May 03, 2019

What is Inbound Marketing? and Why You Should Be Implementing It


Not that long ago, businesses considered what is now called outbound marketing as a standard practice. This marketing method utilized interruptive methods such as radio and television advertisements, mass mailings, and cold calls.  Over the past 20 years there has been a monumental shift away from this type of marketing and toward new methods referred to as inbound marketing.  Rather than interrupting the consumer, inbound marketing gains the affection of a target audience by increasing brand awareness and reputation, coordinating advertising to display at the precise time when the consumer will find it helpful, and ultimately persuading the consumer to opt-in to advertising efforts. Consumers are no longer reliant on brands’ outreach efforts and rather they learn about brands by their own means and on their own terms. 

Because consumers now have so much control, is outbound marketing completely out? Not necessarily, but outbound marketing is more effective when balanced with an inbound strategy. 


Let’s Further Define Outbound Marketing

Outbound Marketing, also known as direct marketing, is any method of marketing that uses direct outreach to potential prospects. Outbound Marketing was successful for as long as it was because consumers did not have access to the resources they do now. Consumers learned about brands from direct actions that brands took themselves. Whether it was through telemarketing calls during dinner time or advertisements during a TV commercial break, brands did the work for consumers. Marketing has evolved over time, and while outbound marketing isn’t extinct, it has changed. Newer outbound marketing examples are email outreach, website pop-ups, banner ads, social media advertising, and ad content during web videos. 


These new outbound strategies are a good way to increase brand awareness. They provide information to consumers who wouldn’t necessarily know about the brand otherwise. However, c-consumers have become more sensitive to pushy marketing which has resulted in tools developed to block brands from reaching prospects: do-not-call lists, spam blockers, and the high use of DVRs. There are over 235 million people on the national Do Not Call Registry (Federal Trade Commission), 85% of people fast forward through commercials (The Guardian) and 4 out of 5 of people have left a webpage because of a pop-up or autoplaying video ad (HubSpot). 


How is Inbound Different?

Inbound marketing positions brands so that consumers make the choice to organically opt-in to advertising. Inbound strategies utilize engaging content - a blog, an ebook, engaging posts on social media, etc - which the consumer finds helpful, and thus becomes the groundwork for the relationship between the consumer and brand. The key here is providing consumers with useful information without the hard sell. 


Another pillar of inbound marketing is Search Engine Optimization. Helpful and engaging content is of no use to anyone if it cannot be found. A brand’s content should be readily available to consumers trying to solve a problem that the brand is positioned to solve. For example, a carpet soap brand would benefit from appearing in searches like “how to remove a wine stain from carpet”. Being able to supply resources for consumers at the beginning of the buying journey creates brand trust which will have major influencer over the final buying decision.   


Email marketing can become a hybrid outbound-inbound strategy when properly building email lists organically. An effective way to do this is through an opt-in trade. For example, a brand may provide a coupon code to a consumer in exchange for their email. Other examples of assets to exchange for an email address could be an ebook, a blog subscription, a free give away or a sweepstakes. Emails sent to consumers who have opted in are more likely to be opened and have a higher ROI.


Inbound marketing methods generally tend to cost less but usually take longer to gain momentum. It isn’t reasonable to expect one blog post to suddenly generate a thousand new followers. And for inbound marketing to be successful, content must be continually built upon to engage existing consumers and reach new ones. Though it may take longer, the leads that are sourced through inbound marketing tend to be much warmer than leads sourced through outbound efforts, as they have already expressed genuine interest in the brand.


Inbound vs Outbound Marketing - Which one should you choose?

A hybrid strategy allows targeting of a broader audience. It does not rely solely on a consumer seeking the brand out, and doesn’t confine the brand to strictly outbound tactics. Blogging, an inbound strategy, is well supported by Facebook advertising, an outbound strategy. A blended strategy of this nature reaches a larger audience. So, the best answer to this question is, if you have room in your budget, you should choose both inbound and outbound marketing, but if you can only focus on one strategy, inbound is the way to go. 



Inbound marketing would not have been an effective form of marketing before the internet. Buyers just did not have access to resources that the internet provides. They were heavily reliant on being told information. Today, they are in the driver’s seat and go after the information they want. With the ability for consumers to shop around combined with the influx of streaming services and time spent on mobile devices, businesses have had to change the tune of their marketing. This has resulted in a change of the types of outbound marketing and the development of inbound marketing.



Having trouble deciding the perfect balance of inbound and outbound strategies? Need help creating continuously engaging content?

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December 22, 2023
Check out our latest webinar "2024 Trends and Predictions." We cover several topics based on our research, client conversations, and additional insight as we head into the New Year.