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A Tale of Two Strategies: Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

Peter O'Leary 05 Nov 2015 • 5 mins read

With the context of marketing in mind, the internet has provided an expansive new platform where people can interact with each other and get information about their needs, their interests and the brands that exist in the market. Thanks to the inherent nature of the digital realm, it became easier for brands (both startup and established ones) to get in the game with relatively cheaper and scaleable marketing initiatives. On the other side of the fence, people also have a greater control over the marketing messages and information they see.

Given the handicaps and opportunities provided by the internet, the marketing strategies of brands have evolved accordingly in order to better reach and engage audiences. The two overarching strategies that became crucial in marketing in the digital age? Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing. Let’s dissect how these strategies differ and how they shape brand engagement.

Communication models

One of the key differences between inbound and outbound marketing lies in their communication models. Inbound marketing is about attracting audiences by creating relevant content that is aligned with the audience’s pain points and aspirations, and giving them control on how to approach your brand. Structured as a two-way communication model, inbound gives room for interaction and feedback. In fact, one look at the buyer’s journey and you’ll see how consumers dictate how they receive information depending on their pain points and aspirations. Often, inbound marketing is permission-based and consensual.

In contrast, outbound marketing is about taking advantage of the system and reaching out to the audience with attention-grabbing initiatives such as pop-ups, email blasts, on-page ads, etc. Outbound is about getting direct with your marketing approach. This approach is interruptive and strives to get the audience’s attention. Outbound has very little room for interaction and audience choice. Fairly often, it doesn’t take into consideration the audience’s context and create interruptions in order to build brand awareness through splashy and significant initiatives that make the best use of their own air time and marketing space. Great examples include frequent TV commercial breaks, outdoor advertisements, video ads before YouTube videos and more. It’s about breaking the monotony and pushing content/advertising to the audience.

Differences in terms of approach

Inbound marketing pulls in audiences by taking advantage of search engines and social media in establishing their presence. The audience stumbles upon inbound initiatives because they are targeted and designed to resonate with established personas who have specific needs and behaviours. Inbound revolves around knowing the audience and talking about what may resonate with, interest, appeal to or concern them (as long as it’s aligned with the services/products that the brand offers).

Inbound marketing pulls in audiences by taking advantage of search engines and social media in establishing their presence.

The approach of outbound marketing is to maximise the brand’s reach in the market. Reach is important in generating action. Because OutBound can quickly reach out to a large volume of people, immediate and significant results can be achieved. OutBound doesn’t pull any punches and is always out to impress. Instead of talking in depth about the people’s needs and interests, outbound highlights the most salient points.

Budget and costs

Inbound marketing costs revolve around the upkeep, maintenance and creation of a brand’s website, blog, social media pages, search engine presence and the human resources that are essential in them. In short, it tends to have lower costs than traditional outbound but can require significant time and creative/human resource investment.

In contrast, outbound marketing’s budget revolves around the resources in developing marketing campaigns that target a mass market with enough coverage for the campaign  to get traction. While this approach typically requires a large investment, when executed well, it can deliver demonstrable, high-impact results.

Both marketing strategies can be effective in meeting your business goals. Why dismiss f one in favour of the other? Consider combining or balancing priorities when it comes to the two approaches . With award-winning execution and evidence-based knowledge, both strategies are potent ways to jumpstart audience engagement.

Need to learn more about inbound marketing for business? Schedule a free,  30-minute, no-obligation conversation with an AMBA business leader. Find out how inbound marketing adds value to your business.