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Inbound or Outbound Marketing: What's More Effective?

Here’s an interesting question:

When looking to maximise your revenue, should you take a streamlined marketing approach, focusing on selling to active buyers, giving you the highest probably of success?


Should your businesses cast a wide net targeting potential customers far and wide, whether they’re active buyers or not?

This is a question that’s still hotly debated
amongst marketers today.

Some businesses swear by inbound, some swear by outbound marketing. Some businesses believe the best strategy is a combination of the two.

This is the ongoing debate, but which strategy is better for your business inbound or outbound marketing?

inbound or outbound marketing

Inbound Marketing Defined

Rather than becoming embroiled in a tussle for attention, inbound marketing tactics focus on bringing customers to you.

The statistics conducted differ slightly, but the consensus is that between 70-95% of customers browse independently before contacting the seller.

So, the heart of any effective inbound marketing strategy is the content. By creating and sharing valuable content aimed at focused buyer personas, your business is directly appealing to who you want to.

60% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.

Source: HubSpot

An inbound marketing strategy is designed to align your organisation with the experience of online browsing – the buyers journey.

The Buyer Journey Explained

The first stage of the buyer journey is the realisation that they need to make a purchase. This is called the awareness stage.

Once a buyer has identified the right product or service for them, they then research the purchasing options they have. This is called the consideration stage.

Now that a buyer knows his or her purchasing options, they move onto the decision stage. This is where they select the product or service that meets their needs.

HubSpot Buyers Journey

Inbound Marketing Example

Let’s say that you’re an online retailer of organic soaps. You have complete belief in your product range, and offer a wealth of different fragrances, from hibiscus rose to vanilla lemonade.

You want more people to appreciate the therapeutic and fragrant qualities your soaps offer; you want to grow your business.

Inbound marketing can help you do this because inbound strategies are designed for the early stages of a buyer journey, highlighting USPs and building customer relationships.

Typical Inbound Marketing Strategy

Creating and distributing content that’s tailored to meeting the specific needs of your clients is very effective for niche products. Buyers can be engaged and educated of all the benefits to them – in a way that directly appeals to them.

Inbound marketing takes potential customers by the hand and acts as a guide. Tantalising customers by providing them engaging information that sells who you are and what you do. Effective inbound marketing tactics include the following:

  • Content creation
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Blogging
  • Lead creation
  • Free eBook downloads
  • White papers
  • Expert guides
  • SEO

Inbound marketing is a journey of discovery. The main goal is to build awareness and benefits of your business, reaching active buyers and building your brand authority.

Inbound marketing can be summarised by the following four words:

attract, convert, close, delight.

Outbound Marketing Defined

Proactively appealing to customers, selling the reasons why your products and services benefit them is known as outbound marketing.

Unlike inbound marketing, it’s all about casting that wide net. The more potential customers you target, the greater your opportunity for selling is.

The heart of any outbound marketing campaign is the numbers. Not strictly limited to a few buyer personas, outbound marketing aims to appeal to almost anyone.

Outbound Marketing Example

Let’s say you’re a designer about to launch a new fashion line for autumn. You’ve followed the latest catwalk in Paris, paying attention to what new trends are expected for the new season.

You want to reach as many people as possible, showing them the reasons why your fashion line is the must have this season.

Outbound marketing strategies allow you to target a vast range of personas. They are designed to appeal to immediate buyers, those that can quickly be moved to the buyer stage of the customer journey.

Typical Outbound Marketing Strategy

outbound marketing strategies

Outbound marketing tactics take immediate action. It gives businesses the opportunity to get in front of and pitch products or services to a vast range of potential customers, whether they’re active buyers or not. Effective outbound marketing tactics include the following:

  • Cold calling
  • Trade shows and seminars
  • Direct mail campaigns
  • Billboards
  • TV commercials
  • Pay Per Click campaigns

Only 17% of marketers say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads for sales

Source: HubSpot

The main goal of outbound marketing is lead generation. Outbound marketing is crucial for businesses who need to build their client base in the shortest amount of time.

Outbound marketing can be summarised by the following four words:

identify, reach, sell, repeat.

Making a Choice

Both inbound and outbound marketing strategies have their own distinct merits. To consider which is most effective for your business, you must ask yourself what your objectives are.

The Benefits of Inbound Marketing

The biggest strength of inbound marketing is that it focuses on providing value to any potential customers. It’s not the hard sell. It informs them of the reasons why buying your products and services benefits them specifically.

Inbound marketing builds a relationship between you and your customers. It sells what customers want, at a time that’s convenient to them.

The other primary strength is the long-term ROI offered by inbound marketing. A good inbound marketing campaign has long term strategy and goals, and is focused not on one-off customers, but securing reoccurring revenue. The initial upfront investment may be higher, but the long term financial rewards are greater.

The long-term value of assets is greater. Blog posts and premium offers can continue to generate leads for years at zero cost to you, because they’re already online. The same cannot be said for re-printing leaflets for yet another direct mail campaign.

The Benefits of Outbound Marketing

The biggest strength of outbound marketing is that it allows businesses to get in front of the largest number of people in the shortest possible time.

Once launched, results can be achieved quickly. The wider you cast the net, the more likely you are to be successful.

What to Consider Before Deciding

Before choosing either an inbound or outbound marketing strategy, there are several factors to consider. Only by knowing the following can you choose the right strategy.

The Market

Knowing your buyer personas is essential to the success of any business. This is how marketers connect, engage, influence and ultimately sell their products and services.

Researching your market will give you a broad understanding of the types of buyer personas. Similarly, researching what your direct competitors do, and how effective they are will influence whether to choose an inbound or outbound strategy.

The Goals

Identifying your goals is vital when deciding between an inbound or outbound strategy. If you’re intent on building your brand awareness, then an inbound strategy is most effective. If you want to try to influence as many potential customers as possible in a short period of time, then an outbound strategy is most effective.

Depending on your budget, timeframe and products or services, effective strategies combine inbound and outbound tactics. This way you have the opportunity of boosting short-term sales, whilst laying the foundations for long term customer retention and business growth.

The Brand

Your strategy will affect your brand’s image. Aggressive cold-calling might see a short-term spike in sales, but it may damage your brand’s image in the long run.

How you promote yourself should be honest and transparent. It’s unwise to use inbound or outbound tactics that go against your core values.

Customers see right through this. It takes time to earn a good reputation, but even the best reputation can be shattered in a matter of moments!

What do we think?

Investing in an inbound marketing strategy for us, will always win over an outbound strategy, but this is not straight forward.

An inbound strategy will inevitable need more investment in time and money before you start to see an increase in website visits, leads and customers. You have to be prepared to play the long game, but after around 6 months of deploying a solid inbound campaign you will start to see the growth.

With that said, we would always advise to employ tactics from the outbound side whilst developing your long term inbound strategy.

Well structured Pay-Per-Click campaigns will drive targeted traffic to your website and over time will become an integral part of your inbound campaign, as you start to promote your content.

Direct mail, brochures and events will give you brand exposure and great networking opportunities.

As your inbound campaign and content creation takes shape, all of the outbound activities you are working in, will then be able to utilise the inbound assets you have created.

In-turn, this will bolster your whole sales process and allow you to position your business as a leading resource for services and products, making sales happen much easier.

As you may have guessed the greatest results are achieved with a combination of inbound and outbound marketing tactics, with a strong focus on a long term inbound startegy. Eventually, this will allow you to control the amount of money you need or want to spend on outbound marketing because your inbound marketing machine will be in full effect.

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