Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: Which is Best for Your Business in 2018?

October 18, 2018

For the last decade through to today, traditional advertising, or what is known as outbound marketing has been seeing a steady decline.  This decline represents the major shift towards inbound marketing – a whole new way of connecting with audiences like never before.

People are no longer watching TV, and if they are, it is being streamed through a mobile device, or through a medium like Netflix or Hulu, which allow them to watch commercial free. When they are watching cable, chances are they are being sucked away from each commercial by their phones. Put simply, people have been turning a deaf ear to commercials for a long time now.

It’s also no secret that people are reading less newspapers than ever before, that no one needs to pick up a phone book anymore, and that ad blockers are so easy to use and free, that a majority of people now use them.

Atop this direct mail is opened less and less each year, down to about 10-25% now depending on industry, with an open rate of 3-5%. And many email marketing campaigns end up in spam folders, with an average of about 57% in 2017.

The best marketers are well aware of this, and have been steadily shifting their outbound marketing strategies and budgets to inbound marketing strategies over the last decade.

What is the difference between outbound and inbound marketing? What are some effective inbound marketing strategies?  What are the different types of inbound marketing? What about outbound? Is inbound marketing best for my company? We’ve got you covered.

why inbound marketing is better than outbound

Outbound Marketing

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is a type of marketing where the company reaches out to the customer first.  This is the opposite of inbound marketing, which is when a customer reaches out to a company first.

Some major types of outbound marketing include TV, radio, print advertisements (newspaper, magazine, etc…), cold-calling, PPC, cold emailing and trade shows.  

As some of the statistics above laid out, outbound marketing is now considered to be far more costly than inbound marketing in most instances, and is also equally less effective.

Despite this, there is one type of outbound marketing strategy that can be leveraged even in today’s online environment in order to yield profitable returns.

Best Outbound Marketing Strategies

The most effective form of outbound marketing is without a doubt PPC.  For those who are not familiar, PPC stands for pay-per-click, and refers to advertisements which are displayed on search engines and other online mediums such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

These ads are exactly as they sound, where an advertiser pays for potential leads on a per click basis.

This method of advertising is most effective when used in concurrence with inbound marketing.

Potential customers should be brought to an effective landing page from an ad that is designed to maximize click through rate where they should be educated about the product first, shown the value of the product, and introduced to the brand and its ideals.

Once arriving, if the customer does not convert, they can then be retargeted using data from Google Analytics. These retargeting campaigns can be ran on a multitude of social media internet platforms that users interested in, in order to continually remind them of your brand and the value that you bring.

Another effective tactic is also utilizing these retargeting campaigns to distribute top of the funnel content to your audience to continue educating them on your product or service.

If done right, these PPC campaigns can see amazing results in terms of ROI.

Some of the most common B2C PPC platforms are Google search and Facebook, wild B2B sales are dominated by LinkedIn.

inbound marketing helps grow our audience faster than outbound

Inbound Marketing

What is Inbound Marketing? 

If you remember our outbound marketing definition above, inbound is the exact opposite of that.  Inbound marketing is when potential customers reach out to your business first.

Inbound marketing is the science of teaching your customers to contact your business.  Inbound marketing is based on making touchpoints with your customers right at the source of their needs: their questions.  Through channels like blogs, social media, and search engines, inbound marketing is designed around adding value to your customers experience to guide them seamlessly and smoothly through your sales funnel without them even noticing it.

Rather than combatting hundreds of companies for the attention of your potential customers in short blips of inappropriate, unwanted, and annoying content, inbound marketing focuses on addressing your potential customers’ needs and problems to bring in already qualified leads with every touchpoint.  

Put simply: provide more value, get more customers.

Types of Inbound Marketing

The major types of inbound marketing are:

  • Blog
  • Video
  • Podcast
  • Social media

A majority of companies now have multiple media channels where they interact with their audience online.  The problem is, most of them are not aware of the best channels to reach their audience on, and the topics their audience wants to learn about. Creating a content calendar can help to improve your understanding of your audience, and and effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

Inbound Marketing Strategies

Some of the best inbound marketing strategies involve creating and cultivating an audience first.

This sounds backwards, but when you break it down it begins to make more sense.

Why spend millions of dollars developing a product or service and then hundreds of thousands more to sell it to a potential Market that might not even buy it?

When in reality, it is almost completely free to develop an audience based around an interest or skill that you have, and bring value to them.  

Once you have developed a large enough audience that continually comes back for the value you provide, by default you almost have to have a deep understanding of their demographics needs and problems.

So by default, you are already at an advantage compared with someone who has developed a product but does not understand their audience.

This is the business model of some of the greatest content marketing and inbound marketing specialist of our time.

Companies such as Moz, QuickSprout, SingleGrain, Neil Patel and Backlinko all started out by producing content that brought value to their audience. Before long, they all had developed email subscriber list of 10,000 + who readily open their emails.

Because of all the buzz they built around their content, they knew exactly what their audience was struggling with, and began to build tools and services that and to alleviate these pain points.

It sounds too simple to be true, but content really is King. There is no substitute for content in today’s marketing world. Building the best content in your industry, whether by yourself or working with a content marketing agency, will greatly improve your websites metrics

inbound marketing v outbound marketing in 2018

Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing

A Different School of Thought Attracts a Different School of Fish

Outbound is based on a service centric point of view.  The aim is to spitball a much larger audience, with a much broader pitch and message in hopes to catch a few fish in a bigger net.  While this can be effective in order to develop brand awareness for very large corporations in widely competitive and luxury markets (such as Nike and Ralph Lauren), for the average business, focusing your entire budget, or even a majority of it on outbound is likely a step in the wrong direction.

The market reflects this, showing us in 2017 just how loud the voice of inbound was, with 38.4% of total US ad spend going to inbound marketing, and just 35.8% going to outbound marketing. This marks the first time in history that outbound or traditional marketing has been trumped by inbound marketing.

Also, it is notable that only 16% of marketers say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads for sales. This is not to mention the 33% of marketers who considered outbound marketing to be the biggest waste of time and budget in marketing campaigns.

The main difference between outbound and inbound marketing is the mindset behind them.  Inbound aims to educate a target audience by providing value first, then through the value they offer, showing expertise and eventually selling to the right audience. It embodies a customer centric way of thinking.

Inbound marketing is not a net, but a breeding ground.  Outbound marketers try to cast a big, expensive net to catch as many fish as possible by finding a decent location for fish and then casting hundreds of nets.  

On the other hand, inbound marketers don’t want to eat the fish right away.  They would rather start small, by finding the perfect location and niche to attract just a few fish in, and breed them.  Then, inbound marketing focuses on keeping these fish in the pond, keeping them healthy and coming back for more with great food (content).  Though it starts small, the end results in the long run far outpace outbound, generating better website metrics such as Search Engine Rankings, clicks, conversions, social shares, and more. 

The outbound marketer has to keep buying nets, bait, and fuel for his boats.  Meanwhile, the inbound marketer does not have to move a muscle other than to feed his growing fish fleet.  In fact, a majority of the fish love the environment so much, they come back with more fish, who bring more and so on.  

It’s About Building a Relationship

For a long time now, consumers have felt alienated by the market.  Just recently, this has started to change in the mind of consumers as they now have more power than ever to influence markets.

People want to connect, they want to feel valued, they want to know that you actually care about them and their needs, and that you hear their voices.

You want to be there when you can to help your audience out.  Now, it is less about making someone understand your product or service and more about understanding them and their needs.

Technology Combined With Consumer Tastes Fuels Change

To be fair, outbound marketing had its role in the modern evolution of business, but it is quickly becoming antiquated by the fact that the modern consumer holds all the power now.  With the exception of a few very niche industries, consumers have so many options for services and products that they simply won’t put up with bad service.

On top of that, with everyone having a computer in their pocket, it is more important than ever for companies to produce content in order to rank for keywords in their industries to attract prospective clients.  So inbound marketing is more of an evolution of consumer taste than anything else. And where the consumer goes, so the companies will follow.

inbound vs outbound calls

Outbound vs. Inbound Calls

Outbound Calls: Inefficient by Design

If you have ever had a career where cold calling was a part of your job description, you understand the pure frustration and futility that is cold calling.  While it played a significant role in developing almost every successful sales representative, it is by all means the bottom of the sales totem pole both in the eyes of customers and employees alike.

For those of you haven’t had the pleasure of cold calling for 8 hours straight to not reach a single qualified lead, let me save you the riveting experience with a 7 line summation of 90% of the cold calling experience:

*Ring Ring*

Customer: “Hello, who is this?”

Salesperson: “Hi, my name is Kyle Broussard.  Good afternoon sir how are you doing today?”

Customer:  “Fine, what did you call for?”

Salesperson: “Well sir, I work with the NorthWestern Mutual Insurance Group and we…”


Salesperson: *Rolls eyes, cracks neck, puts on a smile, makes another call*

The reason why inbound marketing is so much more effective is because outbound marketing is just so invasive.  You wouldn’t probably date someone who just introduced themselves to you on the street, so why would making a purchasing decision be any different?

Inbound Calls: Forgetting the Dollar and Remembering the Sense

You know what’s about 100x better than this cold call scenario and 10x more cost effective? You guessed it!  Receiving inbound calls from your prospective clients.

Have you ever gone to a company website and just felt so enamored by the information they gave you and the service you received that you called or signed up immediately?

A great example for this in my experience was GoDaddy.  Since day one of my coding experience, I never even considered another option besides GoDaddy.  Why? Because every single time I have had a question, they have stepped up to answer it. Most of the time, I never even had to leave their site.  

And the few calls I did have with their representatives had absolutely no attempts to upsell me.  They answered my questions, gave me expert advice that went above my needs, sent me additional resources by email, and gave me a contact number to call any time for my own representative.

Now that is service!  They even have videos on their site to explain EXACTLY how to do technical tasks, and a YouTube channel dedicated to tutorials for virtually everything on their site.  On top of this, they have a very active Twitter account that usually responds to customer complaints within an hour or less.

There’s a reason why in this day and age, Amazon, one of (if not the most) customer obsessed companies on Earth is also one of the largest and most successful.  They are literally obsessed with bringing us value.

how content marketing boosts inbound sales

Outbound vs. Inbound Sales

Outbound Sales: For a Particular Type of Lead

Don’t get me wrong, while it may seem like I am absolutely hating on outbound marketing, as I have mentioned before in this article, it is necessary.

There are certain types of leads that convert better and that can best be reached through outbound.

More often than not, these leads are in the B2B space. Well I still I’m leery about the effectiveness of TV advertising, pay-per-click and professional, highly technical cold outreach can be very effective in just about any industry.

Say you were trying to reach a target audience whose buyer persona is a business owner in the techspace. You’re trying to isolate owners of companies with between 100 and 300 employees, that have a revenue between $1M-7M in revenue.

Let’s be honest, the decision-makers at these companies don’t have the time to talk to a whole lot of sales representatives. On top of this, they pay rather large budgets to two secretaries managers and other employees to deal with this type of outreach for them.

So when it comes to B2B cold Outreach, you must be highly technical, straight to the point, and show value immediately bye displaying your understanding of their challenges and objectives.

If you can manage to do these things, cold Outreach can be very profitable for you in the B2B space.

A great example of this effective outbound marketing strategy is this email that I created for Poofnewsales a while back:

inbound marketing email

One of my favorite tools for outbound sales is LinkedIn. For more on how to use LinkedIn for B2B sales follow this link.

Inbound Sales: Who Couldn’t Benefit from More Leads?

I can’t stress enough how much I literally try to avoid clients who don’t understand the value of content marketing and inbound marketing.

If you want to believe against all statistics and all market trends that the best way to reach your audience is by not having a website in 2018, I’m not even going to try and convince you otherwise.

I can’t tell you how many people I have reached out to that will not even listen to a value proposition about inbound marketing.

Only these type of close-minded people cannot benefit from implementing and inbound marketing strategy, and that is simply because their mind is too closed for their eyes to be open.

I don’t care if you run a donut shop, How could a client calling in to your business to order something without you having to reach out to them not help your bottom line and to build your brand?

Quite simply, it couldn’t. The idea of content marketing is to build your brand through organic search traffic. But implementing inbound marketing and content marketing strategies, you can develop a loyal audience over time.

As this audience matures, and you continue providing value, not only will they convert, but they will be the main engine of growth for your new sales. In essence, inbound marketing turns your existing customers into some of your best salespeople.

is content marketing best for my business

Is Inbound or Outbound Sales Best for My Business?

In conclusion, both outbound and inbound marketing strategies have their pros and cons.

Over the last decade, technological changes have drastically altered the marketing world, putting control in the hands of the consumer.  

In order to combat this, many companies during this time. Have switched their budgets from outbound to inbound marketing. Just this past year, inbound marketing spend surpassed outbound marketing spend in the United States for the first time ever.

Considering the massive growth and change in direction of marketing campaigns in the same time frame, it is hard to imagine that this trend will slow any time soon.

As a result, business owners who have not already should definitely begin exploring the benefits of content marketing. Contacting our content marketing agency for free a content analysis, and suggestions on how to improve your existing online presence is highly recommended due to the complexity of this industry.

7 thoughts on “Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: Which is Best for Your Business in 2018?

  1. Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site
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    1. Thanks a lot! Glad our content was useful to you! We are always publishing new content, usually on Tuesday and Thursday each week. If you would like, you can also like our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @poofnewsales for updates on new content. We also will be developing some content marketing tools very soon which should be super helpful to anyone in the content industry, so be on the look out!

    2. Thanks a lot Dedra for your comment! I am so glad that you found this to be helpful and that you will be checking in periodically.

      We push new content to our blog each Tuesday and Thursday, so be sure to visit then. If you would like to stay updated on when we post a new blog, you can also follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (@poofnewsales).

      Lastly, I would like to ask you as a reader, what are some things you would like to learn more about in the content marketing space? I am always interested in learning more from our users, and trying to help satisfy their needs, so I would love to hear some input from you about what you think is missing out there for content about this topic.

      Co-Founder of Poofnewsales

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    1. Thanks a lot Matthew, glad that our content could help you out… too bad you had to go through all that trouble in the past, but I suppose that’s how we all learn. We really appreciate the comment, and hope you keep coming back for more of our content in the future!

      Co-Founder of Poofnewsales

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