Inbound Vs. Outbound Marketing: What Is The Difference?

Kevin Nelsen SocialSurge Marketing

Written by Kevin Nelsen

Whenever someone asks me about our inbound marketing methods or what we think the best “outbound” approach is, my answer is always the same:

“What do you mean by that?”

You see, the terms Inbound and Outbound marketing have been around for some time, but their definitions have changed as well. It really just seems that everyone has a slightly different definition of what these terms actually mean.

So let’s clear it up a bit for ya!

Outbound Marketing

What does “outbound marketing” mean?

I want to start with Outbound marketing because this is far easier to understand. Outbound marketing is any traditional marketing method where you actively look to go deliver your message to an audience.

When you think about marketing, this is likely what you think about. Companies spend tons of time, money, and put a lot of manpower into their outbound marketing strategies to try and find new customers and make sales. Outbound marketing strategies typically carry a lot more risk because it is easier to not meet whatever goals you might have, but the reward is great if you select the right strategy and execute it well.

What are some of the most popular outbound methods?

Paid ads, emails, direct mail, door to door sales, billboards, radio, tv – They are ALL outbound marketing methods! Now obviously some of those methods are more relevant than others (I don’t think I have ever had a door-to-door salesman at my door) but the idea is still the same – you are actively going out into the marketplace trying to communicate your value to potential customers.

Inbound Marketing

What does “inbound marketing” mean?

Inbound marketing is more centered around experience and showing up in the right places for the right topics. To me, Inbound marketing and content marketing are complete synonyms in the digital space. Inbound marketing focuses on what the potential customers see when they find you on their own and tries to ensure they receive value and the information that they are looking for.

What are some of the most popular inbound methods?

Some of the most popular inbound marketing methods include blogging, creating infographics and eBooks, creating long-form landing pages and funnels, and making other educational pieces about your business and its related activities. Overall, Inbound strategies are focused on giving the user a good experience and making them want to learn more about your products and services.

Give us an example of outbound vs inbound marketing

Ok ok… Sheesh…

Let’s say you own a lemonade stand. Let’s describe what a fully outbound lemonade stand and a fully outbound lemonade stand would look like.

Outbound: You hire a sales team to go door to door to let people know about the cool new lemonade stand that just opened down the street. Soon after, you run some social media ads to let people know that they can get 10% off their first at your stand if they come by over the next weekend. Over the course of the month, you send even more coupons in the mail in order to drive more people to come to your stand.

Inbound: When building your lemonade stand, you make sure that you use only the best materials and keep your customer in mind. You set up the comfiest outdoor seating, get the best wifi possible, and overall make it one of the most inviting places on earth! When people arrive, you hand out free samples of some of the menu items to try to get people to try some of your new and slightly more expensive drinks. They can also sign up for a rewards card and get a free drink after their 10th purchase!

While we took it to the extreme with our example, most small businesses need some elements of inbound and outbound strategies to be successful. Making sure your strategy has a good balance of each allows you to capture new customers in different ways and helps you retain your first-time customers so they become loyal in the long run!

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