Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing: What's the Difference?

The internet. A product of the digital age. At the time of creation, we knew not the extent of its capabilities, only that life was about to change forever. Marketers daydreamed of the potential this powerful force now added to the ability to reach target audiences in a entirely new way. And so began the global race — a race that consumed the world.

Companies fighting for prospect attention by building websites, identifying keywords, and utilizing strategies like pay-per-click and banner ads to take outbound marketing strategies online. However, as time evolved, buyers have changed, and interruptive ads (whether in print or digital form) have become less effective in reaching target audiences. With interruptive marketing tactics decreasing in effectiveness, enter the era of inbound marketing.

How are these two strategies different? Let's take a look.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing focuses its efforts on getting your message to a large audience through visiting trade shows, sending email blasts, cold calling a purchased list, and other tactics. Communication is seen as a one-way street, forcing intrusive ads and promotions upon prospects whether they want to hear it or not.

Besides being interrupted in nature, it’s costly. The fact of the matter is, today's technology allows us to avoid outbound marketing messages in the following ways:

  • TV ads: People can avoid ads by recording their television shows and fast-forwarding through the commercials.

  • Online ads: These can be blocked by ad blockers. Even if they aren’t blocked, they usually are ignored or not seen by the user because they consciously or subconsciously ignore ads when visiting websites.

  • Direct mail: According to CMO, 44% of direct mail is never opened.

  • Telemarketing and cold calling: There are do-not-call lists, and is frustrating and annoying for the recipient.

The Transformation to Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing doesn't fight for prospects' attention and has truly transformed the way we reach our audience in the digital age by focusing on attracting and engaging with your target audience at the right time on the right platform. Inbound marketers create educational content that is relevant and interesting to your target audience. Content includes white papers, eBooks, blogs, videos, infographics, and more. Once you've attracted your target audience (specifically targeting specific buyer personas) to your website,  an opportunity to convert them to a lead and then nurture them online until they are interested in speaking further with your business occurs.

With the transformation of our world, outbound marketing tactics are much less effective than in years past. We live in the digital age where people expect information at the touch of a button without being interrupted by advertisements. It attracts potential customers rather than trying to lure them in and, in the end, positions you as a trusted resource with useful and relevant information they want and are looking for. 

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