Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

If you haven’t yet heard the terms Inbound marketing and Outbound marketing, you may feel you’ve been missing out on something important. But it’s highly probable that you’re already doing some of each, without knowing the marketing industry jargon. Make 2014 the year to put the power of Inbound Marketing to work for your small business. Here’s how…


What ’s the difference between Inbound marketing and Outbound?

The simplest way to think of them are Pull and Push

  • Inbound marketing is about pulling or drawing customers to you by attracting them, enticing them, engaging with them. < - Click to Tweet that
  • Outbound marketing is more the traditional push style – pushing your message out into the world as much as you can and hoping people take notice.


Examples of Inbound Marketing

  • Social networks – Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc, where fans choose to “follow” your brand.
  • Blogging, podcasting, videos and infographics – any way that you can create valuable CONTENT, that people will sign up to, download, share.
  • Email Marketing – now that anti-spam laws and tools stop “outbound marketing” email campaigns, emails are sent only to subscribers who opt-in (people who have already shown an interest in your business, or signed up for an incentive). Your ongoing emails should continue to offer ‘value’ to keep people from unsubscribing.
  • Location services, such as FourSquare, Yelp, Facebook checkin. These allow you to put out an enticing offer for people in the local vicinity, or reward them for visiting you.
  • SEO using ‘long-tail keywords’ to ensure search engines match your offerings with the right people – those who are getting ready to buy. (Read more on SEO here)


Examples of Outbound Marketing

  • TV and radio – widespread, but expensive.
  • Print advertising – magazines, newspapers, posters and letterbox flyers.
  • Tradeshows – targeted to industry, but very costly and shortlived.
  • Cold calling and telemarketing – hard work and universally disliked (on both the calling and receiving ends!)
  • Internet banner ads – annoying and ineffective.


As explored in a previous post, I and many others have become cynical about having marketing pushed upon us. Telemarketing and cold-calling – nobody likes them! Advertisements via television, radio, magazines and letterbox flyers are easily ignored – switched off, flicked past or thrown in the recycling bin.
As this great Infographic on Mashable says, Inbound is “marketing you won’t hate”.

inbound vs outbound marketing infographic
Click to see the full infographic from Mashable


Why Inbound is better than Outbound

One of the big differences between Inbound and Outbound is that inbound “pull” marketing is targeted to attract people who are actively looking for and interested in what you offer. Large companies may have the marketing dollars to spend on a scatter-gun Outbound approach, where the message is spread to a wide audience of which only a small percentage might be interested, but for small businesses it can be a costly waste. 

This quote from Guy Kawasaki (Author, Entrepreneur and ex-Apple evangelist) sums it up:

“If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.”

Yes, inbound marketing methods are more affordable, often ‘free’ (although I talked about ‘free’ marketing options and their hidden costs in this blog). They take time and effort, but can be well worth it if you build a real ‘fanclub’ of customers who do repeat business with you and recommend you to their friends.

What’s the Aim of Inbound Marketing?

The main aim of “pull” marketing is to generate leads. You’ll want to collect those leads to build a database of interested people. Then by offering things of value that attract and delight people, you keep them coming back for more, stay in their thoughts, and will, over time, do business with them.

Because you want to build a ‘tribe’, often your inbound marketing objectives may be to draw visitors to your website, rather than to make a sale directly from the channel. Hence you might aim to build your Facebook Likes, but when there’s an offer you’ll want to post a link that takes them to your website (preferably a specific landing page to help them follow through to a sale). Your email marketing campaigns will include links to your website. Your videos, Pinterest pins, everything, should lead back to your website – your 24/7 online shopfront.  (Read this post for more.)

Pull turning to Push?

Marketing is a strange beast, like Dr Dolittle’s fabulous creatures.  Do you remember the pushmi-pullyu, with two heads trying to pull it in two directions at once? 
The lines between inbound and outbound are starting to blur, especially with the big social networks trying hard to monetise themselves. Those ‘free’ inbound options like Facebook are getting harder for small businesses to use (eg. the latest Facebook Edgerank algorithm means less reach for most pages) and the most likely reason is to get you to pay for ads or sponsored posts.
These ads and posts that pop up in people’s newsfeeds can work for you, if targeted carefully, but also can produce some irate responses from people who don’t appreciate their social feed being interrupted. Remember the aim of Inbound is to encourage those who are already interested. Work out who and where your buyers are and target them carefully to avoid the scattergun Outbound approach.

To my mind, Inbound marketing should be fun. For you as the business owner/marketer as well as for your fans. Because positives attract. Find what you enjoy, and you’ll be more likely to attract like-minded, positive people. The sort of customers who’ll spread the word for you…

Author: RobynRHD

I'm a small business web design specialist with interests in social media and other online marketing methods. As my blog intro states: "Steering small businesses in the right direction with what I hope is practical, realistic advice and useful tips, amidst the constantly changing noise and hype. I'd like to help you sort out what you really need and how to go about it." I'm a proud Aussie, living in Sydney, and an avid fan of Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *