Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing. What’s the difference, anyway? We take a closer look at what the two concepts cover and what differences there are between the two marketing approaches. Let’s get down to it.
In its purest form, outbound marketing uses a push tactic, while inbound marketing employs a pull tactic. Outbound marketing is what we know as traditional marketing. These are TV and radio advertisements, billboards, banner and display advertisements, newspaper advertisements, telemarketing, etc.
In short, all the content where we try to push a selling message in the minds of a broad audience.
Inbound marketing is a modern form of marketing. Instead of pushing a message to a larger audience, we are instead trying to attract a specific audience with content that is designed and targeted to meet the needs and issues of that target group.
The message and content are less selling and instead provide the target audience with valuable information that they can use.
But why spend extra time and resources on inbound marketing now that we are in full swing with our traditional marketing? Today, we find it harder to get messages out to our target audience, and the impact of our marketing decreases dramatically.
This is because competition is more intense than ever before and because we as consumers are now digitally native and have become highly critical and immune to the advertising we are exposed to.
The decline of outbound marketing is a response to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior. Consumers have control over what information they receive and how.
We’ve gone blind to your smart ad on Facebook and deleting your irrelevant email in your inbox has become a habit.
- 86% of us skip the commercials on TV when we are interrupted in the middle of our movies on Sunday night. And often we no longer watch the movie on flow TV, but instead on on-demand services like Netflix and HBO, where advertising is not present.
- 84% of us leave websites with intrusive, disruptive, and irrelevant advertisements. And often we do not even see the expensively paid display ad because we have installed AdBlocker in our browser.
- 44% of us never open ‘direct emails’ that have been targeted to us in one way or another as a potential customer. And often we do not even see the email, as it ends up in the spam filter and thus never gets exposed to us.
- 91% of us choose newsletters from again, which we have chosen at some point for. And often it happens because we do not meet the expectation we had when we signed up for the newsletter. The content does not cover our needs and therefore we see no reason to continue receiving newsletters.
With inbound marketing, we focus on being found by customers by making our way to them, rather than buying, begging, or forcing our way into customers.
Table of Contents
“Old Marketing is any marketing that
products or services on customers.”
Typically, outbound, traditional marketing is characterized by a strategy where we make the most of our marketing dollars. Put a little on the tip, that is, we are looking to achieve as broad an exposure as possible with the marketing dollars we have available.
The message is typically selling and often the recipient sees our message as irrelevant and disruptive because the strategy of our marketing approach is to achieve the highest possible ROI by reaching as wide a level as possible. Put a little on the tip again, we work from a quantitative approach.
Because while we have, of course, targeted our traditional marketing towards a particular segment, it is with us as a sender who tries to push a product or service out to customers.
“New Marketing is any marketing tactic that relies on earning people’s interest instead of buying it“.
Typically, inbound, modern marketing is the hallmark of a strategy where we provide as much value as possible with our marketing dollars. With inbound marketing, we turn the model around and park ourselves for a moment.
Instead of persuading our customers to buy our product from our first meeting with them, we put ourselves in their place and find out what exactly their needs and problems are.
We engage in a mutual dialogue with them and find ways to support them in their buying journey so that they ultimately buy our product because they trust us and because they see us as reliable and authoritarian experts in the field.
We prepare a persona of our target group and we find out where they are in their buyer’s journey so that we can understand their needs and issues. In this way, we educate or entertain our target audience and thus provide a valuable relationship with them.
Outbound marketing is what we call interruption-based, where the premise is to find a medium with a large following that we can periodically expose to our advertising. The hope here is that with a little targeted planning and a demographic understanding of our target audience, we can find the small percentage of our target audience that actually notices the advertising – from there we must then keep our fingers crossed that they also respond to it.
The starting point is that if we find a large enough target group, the small percentage of conversions must be worth the investment. The problem now is that it is unambitious and naïve simply to devote ourselves to this traditional marketing, as we as consumers become more critical and blind to advertising.
Channels that are interruption-based are e.g. ads on social media, TV commercials, display ads, newsletters, telemarketing, and canvas sales.
Inbound marketing is we call permission-based, where the premise instead is:
- To communicate with our target audience on a medium where the target group has given us permission to enter into a dialogue with them.
- To answer the questions that the target group may have and thus cover their needs and problems through content creation.
In the first premise, our target audience is smaller than in mass media. However, because the target group has already expressed their interest in us, and is inherently more friendly to our content and messages, the target group converts 750% higher than in interruption-based marketing.
Examples here are sign-ups for newsletters, social media, subscribers to our blog or participating in our webinar.
In the second premise, we answer the needs and issues of the target audience, which they ask questions about through, for example, Google. By understanding our target audience and hitting the right search terms, we can make sure to answer our target audience’s questions when they search for them.
Therefore, in the target group looking for answers to their questions, the conversion rate is also unfamiliarly high if we manage to hit them at the right stage of their purchase journey. Examples here are SEO, landing pages, content, blogs, etc.
Unlike outbound marketing, we put more power into understanding the situation of our target audience, so that down to the smallest detail we can target our content to them. Read content, not messages. This means that we work with a much more narrowed audience and that we work according to their needs and not our sales message.
It also means that instead of working with messages wrapped up in advertising, we work with valuable content on our own channels that then need to be exposed on external channels.
One of the most important and essential characteristics of inbound marketing is the ability to engage our target audience. Understand them and meet them where they need us and where they can express their needs and issues so that we can answer their questions.
That’s the essence of inbound marketing, and it’s where inbound creates a huge value unlike traditional marketing – namely, that we support the entire customer’s purchase journey. Outbound marketing creates awareness and visibility at the top of the sales funnel, while inbound marketing under supports the sales process throughout the sales funnel.
Transmission Paradigm vs. The Interaction Paradigm
The difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing can simply be illustrated with a good game of classic communication theory – it is not necessary to be more difficult:
- Outbound marketing belongs in the transmission paradigm; it is one-way communication and we send messages we hope are received by the target group
- Inbound marketing belongs in the interaction paradigm; it is two-way communication and we engage with the target group to understand their needs so that we can give them the right content and solutions.
Inbound marketing is the way forward if you want to forge close relationships with your potential and existing customers. It is in the meeting with the customer and with the relevant content that you give them a valuable relationship with you. We’ve given traditional marketing a beating in this blog post at the expense of inbound marketing.
But having said that, we would like to stress that traditional marketing should also have a place in an inbound marketing strategy. Your sharp content that hits your persona spot-on and meets their needs doesn’t get much attention if it’s not pushed out – and that’s where outbound marketing plays a role.
Display advertising, known as advertising through Facebook or Google, has come a long way with the capabilities of their ad platforms, and greatly allows the advertiser to make targeted advertising where the investment can be tracked down to the smallest penny. Ad types like retargeting, lookalike audiences, and lead ads usually deliver high performance for the advertiser.
These newer platforms are gaining ground, pushing traditional advertising types such as billboards, newspapers, magazines, and TV commercials to their knees. This type of advertising leans on inbound marketing, which focuses on showing messages for such a targeted segment that they are likely to find relevant.