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Choosing Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Inbound/Outbound Marketing

Marketing is essential to market presence, especially nowadays, when it’s very competitive. Fortunately, conducting extensive and effective marketing activities doesn’t require a huge budget either, so success is in anyone’s reach. First, however, you should decide whether to focus on inbound or outbound marketing. Or maybe both?

Inbound Marketing Versus Outbound Marketing

Why this division into two types of marketing and what does it mean? Outbound marketing is referred to as “going out”. It includes all the activities which consist of addressing the customer and thus encouraging him to take advantage of the offer. This includes direct advertising and promotion.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is called “incoming”. It consists in conducting such activities which lead a customer to find a given company on his own and express interest in its offer.

Figuratively speaking, outbound marketing can be compared to a loudspeaker or a megaphone advertising slogans and messages encouraging buying specific services. Inbound marketing activities, on the other hand, can be compared to a magnet that attracts customers to the company and its offer. In practice, outbound strategies include things like:

  • graphic advertising on the Internet,
  • TV and radio advertisements,
  • outdoor advertising,
  • telemarketing,
  • leaflets, advertising catalogs, brochures,
  • paid links and advertising on various sites,
  • mailing and SMS campaigns,
  • on-site advertising: e.g. web push notifications, pop-ups, chat rooms encouraging contact.

Meanwhile, inbound marketing should deal with:

  • business’s website,
  • SEO,
  • content marketing (including blogs, podcasts, webinars, video content, etc.)
  • social media,
  • newsletters,
  • discussion forums.

All of these activities should be based on prior findings about the target audience and its exact profile. Only then can they be tailored to the needs of the potential customer, and therefore effective in attracting them and then generating conversions.

Outbound Marketing – Principles and Advantages

Nowadays the strategies identified with inbound marketing are used much more often, while the “outbound” ones are often considered less beneficial, less effective and even outdated. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Most often, outbound marketing uses an undefined message – the same for all recipients and usually not fully supported by the expectations of the target group. However, it’s also possible to test different formats and check their effectiveness.

It’s important to remember to adapt the rules of outbound marketing to the needs of the modern consumer. There’s no place for outdated techniques or pushy, annoying advertising. However, it’s worth taking care of:

  • personalizing communications – wherever possible;
  • adopting an advisory, expert tone – customers don’t like pushy “pushing” products at them, but they value reliable information and advice from professionals;
  • careful selection of communication channels – depending on things like the scale of the business, the industry and the target group.

The advantages of outbound marketing include:

  • control over the message in communication (because it’s usually one-sided),
  • the possibility of quickly obtaining results such as building brand awareness,
  • relatively low costs in the case of conducting online campaigns,
  • possibility of acting on a wide scale.

Certainly, some disadvantages of this type of strategy can also be mentioned. These include:

  • the risk of causing negative reactions of potential customers (pushy and disturbing advertising),
  • some difficulties with message targeting (i.e. adjusting its form and content to a specific recipient), especially outside the Internet,
  • the risk of ignoring the message by the recipients – the society is directly flooded with constant advertising messages, therefore it becomes immune to them,
  • relatively high costs per acquired lead.

Can inbound marketing be an effective solution for your business?

Inbound marketing – Principles and Advantages

The idea of inbound marketing is based on attracting customers and therefore requires a thorough understanding of their needs. How to make the customer himself want to come just to you? You need to:

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  • develop a detailed marketing strategy – vision, goals and ways to achieve them;
  • precisely define who is the target recipient of your services – the profile of your model customer should include as much information as possible, including age, gender, profession, habits, expectations or needs;
  • prepare a website – remembering about its aesthetics, functionality and maximum simplicity, which will facilitate the purchase path and conversion;
  • create valuable content and constantly supplement the website with it;
  • maintain social media profiles, ensuring that the content presented there is up-to-date;
  • use thematic and industry websites;
  • Take care of constant acquisition of leads and develop a system that will help make sure they become customers;
  • continually analyse and improve the methods used.

Inbound marketing should be directed primarily at building brand awareness and strength and gaining customer trust. This has its advantages, provided, of course, that the strategy is properly designed and implemented. These include:

  • ability to reach a large group of customers,
  • relatively low costs,
  • many forms of communication and almost unlimited possibilities in terms of creation,
  • great targeting possibilities,
  • possibility to simultaneously build brand authority and inspire trust,
  • message based on purchase intention or customer interest – doesn’t arouse unwillingness, is not pushy,
  • hard selling.

However, it’s not a method without flaws! These can include:

  • High entry barrier – inbound is based on tools the complexity of which has increased significantly over the last decade. In principle, you need the support of a specialist to get optimal results.
  • Limited opportunities to build reach in niche industries – going beyond them can sharply increase customer acquisition costs.
  • High budget required in some segments.

When to Use Outbound Marketing?

When considering the two types of marketing strategy it’s worth taking certain criteria into account. This is because in some cases outbound marketing works better, while in others it’s better to bet on inbound methods. So when is it worth using outbound strategies and addressing customers directly?

When to Expect Quick Results

You have to wait for the results of inbound activities. So if you need to achieve specific goals, it’s best to turn to outbound techniques or paid ads like Google Ads. They usually allow you to gain some customers or leads in a short period of time. However, it’s worth keeping in mind the rules for running effective outbound campaigns, which are included above.

When You’re New on the Market

It’s difficult for small, new companies to break through in the minds of customers by only conducting inbound marketing activities, and waiting for results can lead to a worsening of the company’s financial situation. Therefore, in order to get your proverbial foot in the door, it’s a good idea to employ outbound strategies to help increase your brand’s visibility while acquiring leads at a much lower cost.

When You Have a Limited Startup Budget

If you have little capital, you certainly can’t wait for the results associated with inbound campaigns. This is when a well thought-out out outbound campaign on paid channels may work. Of course, this doesn’t apply to companies with, for example, low fixed costs and which can afford to wait longer for results despite a limited budget.

When to Use Inbound Marketing?

Of course, there are also situations in which inbound marketing works much better. When is it worth using it?

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When You’re Not in a Hurry

Do you want to build a strong brand, but you don’t expect immediate results? If you have an appropriate budget and can afford to build a position slowly, it’s worth betting on intensive inbound activities. Remember that it may take many months from the time you start to gain a customer. Meanwhile, you still have to add time to carefully prepare a marketing strategy.

When You Realize the Importance of Good Content and Have the Ability to Create it

Writing an expert article for your company’s blog from time to time may seem like a simple task that you can do yourself in your spare time. However, this is very harmful. Taking care of the published content is very important, so it should not be a job done “by the way”. You have to make sure that the content is of high quality and complies with SEO rules, which requires appropriate knowledge. Moreover, someone has to watch over the regularity of content publication. Therefore, this should be handled by a specific, designated person who is also qualified. Instead of hiring a new employee, you can entrust this task to an agency – in many ways this is a more cost-effective solution.

When you Know Your Target Audience

The great strength of inbound is the ability to precisely match it to your target audience. That’s why it’s imperative that you know your target audience very well – otherwise your strategy won’t make much sense. You need to know who your customer is, but also what messages they respond to, how they shop, and what values they hold.

When You Have the Right Budget

This is about having the financial backing to wait for results, but also about the amount of money you have allocated to marketing. Developing, implementing, and then refining an inbound strategy is usually resource-intensive and time-consuming, even though it costs less per lead than outbound campaigns. Of course, the exact amount of the required budget depends on many factors, including the industry, area of operation and competition. However, the snowball effect applies to inbound marketing. Consistency over the long term can offer you the cheapest way to acquire leads.

Inbound and Outbound – Together or Separately?

The above content should help you decide which marketing strategies to use. However, there is still a hidden option number three, which is to combine inbound and outbound activities. Does this make sense? Absolutely, and it’s probably the best solution! In many cases, this is how you get the best results. Complementary and intertwining marketing techniques will get you more customers and maximize your profits. An example? You can use an email campaign that includes a link to an educational video or article. Such a combination of outbound and inbound activities is characteristic especially for companies with a bit more seniority in the market, as well as budget, and this is when it proves to be the most profitable.

And how do others do it? Statistics show that smaller companies place by far the greatest emphasis on inbound activities. This trend is particularly visible in companies with up to 25 employees. Companies employing from a few dozen to 200 people clearly increase spending on outbound marketing, while in the largest companies (over 200 employees) outbound and inbound methods are used basically in half.

It’s certainly fair to say that today’s companies are emphasizing inbound marketing. It’s a strategy that seems primarily more effective in the long run. If you want to keep up with your competitors, you definitely shouldn’t base your marketing solely on outbound efforts. However, you should also not abruptly change the strategies you have been using so far. The process of modifying them should always be gradual. Usually, it’s not a good idea to get rid of outbound marketing altogether. As mentioned above, it also has its advantages! If only it’s properly implemented, it will surely bring measurable effects, even though this type of activity is increasingly considered outdated.

Inbound and Outbound Marketing – How to Measure Effectiveness?

Are you still unsure whether to focus primarily on inbound or outbound, or maybe use a mixed strategy? Or maybe you want to check how your existing activities compare in terms of effectiveness with the newly implemented strategy? Comparing the effectiveness of inbound and outbound methods is usually not easy, but it can be done. It’s worth looking at various marketing metrics and indicators. First of all, you should take into account the amount of budget allocated to certain marketing activities and the number of leads acquired and compare their proportions. The key indicator in this case is the so-called CPL, or Cost Per Lead. In addition, it’s worth taking into account:

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  • QL (qualified leads) – the number of leads that are considered potential customers, ready to buy,
  • CR (conversion rate) – a conversion rate indicating the percentage of leads from a particular source that decide to buy,
  • Ticket Value – the average value of transactions for each of the customer acquisition sources
  • Sales cycle length – it often happens that acquiring a customer from some sources takes less time than from others.

By comparing this data, it will be much easier for you to identify which activities bring you the best results, and thus improve your marketing strategy. It’s a good idea to constantly monitor these metrics because nothing is certain in marketing – what works great one day may not work the next.

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Author of the article

It’s been 8 years since Maciej took his first steps in the world of marketing - especially the one related to content. So far, he has worked for politicians and the b2b and b2c industries. A fan of content marketing in the digital strategy and its influence on customer navigation and brand reputation. He is also interested in the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility and sees this topic as a springboard for the communication development of many businesses. Responsible for marketing in Verseo. In his free time Maciej reads reports from the world and scientific + sci-fi literature. :)