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Understanding Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Although normally described as two contrasting strategies, inbound and outbound marketing efforts can actually work together to help you reach your goals. 

Your time and resources are precious, so when analyzing what marketing strategy will work best for your company, there can be a lot of opposing arguments. If you’re deciding where to spend your budget you first need to figure out what combination of inbound and outbound marketing you might need to create and capture the interest of your potential buyers. 

While both inbound and outbound share the same goal of trying to close more deals, these techniques involve applying very different marketing methods and measurements of success. If you’re looking to generate more leads, you should know the major differences, challenges, and benefits between these two approaches. 

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The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing?

When it comes to deciding whether to focus on inbound or outbound – the best action may be to implement certain applications from both sides. To do that, you need a good understanding of inbound and outbound marketing and how they are used to generate more leads. 

Inbound marketing aims to attract potential buyers already searching for your product or service by creating specific and valuable content on your social media, website, or other assets. With inbound, your buyers come to you. 

It demands a lot of market research as there is no great content without fully understanding your target audience’s needs and traits. It’s your job to consistently test and refine your content to increase inbound inquiries. Messaging in this instance is normally more educational and focuses on your brand as a whole, so relationships are more long-term. 


For this reason, inbound marketing campaigns are usually split into multiple stages of your sales process. Each one speaks to the needs of the potential buyer as they move through each stage: attract, convert, close, delight. 

  • Attract- How are you going to attract your customer to you? 
    • Blog Posts, Video Content, Webinars, Newsletters, Guides, One-Pagers, and Newsletters are some of the most common forms of content in this stage.
    • Search Engine Optimization is critical for having the most optimized easily searched and relevant content. 
    • Establishing a strong presence on social media is key to attracting more potential buyers.
  • Convert – How are you going to get prospects to the defined next step in your sales process? 
    • Every piece of content should have a specific and strategic call to action that makes your prospect want to move forward.
    • Landing pages that concentrate on a particular root issue of a problem are most likely to connect with the reader and show the best chance of converting at a higher rate.
  • Close – How are you going to seal the deal? 
    • Offering discounts, special pricing, or limited-time offers in newsletters or other promotional materials.
    • Continuing to build trust through transparency and communications.
    • Record all communications and take notes in a CRM or other management software system. 
  • Delight – How are you going to keep them loyal and satisfied as a buyer?
    • Must provide the best customer experience from the first stage in your sales process and beyond.
    • Regularly occurring meetings and surveys are two of the most popular means for collecting buyer feedback.

Outbound marketing is a more traditional method where you are in control of the interest, enthusiasm, and influence you push out in order to reach your potential buyers. It is your job as a salesperson to initiate contact and have the ability to persuade, instill new beliefs, uncover pains, and project value in a way that will be well received by the target audience. 

The more potential prospects you are able to connect with, the better your chance of success in reaching your lead generation goals. This is why outbound marketing typically has a more aggressive, high-level approach, with the goal of setting meetings, booking demos or converting them into a buyer. These methods are also a great way to invite the audience to discover your website and content, building familiarity with your brand on the inbound side. 

Inbound marketing is a newer concept since it is primarily fueled by technological advances like paid search advertising, social media, and search engine optimization. Outbound marketing relies on more traditional forms of marketing like cold calling, cold emailing, trade shows, print, and tv ads. 

Direct communication in outbound marketing brings the seller and the buyer closer together, which can result in more successful sales practices and establishing product or service feedback loops. Some companies tend to shy away from outbound marketing, especially the cold calling process, but it’s one of the fastest ways to connect directly with your target audience. 

With the right messaging you can:

  • spark interest through intentional influence
  • overcome disinterest or apathy by asking probing questions to uncover pains
  • carefully construct conversational words that provide palpable benefits in the mind of the prospect
  • build trust through positive rapport and quickness of responses

There are strengths in both inbound and outbound marketing with different situations in which one or the other will become the better option. It is up to sales and marketing teams to better align and understand each other’s goals to figure out what combination best suits their respective audience. 

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When is it Best to Use Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

In our experience, the most successful companies use a combination of both approaches. This allows you to deliver quality content when customers are researching and asking questions, then to reach out directly when customers want to know about a specific product. This helps keep a sales pipeline strong, flowing with new leads and opportunities.

New Product or Service? 
Inbound marketing usually implies you have to wait to be found, and that can be quite limiting. If you are a new product on the market and you’re trying to build more awareness around your offering, you should look to outbound methods that let you get in front of your best potential buyers.

But be careful if you only want to invest in outbound. Many people now check social media and other sources to see what other people are saying about a brand before investing. If you’re not investing in inbound tactics, you might struggle to close the deal.


Have the Proper Tools & Software? 
Measuring the results of both inbound and outbound marketing efforts can be difficult and time-consuming if you don’t have the proper resources. If you are looking to invest in inbound, you will need a highly detailed strategy, CRMs, Sales Enablement tools, and appropriate customer segmentation to better tailor your messaging. 

With outbound and especially in cold calling, being able to track your prospects as you interact with them can help you gain massive control over your conversion rate and customer experience. A prospecting or cold calling company can help you do just that – by guiding script personalization, appointment setting, confirmations, and surveys. 

Does Your Team Have the Skills? 
Between SEO, blogging, social media, and regular email campaigns, this strategy is also very hands-on and requires a good amount of skill and effort to grow your brand. If you are performing inbound marketing for yourself or working with a small team, you are more likely to experience inefficiencies and frustration. 

Do You Know Where Your Audience Is Found?
Think about your industry and target audience before choosing a particular method. Where are you most likely to find them? If you are working in a smaller niche or your audience isn’t online as much, outbound methods will provide you with a better opportunity to connect. 

Need Immediate Results? 
If you are looking for quick or immediate results, outbound marketing is going to be your best bet. Cold emailing and cold calling can get you new customers much faster than the “slow and steady” pace that follows inbound. 

The Future of the Inbound Vs Outbound Debate

Both inbound and outbound marketing will have the ability to increase effectiveness as increase technological capabilities advance. As companies are increasingly using artificial intelligence to make real-time business decisions, it will only continue to drive consumer engagement further down in the funnel. In the future, AI can help manage the leads and keep engaging the customer beyond the initial contact. 

If you’re trying to decide between these two marketing strategies, remember that every company is different and has different needs. If there’s an unexplored market you’d like to reach, think about how you can reach them with methods you aren’t using at the moment.

Take a look at your current strategy and determine what is and what is not currently working. Start with any processes that aren’t well defined and reevaluate your target audience and improve one process at a time

The best thing about inbound and outbound marketing methods is that they aren’t mutually exclusive. You don’t have to choose a team. This approach is key to effective marketing: test, analyze, and refine.