When I talk with most marketers about how they generate leads and fill the top of their sales funnel, most say outbound marketing.
However, in 2019, a lot of innovative and successful businesses are actually embracing the art of inbound marketing. But, what’s the difference between inbound and outbound? This post will walk you through it.
First, we’ll talk about the more traditional outbound marketing strategies.
What is Outbound Marketing?
Outbound marketing is a traditional method of marketing seeking to obstruct potential customers. Outbound marketing includes activities such as trade shows, seminar series and cold calling. It is costly and the ROI is much lower than inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing included trade shows, seminar series, email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing, and advertising. I call these methods “outbound marketing” because marketers push his or her message out far and wide hoping that it resonates with that needle in the haystack.
I think outbound marketing techniques are getting less and less effective over time for two reasons. First, your average human today is inundated with over 2000 outbound marketing interruptions per day and is figuring out more and more creative ways to block them out, including caller ID, spam filtering, Tivo, and Sirius satellite radio. Second, the cost of coordination around learning about something new or shopping for something new using the internet (search engines, blogs, and social media) is now much lower than going to a seminar at the Marriott or flying to a trade show in Las Vegas.
Transforming Your Marketing from Outbound to Inbound
Rather than doing outbound marketing to the masses of people who are trying to block you out, I advocate doing inbound marketing where you help yourself “get found” by people already learning about and shopping in your industry. In order to do this, you need to set your website up like a “hub” for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, blogging, and social media. I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing, and I advocate that those ratios flip.
Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is when a marketer reaches out to people to see if they’re interested in a product. For example, this could include door-to-door sales or cold calling where a sales rep or marketer approaches someone without knowing if he or she is even a qualified lead. Inbound marketing is a strategy where you create content or social media tactics that spread brand awareness so people learn about you, might go to your website for information, and then purchase or show interest in your product.
While some outbound strategies take lots of time and effort and may yield no leads, inbound strategies allow you to engage an audience of people that you can more easily qualify as a prospect of lead.
The best analogy I can come up with is that traditional marketers looking to garner interest from new potential customers are like lions hunting in the jungle for elephants. The elephants used to be in the jungle in the ’80s and ’90s when they learned their trade, but they don’t seem to be there anymore. They have all migrated to the watering holes on the savannah (the internet). So, rather than continuing to hunt in the jungle, I recommend setting up shop at the watering hole or turning your website into its own watering hole.
Editor’s Note: A more detailed version of this article has been published here: “Inbound Marketing and the Next Phase of Marketing on the Web.” This post specifically was originally published in 2010 but was updated in October 2019 for comprehensiveness.