What is inbound vs outbound marketing? If marketing is about brand awareness, is it possible for something to be a marketing activity if they are coming to me?

These are common questions that are helpful in the quest of understanding marketing, and more importantly, what marketing-mix is right for your business strategy.

Not a lot of time? Here is what we will be covering:

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Outbound Marketing?

What Type of Marketing Campaign is Best for My Business?

If you’re newer to marketing, you may have heard this phrase before but not known exactly what defines inbound and outbound marketing.

The simple answers:

Inbound Marketing is the strategy of increasing brand awareness by attracting customers to your business via online content generation. Content generation may be created in the form of blogs, web pages, or videos to name a few.

Outbound Marketing is the traditional approach of increasing brand awareness by seeking customers through paid advertising, email campaigns, and events.

This is a good place to begin in our education of these two marketing styles. But to better understand each, a little more detail is required.

What is Inbound Marketing?

As I alluded to above, inbound marketing attracts customers to your brand/business. This passive approach to marketing isn’t passive at all. In fact, an effective inbound marketing strategy must be carefully thought out and executed. In reality, many businesses fail at implementing an inbound marketing strategy well.

Imagine inbound marketing like a storefront in a small town. But imagine if that small town was actually New York City (or the size of ten New York City’s). This is what the internet is like, and it’s growing more and more each day.
 The Internet is Growing

It’s impossible for every small business to get noticed beyond the casual foot traffic that passes its front door each day. Or is it?

The business owner thinks about how his potential customers might search for his products on the internet. Having a website can be much cheaper than advertising, but there are so many websites out there. Where would one begin?

The owner of the small store begins to create content (blog articles, social media posts, etc.) that are themed about subjects he thinks are being searched. Subjects that are relevant to his business.

It takes a couple of weeks, but he starts to notice his website begins to increase its viewership. People are reading his content!

Some of these viewers are outside of where his business is located, but others aren’t. As his content begins to increase in popularity (because he is writing about topics that interest his prospective customers), he notices that his content begins to climb on Google’s search engine results pages (SERP).

Because he linked his website’s homepage (or specific product he wants to promote with that content), people begin to explore his website further. Eventually, some of them start to reach out to him and request orders or additional product details.

All of a sudden business begins to climb because this business owner decided to invest a few hours of his time to write some high-quality content that started to convert to sales. Because his content was unbiased (at least to the readers), he started to build trust, and therefore, his opinion started to carry more weight with his readers.

…and all of this happened because of a small investment of time.

You see, inbound marketing is extremely effective if you create it with your customer at the center of its purpose. Helping people and providing benefit to them is critical in making an inbound strategy succeed.

Don’t believe me?

Think about the last time you were considering purchasing a new product. You probably did some research, right? Think about when we go to a movie. We often look at reviews. What about when we are considering the purchase of a car, a computer, or even a new medicine.

We search online for answers. You may not have realized that when you were reading about the side effects of the latest cholesterol medicine, you were actually reading a blog written by a marketer in the health sector.

RELATED: 5 Most Important Google Rank Factors for 2019 

Let’s compare this strategy to that of an outbound marketing strategy.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Everything else.

Digital Marketing Comic

Outbound marketing is the traditional marketing efforts you still see each day. Every billboard, radio ad, television commercial, or coupon in the newspaper is an example of an outbound marketing campaign.

Outbound marketing can be very expensive. Especially if you aren’t sure you know what you’re doing. Running a Facebook or Google ad may seem cheap (after all, you can invest whatever amount you want), but if you don’t know the requirements of a successful campaign or understand the platform you’re using, it can be a big flop.

Don’t get me wrong. Outbound campaigns can still be highly effective. There’s a reason that the advertising business is still a multi-billion dollar industry.

And I’m not talking about a couple billion. In 2016, ad spend was $206 billion. Digital spending alone is expected to reach $129 billion by 2021. And that’s just in the U.S.

But outbound marketing is often like shooting fish in a barrel. You spend a fortune of money in the hope that someone will remember you and take action to buy something from you.

Some industries are great for impulse buying. A beer commercial in the middle of the Super Bowl (or better yet, leading up to it) is a great opportunity for influencing an impulse buy because people watching football games associate drinking beer with the activity.

Think about the last time you were on a road trip and you needed to eat something. There comes a point where you no longer have the patience to hold out for your favorite restaurant. Eventually, you’re going to make a decision and it’s likely that a well-timed billboard may help with that decision.

What Type of Marketing Campaign is Best for My Business?

At the end of the day, you have to analyze your business and its customers. Think about who your ideal customer is and how they most likely find your business. We call these buyer personas.

Most businesses will use a mix of inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Deciding on how much of each is where the real strategy comes to play. Many companies hire marketing agencies to assist with making commercials, billboard ads, and other promotions.

But companies also hire third-party marketing firms to create original content for them even though this could be done in-house by your sales team. The reality is that consistent content creation can be mundane and time-consuming for some and that is often why so many efforts at inbound marketing fail.

Large conglomerates have the resources to hire entire departments of marketers to efficiently carry out their marketing strategy. Smaller organizations aren’t able to pour as many resources into their efforts, so turning to an agency is the most economical solution.

If you decide to reach out to an agency, remember that not all are created equal. Some will give you canned material that won’t rank well or won’t be able to deliver on their promises.

Choosing a local agency may be a great option because you’re able to consult more easily with them, rather than a national brand. Choosing a company that can relate to your customer’s culture is always helpful when creating relatable content.