Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is primarily about how people find you.

  • Inbound marketing methods are those used to capture leads or business from people who are actively searching for your products or services.
  • Outbound marketing methods are those used to generate leads from, or build a brand with, people who are are not actively searching for your products or services (for any of several possible reasons).

Most campaigns will do best with a mix of both inbound and outbound marketing but there are certainly campaigns that need only one or the other. Like everything else, the best mix for your business depends on everything from your budget to what you’re selling. Watch the video and read on…

We’re sticking to strategy stuff here instead of getting into the details of each outbound or outbound marketing option. We’ll cover those more in future blogs and we cover them in workshops, videos, and consultations, of course.

Examples of Inbound Marketing

Common types of inbound marketing include:

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaigns
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Content Marketing
  • Videos — for SEO, content, and conversion improvement
  • Blogging
  • Social Media

I know you look at the list and say, “but couldn’t that also be seen as outbound marketing?” Well, read the next list…

Examples of Outbound Marketing

Examples of outbound marketing include:

  • Postcard campaigns
  • Radio and tv ads
  • Ads in magazines (or anywhere)
  • Ads on websites
  • Email newsletters
  • Videos — for ads and emails as part of your outbound strategy
  • Social Media — ads or simply a more proactive approach (almost goes into the category of sales)

Should I Use Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

Chances are great that you will eventually want to use both inbound and outbound marketing. Depending on your budget, what you’re trying to sell, and who you’re trying to sell it to, you’ll need to choose the right marketing mix for your specific needs. Here are a few examples: 

Small Marketing Budget: Under $1,000 per Month

How Customers Find Them: Primarily through online search

For small businesses with small marketing budgets, we often get their marketing launched with a straightforward inbound marketing strategy consisting of an optimized websites, our “Steady Growth” WebQC Package (SEO, Content, & More), and a small pay per click campaign for immediate traffic. It’s simple, cost-effective, and address both short- and long-term marketing needs. That is, the PPC campaign gets the phone ringing today while the SEO and content generation strengthens their website for organic (aka, free) traffic in the future. 

Note: this inbound-focused strategy works because their customers look for them online. If the business was trying to sell a completely new product that no one knows exists, we would focus on outbound marketing — probably going straight to a postcard campaign or maybe even a call campaign followed by an email campaign.

You have a lot more options when you get into the range of $3,000 or more per month. How far the budget will go usually depends primarily on how competitive your market is. As an example, the average cost per click in a PPC campaign for company specialty selling lumber products is in the $1.00 per click range so with a PPC budget of $2,000 we can get them about 2,000 clicks. On the other hand, the average cost per click for  a plumber might be more like $4.00 per click so that same $2,000 budget only gets 500 clicks.

Manufacturer with Marketing Budget of $7,000 per month

How Customers Find Them: Some search online but most need to be told about them

As an example of a healthy use of inbound and outbound marketing, let’s use the example of 3Z Valves, a regional manufacturer of specialty valves (not a real company). They sell to other businesses who are either the end users of their products or they include a specialty valves in custom assemblies. Some customers look for them online (usually if they are looking for something very unique that a current supplier doesn’t have) but, in general, their prospects already know someone who makes every kind of valve available on the planet and they’re comfortable with the vendors they’ve got. They have one outside salesman who visits prospects and customers and a few people inside who answer the phone when sales calls come in. They need to keep the salesman fed and operations folks busy!

The basic strategy is that we’ve got to make sure inbound marketing is in place and strong (so people can find us online when they need those unique valves we offer) but most of our expense needs to be put into outbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing — Strong Online Presence

The primary components of their inbound marketing efforts will be an optimized website and consistent online marketing including content generation, SEO, and product videos that highlight the main specs, features, and applications of their most unique products — the stuff you can’t find anywhere else. We’re also going to setup a remarketing campaign so that once someone visits their website, they will be reminded of them with remarketing ads.

Outbound Marketing — Simple Messages, Multiple Touch Points, Support Salesman

The key here is that buyers in this kind of market tend to be comfortable with the two or three vendors they already know. We have to get our unique message in front of them repeatedly.

The primary outbound marketing tools for this campaign include postcards — simple message, great design, repeat sends, probably focused on single product lines — along with

  • Call campaign — identify best contact, get email address, set appointments
  • Postcard campaign — ultra-targeted because cards will go directly to the contact identified via the call campaign
  • Email marketing / lead nurturing — using emails from call campaign, website leads, and past/current customers
  • Videos — used in lead nurturing campaigns

Their salesman is doing fine but we can multiply his efforts in a few ways. First, we can generate new leads for him and, second, we can use marketing to create additional touch points that help people remember him. For instance, after he visits a prospect (1 touch point) they then receive our postcard with a simple message about why our products are best (second touch point). Ideally, either the postcard or the salesman can get them to visit the website (third touch point) which will then activate our remarketing campaign for even more touch points and branding.

Outbound campaigns often start by purchasing a list. To make sure we have the best contact for each of their prospective customers, we will run a short-term call campaign. Our caller will:

  • Identify the best contact / decision maker for the campaign
  • Get an email address when possible
  • Email information directly to the contact
  • Set appointments for the salesman

The postcard campaign will use simple messaging — probably focused on single product features or on unique product lines — and will be sent monthly. Remember, this is an ultra-targeted campaign because we’ve called ahead to make sure we have the right contact’s name. We will know the effectiveness of our campaign because of the call tracking number. We want to push people from the postcard to 3Z’s website because, as mentioned before, the remarketing will then be activated for additional branding over the coming months.

The email and lead nurturing campaign will be used lightly with a focus on delivering personalized information. Instead of flashy, image-laden, salesly e-newsletters, we are going to use text-only emails personalized with the recipient’s name and including some actually relevant new information and a link to a video showing the most unique valve we have or a demonstration of it in use.

Budget Left Over for Advertising

The inbound and outbound marketing mix detailed here won’t even come close to hitting 3Z’s $7,000 marketing budget. They’ll have thousands left in the budget for ads in industry magazines, an occasional trade show, an membership in the relevant industry associations.

Choosing Your Mix of Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

The two examples above should give you some idea of how you go about choosing a mix. Think hard about how your customers find you or if you need to reach out to them. Most businesses — especially those in B2B markets — will do best with a mix of inbound and outbound marketing types.

For some businesses, outbound marketing simply is not a cost-effective option so inbound is really the only option to go with. They would not add outbound marketing until they had literally maximized what was possible with all the relevant inbound options.

And, there are other businesses with products or services that are brand new to the market — no one has ever heard of them so they don’t search for them — so outbound marketing is their only option. Those companies are basically on a mission to inform and educate, which is one of the purest reasons marketing exist.

Call us if you have any questions. We’re happy to help. 832-900-2000.

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