Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: Definitions & Examples

When it comes to inbound vs outbound marketing, what’s the difference? We’ll go over definitions, examples and the advantages and disadvantages of each in this blog.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: Definitions & Examples

If you’ve done any research on marketing for your small business, you’ve most likely come across the terms “outbound marketing” and “inbound marketing.” But what exactly do those things mean and are they worth knowing about?

You’ve probably been doing either one or both of these different forms of marketing without even knowing these terms specifically. And you have definitely encountered them out in the wild. Learning what they are and the advantages and disadvantages of each will help you better plan out your marketing strategy. Read on as we go over inbound vs outbound marketing, the definitions of each, examples and more.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the practice of using strategies that attract customers to your business. Instead of reaching out to potential customers directly, you use strategies that help them discover your business organically.

Inbound marketing involves creating educational content that solves your customers’ problems. While they’re searching for solutions to their questions on the web, they’ll hopefully find the content you’ve created and in turn, discover your business.

This type of marketing aims to pull customers in with a non-promotional approach.

Inbound Marketing Examples

Some examples of inbound marketing include:

  • Blogs
  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Video content
  • Guidebooks
  • Pay-per-click ads
  • Web design

Advantages of Inbound Marketing

So, what are the advantages of inbound marketing? Perhaps most importantly, it’s easy to measure the performance of your marketing efforts. With inbound marketing strategies, you can measure click-through rates, visits to your online content and how many followers you’re gaining or likes your posts get.

Because inbound marketing is less invasive, your leads come from customers who are actively seeking out the products or services your business has to offer. That means people are more likely to stay on your site or page for longer. Studies show that 63% of consumers start their shopping journey online.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: Definitions & Examples

Additionally, the content you’re putting out can (and should) hit customers at all stages of the buying funnel. This gives you even more opportunity to convert them from potential customers into actual customers.

Disadvantages of Inbound Marketing

Like all things that have their advantages, inbound marketing also has some disadvantages you should be aware of. The major disadvantage of inbound marketing is that it requires constant maintenance. There are always new blogs to write and new things to post on social media. As you probably guessed, this takes a lot of time and effort. Something a small business owner doesn’t always have a lot of.

Along that same vein, inbound marketing demands a larger strategy and lots of planning. This requires a lot of foresight into what is going on months and weeks in advance. Again, something a small business owner might not always have time for.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is a more “traditional” form of marketing that focuses on pushing messaging out to potential customers. Outbound marketing aims to cast a wide net. It gets you in front of a large audience very quickly in order to build brand awareness. It is generally written to sell products or services.

Take a billboard for a furniture store for example. When you see it, you might not be in the market to buy a new couch. But by the time you are, you might recall that billboard and make that furniture store your first stop. That’s outbound marketing.

Outbound Marketing Examples

Some examples of outbound marketing include:

  • Trade shows
  • Seminars
  • Cold calling and emailing
  • Direct mail
  • Billboards
  • Event sponsorship
  • Radio commercials
  • TV commercials

Advantages of Outbound Marketing

Maybe the biggest upside of using outbound marketing is that because it is the more traditional form of marketing, it’s familiar. Marketers know it’s a tried-and-true method they can rely on. Proven by the fact that TV ads are still the number one source of brand discovery.

It’s also great for brand awareness. It puts your business out into the world for all types of people to come across and then recognize whenever they might need it.

Outbound marketing is also pretty low maintenance. You can run the same TV ad spot or send out the same mailer for as long as want because the messaging is mainly about getting your brand noticed. Not to mention that you’re in more control about who your messaging is seen by. You choose which radio channel your ad appears on, or which trade shows you attend.

Disadvantages of Outbound Marketing

Just because outbound marketing has been the traditional method of marketing for many years doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its disadvantages. Your ROI, or return on investment, for outbound marketing isn’t that great. For example, the average salesperson generates roughly one appointment or referral from every 209 cold calls. This can cost small businesses a lot of money with little to show for it.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: Definitions & Examples

Another disadvantage of outbound marketing being around so long is that people have gotten pretty good at blocking it. You can easily unsubscribe from emails, install ad blockers on your computer and even pay a little extra for streaming services with no ads.

Similarly to bad ROI, outbound marketing is inefficient. You’re throwing your brand at a wide number of people who aren’t necessarily looking for or interested in your business. Remember that furniture store example? If the person who finally needs a new couch tossed your mailers in the trash as soon as they received them, they were never made aware of your brand.

Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing  

The main difference between inbound and outbound marketing is how you draw in customers. With inbound marketing, you’re pushing out content in hopes that customers will discover you organically whenever they have a problem relating to your product or service. You educate them about their problems and how your business can help. With outbound marketing, your main goal is to get your business in front of as many eyes as possible to create brand recognition. You’re hoping your customers will realize they need your product or service once they see your advertisements.

So, in the battle of inbound vs outbound marketing who comes out on top? The answer is both. Which form of marketing works best depends on your business. As we already discussed, each has its advantages and disadvantages, and using a combination of both is often the most successful.  

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to define inbound and outbound marketing and the advantages and disadvantages that come with each, you can be more intentional about how you implement them into your digital marketing strategy. If your main goal is brand awareness, you might choose some of the more traditional outbound marketing tactics. Or if enjoy creating content for your business that draws customers in, you can focus more on inbound marketing strategies.

And if you’re not at all sure about what kind of marketing would work best, you can reach out to RevLocal. We have a team of expert consultants who will handle all your digital marketing needs so you can focus on other aspects of your business.

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