Inbound Marketing Or Outbound Marketing, Which Should You Use?

Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing
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There are a ton of different avenues you can use for your marketing efforts. But how do you know which one will yield the best results? It can be difficult to know when to use Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing. Let’s take a look at how you can decide which one will be most effective for your product.

What’s the Difference? confused about inbound vs outbound marketing

Before we get into whether you should use Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing, let’s talk about the difference between the two.

Inbound Marketing Defined

HubSpot, who coined the term ‘Inbound Marketing’ define it as follows.

Inbound Marketing is an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful- not interruptive. With Inbound Marketing potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines and social media.  

Essentially Inbound Marketing involves creating information about an issue and then highlighting how your product can assist with that problem.

Inbound Marketing stems from the shift in how modern consumers buy products. HubSpot believes modern consumers go through a decision process known as the Buyer’s Journey when making a purchase. This journey has three different stage, Awareness – Consideration – Decision. Consumers become aware of an issue they’re experiencing, they consider possible solutions and then decide on which product can solve it for them.

Inbound Marketing Examples Include:

  • Blogging
  • Social Media
  • Podcasts
  • Viral Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Whitepapers

Outbound Marketing Defined definition for Outbound Marketing is:

Outbound marketing tries to reach consumers through general media advertising as well as through in-person contact. Depending on the venue, the approach can be extremely broad (TV advertising), thoroughly personal (face-to-face meetings), or “impersonally personal” (cold-calling or blanket emails). Through each outbound method, sales leads are generated and then followed by internal sales representatives.

Outbound Marketing is the more traditional approach to marketing. It’s all about actively advertising to people by bringing the information about your product to them directly. This type of marketing does not need a buyer’s journey by nature.

Outbound Marketing Examples Include:

  • Paid Google Advertisements
  • Paid Facebook Advertisements
  • Direct Email Marketing
  • Tradeshows
  • Billboards
  • Flyers
  • Television Advertisements.

Choosing Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing

Now that we’re clear on the difference between the two let’s talk about how to decide when to use Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing. Each one has its place and it can sometimes be difficult to determine which one you should use but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing

Any marketer worth their salt will know that the same tactic doesn’t work for every business. Something that works for a marketing agency isn’t necessarily going to work for an online clothes store.

To decide if Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing is the way to go there are three key factors that you need to take into consideration.

  • Your Market
  • Your Product
  • Your Goals

Your Market

Paint a picture of your target market. Look at their demographic. Consider their professional goals, life goals, their challenges. Study how they get information to make a purchasing decision. The answers to these questions will do more than help you decide on Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing. It will also point you to which marketing channel might be best for reaching them. If the right people don’t know about your product how can they buy it?

Inbound Marketing

  • When your target market prefers to do their own research before making a purchasing decision. e.g Techies.
  • When your target market prefers to consume information online. e.g Millenials.

Outbound Marketing

  • When your target market makes quicker purchasing decisions. e.g extremely busy people.
  • When your customer prefers to physically speak to a real person before making purchasing decisions. e.g Generation X.
  • When your target market gets information from more traditional sources. Such as word of mouth, television, print etc. e.g Baby boomers.

Let’s take an example. A dog walking service is trying to increase downloads of their app. They’ve been running a paid Facebook ad campaign to target people aged 50-60-years-olds. But their posts haven’t been getting many interactions. So they sit down and take a look at their current customer base and assess the market.

After speaking with their customers they discover that the majority of their customers are aged between 23-30. They then do some research into the dog walking market. They that the Millenial market now accounts for 43% of the growth of the pet market from 2007-2015. (Source: Packaged Facts)

They’ve been using Outbound Marketing perfectly. But because they haven’t assessed their target market correctly they’ve been focusing these efforts in the wrong place.

Your Product

Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing

The next major consideration is the actual product that you’re selling. Different product types can be better suited to Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing. 

Inbound Marketing

  • Products that take a lot of consideration. e.g computer software.
  • Products that need to be explained to highlight their value. e.g niche health foods.
  • Products that people aren’t yet aware of. e.g new to market products.
  • Products that have heavy competition in their market. eg. car dealerships.

Outbound Marketing

  • Products that don’t need much consideration. e.g a burger.
  • Products that are very straight forward and don’t need much explaining. e.g cell phone packages.
  • Products that have a loyal following. e.g Apple products.

Let’s look at an example of how important your product is when deciding on an Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing strategy. Coca-Cola decides to launch a new product, Strawberry flavored Coke. (This sounds awful but luckily I don’t work for Coca-Cola! ) They then decide that they’re only going to use Inbound Marketing to promote this product. They begin writing blog posts about how strawberries are good for you and that people should try their new flavor. They are ranking #1 on Google for ‘Strawberry Coke’ but nobody is searching for this phrase on Google because they don’t know it exists. 

Fast food products like this don’t need much consideration. People don’t need to research and decide if they’re going to buy strawberry Coke or Dr.Pepper. An Outbound Marketing approach would be much more effective here.

Your Goals

The final piece of the puzzle is your marketing goals. Do you need to see some quick short term wins or can you wait it out with a longer term strategy to get wins further in the future?

Inbound Marketing

  • Your goal is to get highly qualified leads.
  • You can afford to wait for these leads.
  • Your goal is to use a long-term strategy that will continue to generate leads well into the future.
  • You have a big team so you can churn out valuable content quickly.

Outbound Marketing

  • Your goal is to get some more general leads quickly.
  • You want to use a short term strategy.
  • You can afford to invest some money on Outbound strategies.
  • You don’t have time to wait for the returns on Inbound Marketing.

For our final example let’s take an entrepreneur who has just developed a new piece of software. This software helps sales managers record their team’s sales calls. This entrepreneur is currently working part time while he gets his business off the ground. He doesn’t have a lot of income to implement outbound marketing. But since he’s working part time he doesn’t need his leads to start pouring in immediately.

So he decides on an Inbound Marketing strategy. He begins creating valuable content every day on his blog. It takes a long time but he starts to see people downloading the free trial of his software. Then these people start buying his software and he uses that money to invest in Outbound Marketing for some quick wins.

He can now afford to work on his business full time because he assessed his goals at that time and made the best decisions to match.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing

These three factors will help you decide if Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing is the best decision for your business. There will be times when your market, product and goals pull you in different directions. But remember, there’s space for both Inbound and Outbound Marketing in today’s world. The key is selecting which one best aligns with your market, product and goals at this specific time. Try different methods, test things out and you can even use Inbound and Outbound marketing to compliment each other.

Resources for Inbound Marketing:

Resources for Outbound Marketing:

Further Reading:

This Article is About:

  • Choosing Inbound Marketing or Outbound Marketing.
  • Inbound or Outbound Marketing.
  • The difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing.


Digital Marketer with Rebrandly: Digital Marketing, movie quotes, music and branded links! Linkedin: Rebrandly.Rocks/Ian