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Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing

By Academy Xi

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Inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing

When it comes to marketing, there are two broad categories that a campaign can be broken into – inbound and outbound. Each involves separate techniques and offers its own pros and cons. For those who are new to inbound and outbound marketing, let’s take a look at the key differences.  

Outbound marketing involves using traditional tactics to ‘push’ messages out to a broad audience. It’s what springs to mind when you think about traditional marketing – attention-grabbing commercials on the television, glossy adverts in magazines, or colourful billboards in the streets. 

On the other hand, inbound marketing targets relevant audiences by using online content to ‘pull’ them into the sales funnel. Ever found yourself encapsulated while reading a blog about a new product or service? That’s inbound marketing doing its thing!    

Let’s take a closer look at each approach and explore the benefits and drawbacks.

What is outbound marketing?

With outbound marketing, companies cast a wide net and hope to attract customers by repeatedly exposing them to their brand’s marketing messages. Throughout this process, businesses are unaware whether or not the customers want to receive these messages. Often viewed as opportunistic, outbound marketing is commonly referred to as the “spray and pray” method. 

Examples of outbound marketing include: 

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Print
  • Billboards
  • Display advertising
  • Cold-calling 
  • Cold-emailing 
  • Direct mail
  • Event sponsorships
  • Trade shows 
  • In-person contact

What is Inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategic, slow-burning approach that involves creating content which targets your audience specifically. Ideally, this marketing will be appealing because it taps into your audience’s interests and addresses their problems. 

In a nutshell, inbound marketing is all about providing the solutions your audience needs and building long-term customer relationships. Content coming in many forms and delivered through a range of platforms is designed to nurture potential customers (or leads) through the marketing funnel.  

Examples of inbound marketing include:

  • Blogs
  • Social media campaigns
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • Webinars and podcasts
  • Videos
  • Opt-in emails
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

What’s the difference between inbound and outbound marketing?

Inbound and outbound marketing use different tools and techniques. As you’ve probably already figured out, the main difference between the two is how you attempt to engage with your audience:

✔️Outbound marketing delivers a message directly to a wide audience, regardless of whether or not they are known to be interested or suitable

✔️Inbound marketing is tailored to a particular audience and acts like a ‘magnet’ that draws potential customers in 

Inbound marketing strategies

Inbound marketing strategies are subdivided into three key phases: attract, engage and delight.

Inbound marketing strategies

Let’s take a peak at each of these stages and clarify the role they play in attracting and retaining customers. 

  • Attracting strategies

The first stage of inbound marketing is all about building an audience of potential customers. At this point: 

  • The people you engage with will often be unfamiliar with your brand
  • They will also likely be in the early phases of figuring out exactly what problem it is that they need solving 

Your focus during the attraction stage is to provide content that acknowledges this problem. Addressing their needs with empathy will:

  • Elicit an emotional response and build customer rapport
  • Develop curiosity about your products
  • Encourage your audience to find out more about your brand as a whole

To ensure your content can be ‘found’, you need to target your potential customers on the platforms they’re already using (social media channels, news outlets, etc). 

You should also ensure you rank highly on the search engine results pages (SERP) for any important topics and search terms related to your brand’s offering.

  • Engaging strategies:

The engagement stage is when you have the chance to turn your new prospects into customers. Your aim is to guide them through the ‘consideration’ and ‘decision’ phases of their customer journey. You can do this by providing insights and expertise relevant to their challenges. 

This is also an excellent opportunity to help them navigate the different solutions the market has to offer. You should always maintain a neutral stance and favour factual accuracy and quality of information over the approach of a ‘hard sale’. This will help build brand trust and convince potential customers you offer an honest solution to their problems.

  • Delighting strategies:

Last but not least is the stage of delighting your customers. This is when you strive to exceed the expectations of those who choose to buy from your business. Ideally, they will transition from being one-time customers to loyal brand ambassadors who come to you again and again. 

To make this scenario a possibility, you need to provide excellent ongoing service and demonstrate that the relationship does not end once they’ve spent their hard-earned money. This may include: 

  • Providing additional information and support that helps them get the most from their purchase
  • Re-contacting them to alert them of ways that new products and services can help in the future

Outbound marketing strategies

There are a number of platforms and techniques when it comes to outbound marketing efforts, the most popular being:

Outbound marketing strategies

✔️Cold and direct email – While inbound marketing uses emails to build relationships over time, cold and direct emails are sent without any prior attempt to nurture the lead. 

✔️Search ads – People searching on Google often reveal a lot about their intent (what they want to do or buy). Marketers have the ability to bid on keywords, so their ads show up when people are searching for exactly the kinds of things they sell.

✔️Social media ads – This is a type of digital marketing that utilises social networks such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram to deliver paid ads to your target audience. When used effectively, social media ads can be a quick way to connect with your consumers and boost your marketing campaigns. 

✔️Cold calls – Much like cold and direct emails, cold calls are a form of telemarketing that involves contacting customers directly and attempting to convince them to make a purchase.

✔️TV, radio and print ads – These are the traditional forms of advertising, which in the past were the bedrock of most marketing campaigns. For those with enough money to spend, they’re still a popular option. 

Benefits of inbound and outbound marketing

Throughout the last decade or so, inbound marketing has become increasingly popular, with more businesses taking a content-driven approach when it comes to developing marketing strategies. The main benefits of inbound marketing are:

  • It’s cheaper than outbound marketing, which often makes it more viable for small businesses
  • Because it isn’t necessarily intended for a broad audience, it can be more targeted and include specific content
  • The high level of control that you have over your inbound marketing efforts combined with a constant supply of data means there are plenty of opportunities to learn and evolve  

However, outbound approaches still have their place in modern marketing. The benefits of outbound marketing include:

  • The ability to reach a very large audience (which is handy when your potential customers are in the discovery phase)
  • Faster results – outbound marketing is direct and can generate more immediate results

What’s more effective, inbound or outbound marketing?

Going to “the horse’s mouth” for advice, you’ll find most marketers favour inbound marketing: 

  • A survey by Hubspot shows that only 18% of marketers believe outbound efforts provide high quality leads
  • By contrast, 75% of marketers believe their inbound marketing strategy is effective

Why such a big difference in opinion? Well, believe it or not, the average person is interrupted by roughly 2000 outbound marketing messages every day. As a result, people have learned to ‘tune-out’, walking directly past billboards and making a cup of tea when the adverts start on television. People also impose actual barriers by installing ad-blockers on browsers, or using caller ID and spam email filters.

All this means that for companies with a more modest budget, inbound marketing is likely to be more warmly received and provide a better return on their investment. 

However, if it’s financially achievable, a combination of inbound and outbound marketing can work beautifully. Inbound efforts and targeted content are used to nurture leads down the funnel, while outbound marketing can be used to tell the brand’s story at a much higher level. The combination provides a compelling big-picture understanding of who your company is and exactly what it offers.   

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