to reach your audience due to ad blockers, spam call blockers, email filters

With the rise in popularity of pop-up blockers and robust email filters, many businesses find that their outbound marketing tactics aren't reaching their target audience. That's why many are turning to inbound content marketing as a supplement or replacement for their traditional marketing.


Tips for Creating Inbound and Outbound Marketing Strategies

Instead of creating content that will go to the masses and hoping to find your customers, you should focus on creating content that specifically speaks to your target audience. You will see increased conversions and higher sales when you attract the right audience with the right message. 

And to do that, you need to create a winning strategy that will convey your message and grow your brand. Inbound marketing is a long process, and you must know where you're going to ensure that you end up in the right place. To do that, you must define your goals, complete thorough market research, and follow a refined process as we'll show.

Know Your Goals

We already touched on how knowing your goals can help you determine between choosing an inbound or outbound strategy. However, knowing your goals can also help you map out your chosen strategy as well. For example, a campaign focused on building brand awareness will follow different strategies than one focused on establishing authority in your industry. 

As you create your strategy, map out your goals first so you can ensure that your final result aligns with your overall business plan. Some goals you can choose include: 

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase lead generation
  • Provide customer value
  • Grow revenue

Each of these goals will entail different strategies and employ varying tactics. To increase brand awareness, you might consider partnering with key influencers on the social media platform your target audience is mostly using. 

However, if your focus is to bring in new leads for your sales department, you will instead want to focus on creating a valuable lead magnet. You can then offer that free gated content in exchange for your potential prospect's contact information. Imagine how your sales will increase when your sales department has a continual flow of organic qualified leads interested in your product or service. 

This is the power of inbound marketing. And the best way to know what content to create is to know your audience.

Know Your Audience

Once you know where you want to go, you need to know your audience. And this step goes beyond simple demographics such as gender, age, economic status, and education levels. You need to know your audience better than they know themselves. 

Take the time to map out the intricacies and psychographics of your audience. The best way to do this is to talk with them, either in real life or online. If you have a current customer list you can send out a survey, or if you have a customer service department you can ask them what questions they get asked most often. 

Find out what your audience values, what problems they have, what they believe in, and what keeps them up at night. This is the information that will take your content to the next level. When you create content that speaks to these topics, your audience will think you're in their head and will appreciate that your content answers their most pressing questions. 

The data collected from this market research will help you create a personalized and effective inbound marketing strategy. Since your content is created based on the customer's wants and needs, you will be able to create more focused and effective marketing campaigns.

Develop a Repeatable Process

The beauty of inbound marketing is that it is easily scalable. However, to truly scale your content, you need a repeatable process that anyone on your team can replicate. Have your workflow mapped out and available to everyone on your team so that even when you're on vacation, or an important sales call, you know that your content is consistently going out to your audience. 

The first step in your process must be your plan. Without a roadmap, your team won't know where to go with your content. Take the time to map out the content that will resonate with your audience based on your market research. Second, have a workflow that your team can follow to create and publish your content on schedule. 

Finally, create a process for distributing that content. Where are you active on social media and where do you engage with your audience? This is where you'll distribute your content and ensure that your audience can find you and your business.

Work With an Expert

Many business owners find that once they create their strategy, it can be difficult to implement it. Others have difficulty creating their strategy in the first place. For these owners and marketers, it can be beneficial to work with an expert. 

Today's marketing strategies involve a complex weave of both paid outbound marketing on social media and in print. It also includes creating content on several different platforms to draw in your target audience. You don't have the time to learn all the skills necessary to succeed at marketing your business. 

An expert can help you research your target audience and create campaigns that will speak specifically to them. Your content marketing can bring you daily new leads when it's done right. That's why many companies realize they can't afford to not invest in working with a marketing expert. 

You have a business to run; you don't have time to spend all day posting on social media or writing new blog posts. That's why smart business owners turn to an expert to show them the way and help.

Track and Test Everything

The last tip for creating a winning inbound marketing strategy is to track and test the results from your content. After all, you won’t know what’s working if you don’t track your results. 

By using data to make your marketing decisions, you’ll make educated choices rather than continuing down unfruitful paths. That’s why this tip is so important. As you create content and market your business, you need to track your results. 

Whether you’re in the middle of a big launch or simply creating content that ranks, you need to know what’s resonating with your audience. To do this, consistently track your analytics on your website, as well as your off-page content such as organic and paid social media posts.  

Track where your traffic and new leads are coming from as well as their conversion rates. You might be getting thousands of new leads from Facebook that convert at a dismal one percent. But if your organic search traffic is in the hundreds each month with a five percent conversion rate, you’ll want to increase your efforts on creating more content for your site. 

This is the power of tracking your results and making educated decisions based on that data.


Benefits of Inbound Marketing

Because inbound marketing focuses on building a relationship with your customer, you will see many intangible results behind increased sales. You will also see better retention and more loyal brand advocates from your customers. That is the value of building trust and credibility with your audience first.


One of the many benefits of inbound marketing is that it offers measurable results. It provides an in-depth analysis of which inbound marketing channels are the most efficient in converting traffic into sales. This type of in-depth analytics is very helpful in determining what your customer wants in their journey towards making a purchase decision.

Different inbound marketing channels can be used for different purposes. You will choose different platforms based on your audience and your goals. The inbound marketing method uses online analytics to determine the inbound channels that are most effective in reaching your goals.

You must know your analytics to make educated decisions regarding your marketing strategy. And inbound marketing offers your the best snapshot of how well your efforts are paying off. 

Take the time to review your analytics including where your leads are coming from, what your conversion rates are, and the overall lifetime value of your customers. 

This information is vital to creating a strategy that gives you results.


With inbound marketing, people are in control of their journey towards purchasing a product or service. They don't get bombarded by advertising in the forms of spam emails, ads on websites they're not interested in seeing.

Because your content is focused on your customers, you will build better long-term relationships with them, which leads to better retention. Loyal customers mean no more cold calling by your sales team, and no longer sending newsletters to random prospects who aren't interested.

Inbound marketing is interactive and engaging. Never before have marketers been able to have such instant access to their potential customers. You can now post on social media and generate interest immediately. 

This is the power of staying customer-focused and growing your brand online. Your customers will be interested in what you have to say because you've provided them with so much value. This is the key to growing your sales and scaling your growth for your organization.


Lastly, as you can see, the ability to scale is a great benefit of inbound marketing. When you're paying for advertising, the only way to reach more people is to pay for more ads. However, with content marketing, the more content you create, you will start to see your numbers grow exponentially. 

And, over time, as your website starts to rank for the valuable content you've created, you will have new leads and prospects flowing into your funnel every day. The internet never sleeps, so your content has the potential to reach your customers day and night. 

The more targeted traffic you can bring to your website, the more qualified leads you can bring into your business. This will naturally lead to more sales. And when you build your marketing strategy that is based on your customers' needs and provide value to them, you will naturally reduce churn. 

By following this formula, you will create a system that can naturally, organically, and automatically grow your business every day. Now you can stop worrying about your top salesperson going on vacation or your ads being blocked. Now you can rest assured knowing that your investment in your inbound marketing plan will pay off exponentially over time. 

As you can see, there are several compelling reasons why you should adopt inbound marketing in your overall strategy.  


Grow Your Business With Online Marketing Today

These days, business owners are no longer asking if they should be online. Instead, they're wondering if they're on enough of the platforms their customers are on. Whether you're creating your next email campaign, social media post, or blog article, you know that content is at the heart of growing your business. 

And now you know the difference between inbound marketing vs outbound marketing as well as their many benefits for your organization. If you're ready to start seeing these benefits in your own business, then reach out to us today. We've helped business owners just like you to scale their business and we can do the same for you.


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