Inbound marketing is the practice of attracting website visitors from search and social media, converting them into leads with content offers, and nurturing them over an extended period of time with additional content and special offers.
Outbound marketing is the practice of delivering compelling advertising messages to specific target audiences and encouraging them to take predetermined actions deemed “conversions”.
Is inbound marketing better than outbound marketing?
Honestly this isn’t an either/or situation...inbound marketing is a newer concept but both approaches have their merits, depending on your situation.
Outbound delivers results faster but inbound generates sustainable results. Outbound can be laser targeted but inbound qualifies prospects before engaging with sales.
In some cases inbound and outbound are merely two ways to achieve the same goal. In others, there are definite pros and cons to each strategy that and you’ll want to consider how they’ll impact your overall marketing initiatives.
After reading this article you’ll know:
- The difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.
- How inbound marketing campaigns ATTRACT leads.
- How outbound marketing DRIVES traffic.
- How to amplify inbound marketing results with outbound marketing tactics.
- How to measure results from both types of campaigns.
What’s the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing?
The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is the difference between fishing and hunting.
If you’re fishing, you prepare the right kind of bait to lure your quarry into position so you can set the hook and reel them in.
If you’re hunting, you stalk your quarry where it's vulnerable, sight and target them and strike when the timing is right.
Inbound is a passive approach. Outbound is aggressive.
I don’t personally believe that one is inherently better than the other. I’ve used both separately and also leveraged them together to great effect.
It’s important to understand when inbound or outbound strategies are most effective, how they compliment each other and the overall pros and cons of working each approach.
The Pros & Cons Of Inbound Marketing
- Results are cumulative and gains from optimizations are generally semi-permanent.
- Builds rapport with audience before asking them for any commitment.
- Helps pre-qualify leads for sales.
- Provides sales with helpful lead intelligence.
- Educates prospects about your products / services.
- Ties multichannel marketing efforts into trackable campaigns.
- Results take 6-12 months to become noticable.
- Not a set-and-forget strategy. Inbound is highly involved.
- Requires tight sales and marketing alignment.
- Requires top-down organizational buy-in.
- Up-front investment where ROI is extracted over time.
The Pros & Cons Of Outbound Marketing
- Results begin to accumulate immediately and are measurable within a few weeks.
- Results are highly predictable, once a baseline has been established.
- High-degree of control over the audience receiving your marketing messages.
- Guaranteed to reach the targeted audience.
- High-frequency of impressions on the targeted audience.
- No cumulative value. You must continue to spend to reach the same audience.
- No guarantee of audience’s interest. Even the right audience may not need your services at this time.
- Ads typically drive top-of-funnel traffic that won’t be ready to buy immediately.
- Ads drive unqualified traffic that may not be the right customer for your business.
Examples Of Inbound Marketing Campaigns
- Blog Posts + Pillar Pages + Content Offers
Any organic content marketing strategy that works in 2019 is based on this model:
A) Research popular topics related to your business.
B) Write a ton of content on these topics, linking to in-depth “pillar pages” on your site
C) Fill pillar pages with rich, helpful information and sprinkle in CTAs to your offers.
Answer an important question, then another and another, for your website visitors and they’ll move progressively deeper into your website and closer in relationship to your brand.
- Trade Show Panel + Webinar + Drip Campaign
Translating in-person opportunities into automated, long-distance dialogues with prospects helps B2B salespeople to stay top-of-mind throughout long, complex sales cycles.
A steady stream of fresh, useful content keeps prospects engaged. How-to videos and “from the experts” webinars are perfect for this purpose.
Videos are extremely easy to consume, even while doing other work, they’re accompanied by visual aides and can be referred back to easily in the future.
For these and many other reasons, video is an especially important medium for the modern B2B marketer.
Retargeting and email drip campaigns increase engagement with content, as long as the content answers relevant questions for prospects and customers and doesn’t just tout product features self-promotionally.
Examples Of Outbound Marketing Campaigns
- YouTube Ads + Landing Page + Signup Form
Ever seen a car commercial with an urgent special offer? Yeah, me too. One million times. That oldy-but-a-goodie outbound tactic exists in many forms, and online it’s called a Landing Page.
Ad + destination / landing page with an offer and an artificial sense of urgency. Effective, reliable and measurable.
- Direct Mail + LinkedIn Ad + Microsite
For more complex sales processes, a multichannel approach with both digital and traditional media targeting the same list of high-value individuals can amplify results from outbound sales efforts.
In B2B sales environments this sort of strategy is called ABM (account based marketing) and targets an organization’s key strategic prospects across coordinated sales and marketing campaigns.
When To Use Inbound Marketing Strategies
- When planning long term marketing initiatives with cumulative goals.
- When sustainable sales growth is needed
- When buyer personas and buyer’s journey are clearly understood.
- When an initiative can take 6-12 months to deliver results.
- When your organization possesses a high degree of unique expertise.
- When you have implemented a marketing automation platform.
- When you have a top-down commitment to aligning sales and marketing teams.
- When you have dedicated sales development resources.
When To Use Outbound Marketing Strategies
- When results are needed fast and money is no object.
- When you are prospecting for new audiences.
- When you are trying to conquest competitors’ customers.
- When you are an unknown player or competing against dominant players.
- When you can convey your unique value proposition in very simple language.
- When increasing website traffic directly correlates to increases in profitable revenue.
- When you’re also working the same prospects as part of a coordinated sales effort.
- When your story needs to be told and no one is listening.
- When your offering is so new or unconventional that no one is searching for it.
How To Use Inbound Marketing And Outbound Marketing Together To Drive Leads
Like I mentioned above, there’s no reason to choose between inbound marketing vs outbound marketing. Both are great tools for the modern marketer and should be used together where it makes sense.
When should you use inbound and outbound strategies together?
- When you need sustainable long term growth but you can’t wait 6-12 months for results.
- When you don’t have enough customer data to create detailed buyer personas.
- When the search terms in your industry are too competitive.
- When your website doesn’t have enough inbound links to rank in search yet.
- When review sites are dominating search in your space.
- When your sales cycle is longer than a few weeks and engagement drops-off over time.
I could list many other situations where it would make sense to leverage inbound and outbound strategies in the same campaign. The idea is to expedite and amplify inbound results with outbound tactics and to leverage the enhanced targeting capabilities of paid campaigns to market to your ideal audience with laser-like precision. Any scenario where you can put that dynamic to work for you, it’s worth using both inbound and outbound strategies to achieve your goals.
How do you use inbound and outbound strategies together?
- Create the most detailed buyer personas you can with the data you have and map these personas to advertising audiences as closely as possible.
- Define your buyers’ journey by interviewing customers and salespeople about the “frequently asked questions” that arise during a typical sales process.
- Document the answers to these questions and extrapolate enough blogs, emails and advertising messages to stay in touch with your prospects throughout the typical sales cycle.
- Develop advertising creative promoting the content you were able to produce from your interviews, testing different designs, ad copy, call-to-actions and audiences to drive the most converting traffic for the lowest cost.
- Capture contact information from the visits driven by outbound campaigns with content offers, blog subscription popups, webinars, etc.
Once you have a lead’s contact information the process shifts from outbound to inbound and you can move the prospect into a nurturing workflow. But even if a visitors fails to convert into a lead on the spot, you can retarget them cost-effectively, driving them back to your content again and again until they convert.
In this way you can layer outbound strategies into inbound campaigns, turning up the volume, driving results faster and at greater scale.
Most of us can’t wait 6-12 months to show results so it’s always a good idea to carve out a portion of your marketing budgets for paid media campaigns to support your ongoing inbound marketing efforts.