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Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Understanding the pros and cons of inbound and outbound will allow you to create a better marketing strategy to fit the needs of your company.

Understanding the pros and cons of inbound and outbound will allow you to create a better marketing strategy to fit the needs of your company.

Marketing, at its core, is about communicating the value of a product, service or brand to customers, for the purpose of promoting or selling that product, service, or brand.  If a company does not market whatever they offer, then it’s likely they will not get any customers because they don’t know about it.

While traditionally, the use of outbound marketing was the most common strategy, this has quickly changed in the last few years with the increased prevalence of digital and social media marketing campaigns. These days, many companies have turned towards inbound marketing strategies for their marketing tactics.

Understanding the pros and cons of both will allow you to create a better marketing strategy to fit the needs of your company.

Outbound Marketing

This is the traditional form of marketing that you may be familiar with where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to a broad audience.  This can be done through several different channels such as trade shows, TV commercials, radio commercials, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine, etc.), cold calls, and email blasts. Outbound marketing is harder to track and less profitable than inbound marketing, yet ironically, organizations still spend as much as 90% of their marketing budgets on outbound marketing.

Why use outbound marketing?

It has been around for ages and some even consider it a cost of doing business. The goal of outbound marketing is lead generation and creating brand awareness, making it critical to those businesses looking to gain customers.  For those companies looking to get on the map, outbound marketing is the quickest way to reach the widest possible audience in the shortest amount of time.  Also, since certain outbound marketing strategies are no longer “trendy”–for instance, a display ad in the Yellow Pages, or cold-calling people in the community–advertising through these means has actually become cheaper.

Generally speaking: The older the customer, the stronger the chance that outbound marketing will impact them. For one, it is the style of marketing most older customers are used to. They are comfortable with television and radio ads, and may even make a point of scanning newspaper ads and flyers when they are ready to buy. It is a traditional, trustworthy channel that older adults feel they can trust. Whereas inbound marketing is usually delivered via online technologies that can be a struggle to understand and trust.

Outbound marketing also proves to be particularly effective in business-to-business marketing, and/or with transactions involving higher-end products.  Seeking personal contacts established through face-to-face meetings, networking at industry events and trade shows, and presenting a campaign out to the masses can show a return on investment if just 10 products are sold a month. High-end products and B2B transactions aren’t looking to attract everyone, and so traditional outbound media strategies can be a beneficial media channel.

Outbound marketing, however, can also present a lot of difficulties. Some of these problems include:

  • Difficulty in tracking return on investment (ROI)
  • Increasing blocking techniques (Do not call list, spam filters, DVR, etc)
  • High cost, low yield
  • Resisting the changing marketing world


Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing involves promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, e-newsletters, whitepapers, SEO (search engine optimization), social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to attract customers. In short, it’s all about creating engaging content.

The goals of inbound marketing is to bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.

Why use inbound marketing?

This strategy is a more affordable one, which is a reason why so many small business owners make use of it. It can be an effective strategy because you’ll be targeting consumers who are actually looking for products and services that you provide, instead of trying to advertise to every consumer out there, no matter what their needs are.  There are several ways to conduct a successful inbound marketing strategy, all of which require an online presence.

  • Creating content- Using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can post helpful articles and videos that are related to your products or services.  This content should not be advertising your company, but instead it should be providing useful content to consumers.  Not only are you enticing consumers to stick with you, you are giving them the chance to share your content, which will eventually lead back to your webpage.
  • Offering incentives- Give followers incentives for following you, such as by providing free eBooks or special deals on your products or services.  One strategy is to create a landing page where you can offer consumers free goods or content in exchange for signing up to your newsletter.
  • Communication- Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing allows you to have direct communication with the consumer.  Using your social media presence, you can ask your followers for their input regarding your products and services.  This shows them that you are for your customers, and gives you the chance to improve your business.


Deciding between outbound vs inbound marketing will depend a lot on the resources of your company.  All companies, no matter how big or small, ideally would utilize a mix of both inbound and outbound marketing strategies. If you l need some advice on what the best tactics are for your company, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d love to help you with your options and create a marketing strategy that works for your business.

Treefrog Marketing is a marketing agency focused on small business and located in Lafayette, Indiana. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, please visit our website. You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.