Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Digital Marketing — 5 Differences

Marketers today have a wide range of digital marketing tactics to choose from to build brand awareness and generate leads and sales. Options include email marketing campaigns, social media, blogging, search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising, television and radio ads, to name but a few.

All these various marketing tactics can be boiled down to two main categories: outbound and inbound. Each discipline involves different strategies, but they both have a place in a robust, comprehensive marketing program that steadily feeds the sales funnel. 

The two marketing strategies differ in several ways — including the approach, intent, focus, tactics and results. Here are the top five distinctions between inbound and outbound marketing strategy. 

1 — Approach: Disruptive vs. Passive

Many people refer to outbound marketing as “interruption marketing,” because the tactics tend to interrupt what people are already doing. For example, television commercials are classic outbound marketing tactics that disrupt television shows people are viewing. Similarly, radio ads disrupt the music people are listening to.

The idea is to encourage either an immediate or imminent response from the target audience. Outbound marketing (our favorite tactics include email marketing, LinkedIn and cold calling) still boasts some of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reach untapped markets for any size business.  

Inbound digital marketing relies on letting consumers find a company and consume relevant content at their own time and pace. For example, a businessperson who oversees upgrading a software system will typically go online and search for solutions that meet the company’s needs. 

Along the way, they will find a range of relevant content: blog posts, white papers, reports, and articles to provide them ideas for solving their problems. The inbound process (called the buyer’s journey) includes getting found online, converting a visitor to a lead, and then converting a lead into a customer.

2 — Intent: Promotions vs. Content Marketing

Outbound and inbound marketing differ in intent. Typically, outbound marketing is focused on specifically introducing a company or promoting a product or service. It can often be used to make an offer to the target audience, e.g., a standard advertisement. Where outbound marketing tends to excel is in connecting to new audiences and creating awareness. 

By reaching new people who may not be aware of your company, the opportunity to educate your untapped market opens up. They may not realize they have a need or a want for a particular product or service, but when they hear about it, they may recognize that need. 

Inbound, on the other hand, is geared toward creating a wide range of content marketing and promoting the content so potential buyers can find it and consume it at the time and place of their choosing. The goal is to create and distribute relevant, value-rich content that potential customers want to consume. Where inbound marketing excels is when prospects are actively searching for specific products or services.

3 — Focus: Broad vs. Narrow

By proactively initiating communication with an audience through outbound marketing tactics, you’re letting people know exactly what it is you do and how you can provide value for them. This process is valuable to an overall marketing strategy because you can dictate the message you want to send out to a very broad audience to create awareness for your company which is critical for growth.

By creating a library of valuable content to support an inbound digital marketing strategy, you are publishing useful, helpful, even entertaining content about solutions to the problems your target potential customers are looking to address. The better your content, the more they will consume and even share with others. 

4 — Tactics: Traditional vs. Digital

Some examples of outbound marketing include many traditional approaches: email marketing, LinkedIn, television commercials, billboards, radio ads, direct mail, and cold calling. The main goal of these outbound media is to try converting people into purchasing whatever product or service you are marketing by getting in front of customers. At Acceler8now, we feel the main objective with outbound marketing is shortening the distance between brand awareness and a customer or client choosing you over the competition.

Some examples of inbound digital marketing are blogging, social media, keyword marketing, and SEO. Blogging is the primary method of publishing information for most traditional marketers. Social media is used to promote content and generate more traffic. 

Once on a site, a visitor is offered something valuable related to their research, like an ebook, in exchange for their contact information. If the relevant content meets the prospect’s needs, the company can continue to provide them with a steady stream of helpful information. 

5 — Results: Short vs. Long Term

Outbound marketing can provide an instant bump in leads and customers, but to do outbound right, it can’t just be viewed as a quick fix or a one-off. We believe in the power of outbound marketing to invite people at scale to make a connection with your brand and start a conversation. In this respect, we’re leveraging the spirit of inbound marketing with the very best practices in outbound email tactics. For example, a well-produced email marketing campaign can find the right prospect, make them a compelling offer, and immediately convert them into customers. 

Sales teams are constantly on the lookout for potential customers; a well-organized outbound campaign can run in the background, filling the funnel so sales and business development staff spend time talking to potential customers and not expending energy smiling and dialing. Ongoing results can quickly be repeated through multiple campaign launches. 

Inbound digital marketing may provide a solid, day-in-and-day-out flow of leads that slowly, but steadily, turn into customers. For example, a technique like employing good SEO practices will consistently attract consumers to learn more about a company and its products. Results will require ongoing attention to high-impact content marketing creation. 

From a marketer’s perspective, outbound and inbound marketing can fulfill different — but equally important — needs. Each approach brings its own potential to a robust marketing strategy. 

While both outbound and inbound marketing have their times and places, one of outbound marketing’s unique strengths is that it doesn’t wait for potential buyers to find a company. It gets out in front of a target audience with compelling messages and offers. In this way, your promotion may be the only one a prospect sees when they have a need for a specific service or product. And this can be a great way to beat your competition to the punch.Let us know if you’d like to explore your outbound marketing strategy options. We have the expertise, tools, technology, and proven results to help you succeed.

Outbound Strategies Connecting you to Untapped Markets