Outbound vs Inbound Marketing: Which is Better?

When you hear the phrase “inbound marketing,” you might ask yourself, “well, what’s outbound marketing, then?”

The short answer is that outbound marketing is the traditional marketing that dominated the last century.

So, now you might wonder, if outbound marketing is old and inbound is exciting and new — are you doing something wrong by still doing outbound marketing?

The short answer there is: it depends. Helpful, I know.

The Philosophical Difference Between Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing

Outbound marketing tries to put itself out there, in front of people, through advertisements, paid lists, direct mail, cold calls, and other similar methods. There will of course be some targeting, but the bet is that through sheer numbers, you’ll hit so many people that enough will be interested to make it worth your time and spend.

Inbound marketing is a newer methodology that works to put your brand in front of people when they’re looking for relevant solutions to their problems. This means search engine optimization, content that answers questions, and demonstration of value.

The philosophical difference between outbound and inbound marketing is that while outbound is getting your message out there, with inbound, you’re seeking to win people’s attention specifically when they’re in a more inquisitive frame of mind — whether that’s early stage research or later stage evaluation of different brands. The idea is when they see your brand, they’re seeing it when they’re a lot more open and receptive to the idea of buying your service.

The Difficulties of Outbound Marketing

When you make a cold call, you probably know very little about the person you’re contacting. You have no control over many important factors:

  • Their company might have just signed a deal with someone else
  • They might be completely uninterested in your service because they’re not experiencing any difficulties you can actually solve
  • Their budget for services you offer may not exist
  • Your one phone call can catch them at an inconvenient time — maybe they’re about to leave the office for a vacation — and you’ll be forgotten as a minor annoyance

There are similar problems with advertising, paid lists, and so on. You don’t know where people are in their buyer’s journey, so you’re wasting a huge amount of money and effort on people who are extremely unlikely to even be in the situation where they’d consider buying from you.

Inbound Marketing Is About Meeting the Customer Where They Are

Instead of wasting that time and money, the point of inbound is to capture attention as, when, and where potential customers are looking for answers.

Because it’s when they’re looking for answers that they’re more likely to want to buy. This is the time you want your company to be top-of-mind — so why not dedicate significant resources to making that happen?

So Do You Completely Abandon Outbound?

No, you shouldn’t completely abandon outbound marketing. It’s less effective than it was — because the internet has put much more power into the hands of the customer — but it’s still going to be useful, if done right, and if done alongside inbound. But it’s a question of the ratio.

There are always going to be some people who will be receptive to a direct mail ad, for instance. As long as getting that business is worth more than what it costs to send it, you’re in the clear. But even if you’re getting enough business that way, augmenting with inbound will let you grow faster.

But if your outbound efforts aren’t actually sustainable anymore? Inbound is likely what you need to remain competitive. Try allocating 25% of your resources on inbound efforts — don’t be afraid to go even higher! — and see what happens. Adjust up or down and find that sweet spot. With both inbound and outbound marketing in your arsenal, you’ll be much better equipped to compete in the modern marketing landscape.

Get a start on your inbound marketing with Flawless Inbound. We’ve used these methods to bring success to 80+ B2B companies from MSPs to SaaS to Manufacturing to Construction. We put it work for our own company — we walk the talk!

Get in touch here, or learn more about Inbound in our big explainer below.

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