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Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: What’s the Best Strategy for Your Brand?

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Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is often called earned, organic, permission marketing. Outbound marketing gets described as outdated, obnoxious, interruption marketing.

Inbound marketing must be the better strategy, right?

In recent years, outbound marketing has gotten a bad rap. It seems like every blog has a post comparing outbound marketing unfavorably to inbound marketing, with stats that show that people don’t open direct mail and skip through TV commercials.

Before your brand declares outbound marketing the enemy, it’s worth considering that each strategy has distinct advantages and disadvantages, and most brands can benefit from using both.

So instead of telling you which strategy is best, we’ll lay out the pros and cons of each strategy and let you decide what works for your brand.

What’s In and What’s Out?

Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that draw customers in. Outbound marketing is used to describe marketing tactics that reach customers directly.

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Some marketing activities don’t fall neatly into one category or the other. Social media can be used for inbound or outbound marketing. If your brand creates a Facebook page and populates it with relevant content in hopes of attracting customers, you’re practicing inbound marketing. If you pay for Facebook ads, you’re practicing outbound marketing. And a marketer who trolls Twitter for potential leads to contact is doing something more akin to outbound marketing.

Email marketing may classify as inbound marketing in some instances (for example, emails to customers who sign up for a newsletter) or outbound marketing in others instances (marketing commercial message via email blasts).

Pros and Cons of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Although outbound marketing has gotten a bad rap, the strategy has its benefits – big brands are still investing in ads and going to trade shows.  And although marketers are increasingly drawn to inbound marketing, this strategy has its drawbacks, too. Let’s take a look at both sides.

Inbound marketing

Inbound vs Outbound marketing

Outbound Marketing

Inbound & Outbound marketing pros & cons

Choosing the Right Strategy

Moving beyond the theoretical, how do you know which strategy to pick?

Your brand might choose inbound marketing if:

  • You’ve got great content. Content is the fuel that fires inbound marketing. If your brand’s got a research report your prospects can’t find anywhere else, inbound marketing might be a good strategy.

  • Your budget isn’t big. Inbound marketing isn’t free (someone needs to produce and promote that great content), but creating a blog is cheaper than TV or radio advertising.

  • You’re not getting leads from traditional ads. Research suggest that audiences develop “banner blindness,” or instinctively ignore advertising. Inbound marketing might help your brand attract attention.

Brand Strategy

Your brand might go with outbound marketing when:

  • Your product is completely new and innovative. You probably wouldn’t have searched for the iPhone before you heard about Steve Jobs announce it an Apple product launch. If your product is so new that potential customers wouldn’t think to search for it, your brand needs to use outbound marketing.

  • Your audience isn’t online. Although most of us are online, some demographics are less connected, and less likely to find your brand with an Internet search. (However, there are some non-Internet-based inbound marketing strategies, such as listing in printed directories.)

  • Your market is oversaturated with content. There are more than 100 million blogs, which means your brand might face a lot of competition to reach customers to your website or blog through search.

Marketing Strategy

Stay Informed

Remember, choosing the best marketing strategy for your brand isn’t about hype or trends, it’s about evaluating the pros and cons of each option and choosing a strategy that works for your particular circumstances. Subscribe to our blog newsletter to stay informed with useful articles and tips about inbound and outbound marketing.

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Stay up-to-date with the latest resources, tips and must-know news for enterprise marketing, creative and digital asset management professionals.

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