Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing Services: What's the Difference?
Developing a successful marketing strategy for your company can be overwhelming. There are so many different methods and means of tracking data or quantifying ROI that knowing where to begin might be the most challenging step.
In most cases, it starts with identifying whether you want to focus your efforts on outbound or inbound marketing strategies.
Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing
The difference between outbound and inbound marketing is more or less straightforward.
Outbound strategies revolve around creating and distributing brand messaging that interrupts the public’s attention, like radio ads, billboards, magazine advertisements, and television commercials. You’re essentially casting out a wide net in hopes that you pique someone’s interest in what your company has to offer.
Inbound strategies, on the other hand, target people who have shown an interest in the services or products you offer and revolve around publishing interactive forms of content marketing like blogs, social media posts, and podcasts to help your audience find you. Your marketing efforts are more specific, which requires more work upfront.
Why Does Marketing Strategy Matter?
For nearly two decades, marketers have debated the benefits and challenges of inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Up until the mid-2000s, there was only one kind of marketing known today as outbound. As the internet and search engines gained accessibility and traction, they fundamentally altered the way people communicate and seek out content. Thus, inbound strategies started developing and have constantly been evolving ever since.
Understandably, companies that have been around for longer might prefer traditional forms of marketing that align with outbound methods. These might feel more comfortable and reliable; however, both outbound and inbound tactics have a place in marketing. As with most strategies, both have plenty of benefits and drawbacks.
It’s essential to have a plan in place so that you can see what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve your strategies. Before deciding what to invest your time and money in, you need to have clearly defined goals, ROI, and a target audience in mind. Once you have that established, you’ll need to focus your efforts on outbound, inbound, or a mixture of both.
At the end of the day, it comes down to educating yourself on what each has to offer before developing a winning marketing approach for your business.
What Are the Benefits of Outbound Marketing?
Outbound marketing comes with a level of familiarity to most marketers.
Some outbound strategies that might’ve worked well for you in the past may include:
- Television advertising
- Email Marketing
- Trade shows
- Radio advertisements
- Direct Mail Marketing
- Magazine Ads
These tactics are great for getting your branding message out into the world or for spreading general brand awareness. For example, if you own a roofing company and invest in a radio ad, thousands of people will hear about your business daily. While most of them probably don’t have immediate roofing service needs, when a situation does arise—like hail damage or wind damage—there’s a good chance that you’ll be at the top of their mind.
Outbound strategies are great for brand recognition. Plus, depending on what you’re advertising, this method can garner immediate results for a time-sensitive promotion or sales event. Even recent surveys and statistics back up outbound marketing services; however, as with all strategies, you can expect a few challenges.
What Are the Challenges With Outbound Marketing?
Because outbound marketing gets sent to several people and demographics, the messaging must be more generalized. You don’t quite have the same flexibility to offer specific, target content as inbound marketing allows.
Also, because consumers are so used to this form of marketing, it can be easy for them to ignore your messaging. How often have you glazed over the newspaper ads or muted the TV between commercial breaks? We’re numb to traditional marketing that comes through the usual outbound channels.
Tracking success from outbound marketing can also be difficult. There’s no sure-fire, completely accurate way to track which customers found you via outbound marketing alone. You could send out a survey, but there’s no guarantee that people will respond. These challenges, while frustrating, are less of an issue when it comes to inbound marketing tactics.
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What Are the Benefits of Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing centers itself around being an educational, valuable source for people interested in the products or services you have to offer.
Some examples of inbound marketing include:
- Social Media
- Comprehensive SEO (search engine optimization) & Web Design
Inbound methods mean that the high-quality, relevant content you’re putting out is much less invasive than outbound marketing. Your goal is to draw people to you by addressing frequent questions your potential customer base has and exhibiting how you can bring value to their lives.
Inbound marketing campaigns are almost exclusively digital, making it easy to track progress via tools like Google Analytics. Plus, you can create content targeted for every point of the sales funnel, so it’s easier to hone your lead generation strategy, track its progress at every stage, and make adjustments as necessary.
While there are several quantifiable benefits to inbound marketing, it does come with a few obstacles.
What Are the Challenges With Inbound Marketing?
Most pain points around inbound marketing have to do with maintaining the strategy. Whether you have to update your web design, build a creative keyword strategy, or publish consistent content, a successful inbound marketing strategy requires a lot of work upfront.
As opposed to outbound tactics that generally garner immediate results, inbound methods require time and patience. Once you’ve kickstarted your inbound efforts, it will only continue to cultivate over time. Companies that started writing in the 2010s have articles written years ago that still rank and bring in traffic today.
There can be a lot more trial and error to improve your inbound marketing strategy, and it can take a long time to build enough data to make informed decisions.
How to Choose a Marketing Strategy for Your Business
Many companies find a way to blend their outbound and inbound marketing efforts. For instance, if you don’t have an aesthetically pleasing website designed to convert leads, all your work at a trade show, webinar, or cold calling is essentially moot.
The fact of the matter is that your online presence matters. When someone hands you their business card, the first thing you do is see what they look like online. If their social media presence is dead and they have a barely-functional website, you’re probably not going to follow up with them. In that sense, inbound marketing is an essential step that almost every business needs to take.
However, sometimes your marketing efforts require an extra shove from an outbound method to help get the ball rolling. While both marketing strategies have their pros and cons, it’s crucial to invest in the practices that most benefit your company’s goals and needs, track the results to the best of your ability, and continue to refine your ideal, comprehensive marketing strategy.