Inbound and Outbound Marketing: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Feb 5, 2012   //   by John Tabita   //   Advertising, Business, Internet Marketing, Marketing, Social Media  //  2 Comments

Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, says that when we think there’s a singular solution to our woes, we’re guilty of “silver bullet thinking.” It’s precisely this type of thinking that’s led to the debate over whether inbound or outbound marketing is “best.” Proponents of inbound marketing claim that, in new era of social media, outbound marketing is no longer effective. Yet, many companies continue to use outbound marketing with great success. Let’s take a look at each.

Inbound Marketing: The Buyer Looking for a Seller

Any time customers take the initiative to contact or approach you, be it through your website or blog, through a referral, by visiting your trade show booth, or liking you on Facebook, it’s inbound marketing. These people are further along in the buying processes and are already looking for information about your product or service. Inbound marketing is everything you do to get found by them, such as:

Outbound Marketing: The Seller Looking for a Buyer

Outbound marketing is when you take the initiative to contact prospective clients or customers. Examples of this would be:

  • Cold-calling
  • Direct mail
  • Email marketing
  • Outdoor advertising
  • Television and radio advertising

Each marketing medium has inherent strengths and weaknesses—so here is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, if you will.

The Good, the Bad and the “Inbound” Ugly

The Good: Inbound marketing is Permission Marketing. People engaged with your ad or marketing message are not focused on anything else because they are further along in the buying cycle.

The Bad: Inbound marketing takes time. It’s more like farming than hunting. It’s passive, because it’s the customer who takes the initiative, not you. After creating and promoting your blog or Facebook page, there’s nothing left for you to do but wait.

The Ugly: There’s absolutely no competitive protection with inbound marketing. The consumer who sees your Yellow Page ad has the opportunity to shop all of your competitors as well, so there’s a greater chance that customers who contact you through inbound marketing are talking to more than one merchant or getting multiple bids.

The Good, the Bad and the “Outbound” Ugly

The Good: Outbound marketing is effective for reaching consumers who are not searching for your product or service online or through social media. These are people who have a problem but don’t know where to find a solution, or don’t realize your product or service can solve their problem. So they usually aren’t getting price quotes from your competitors.

The Bad: Outbound marketing doesn’t reach people when they are ready to buy. Most people who hear your marketing message won’t have a need or be ready to buy at that moment. That’s why outbound marketing usually has a low response rate.

The Ugly: Outbound marketing is Interruption Marketing. People are usually doing something else when they see or hear your marketing message. At its worst, it’s the telemarketing call at dinner time. More than ever, consumers are empowered to ignore or avoid marketing—from gatekeepers and caller ID to services like TiVo to fast-forward commercials.

Unlike the silver bullet approach, smart marketers realize that each type of marketing has its strengths and its weaknesses, and that implementing a combination of both inbound and outbound maximizes the strength and minimizes the weakness of each. As I’ve said before: effective marketing is more like a team than a shotgun.

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  • Good article. I tweeted it on Twitter.

  • Thanks, Paul.

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