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What is inbound and outbound marketing in digital marketing?

Inbound and outbound marketing refers to two types of digital marketing strategies which companies can use separately or concurrently in their online marketing campaigns.

Even if you don’t know these terms, it’s possible you’ve already used some form of both inbound and outbound marketing in your marketing strategies already. However, without fully understanding what they are it’s impossible to realise their full potential. So what is inbound and outbound marketing in digital marketing and how can you use both to your advantage?

Read on as we discuss the differences and which might work better for you.

What is inbound and outbound marketing in digital marketing? Table of contents

  1. What is inbound and outbound marketing in digital marketing?
    i) Inbound marketing
    ii) Outbound marketing
  2. Inbound vs outbound marketing: which is better?
    i) What are the pros and cons of outbound marketing?
    ii) What are the pros and cons of inbound marketing?
  3. Choosing the right marketing strategy for your business

What is inbound and outbound marketing in digital marketing?

Inbound marketing

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Inbound marketing refers to marketing aimed at customers who will generally come to your business naturally. Inbound marketing channels include:

  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Opt-in emails

The key commonality all of these forms of marketing have is that users choose to view them; whether it’s following your brand on social media or reading a blog post online, inbound marketing is focused on driving organic traffic.

Inbound marketing is all about getting people to come to you. You create content and then distribute it through various channels with the goal of capturing visitors’ attention so that they will engage with your brand and ‘convert’, whether this means ordering your product, booking your service, or something else.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing is what we might think of as a more traditional form of digital marketing, targeted at users who otherwise might not head to your site at all.

Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are a prime example of outbound marketing, where the primary focus is usually to get an advert up in front of as many broadly targeted users as possible. In outbound marketing, what counts is clicks, impressions, and conversions.

Outbound marketing is all about getting your brand seen by people who might not otherwise have heard of it. While it doesn’t rely on organic traffic the way inbound marketing does, outbound marketing can still be somewhat targeted; for example, PPC campaigns can be optimised to display when relevant search terms are made in Google.

Inbound vs outbound marketing: which is better?

Inbound and outbound marketing are often seen as completely separate marketing techniques, but really they are two sides of the same coin.

In particular, investing in inbound marketing – and particularly good quality content – can improve the results of an outbound marketing campaign by ensuring that your campaign is backed up by a strong and trustworthy online presence.

What are the pros and cons of outbound marketing?

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Outbound marketing has long been considered the purest form of advertising, from TV ads and billboards to modern PPC campaigns. While outbound marketing is a sure way to draw the attention of an audience that might otherwise have passed you by, it’s no longer the clear top dog in digital marketing.

For one, outbound marketing requires at least a small monthly marketing budget every month to get off the ground. Small PPC campaigns in the UK might set businesses back up to £1000 a month.

Outbound marketing remains popular because it’s easy to implement and, when done well, offers fast results. A successful PPC campaign can triple website traffic overnight, though any company basing their marketing strategy on this needs to factor in the long-term costs of running such a campaign.

What are the pros and cons of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is outbound marketing’s cheaper, subtler cousin. Producing good content and getting it published online doesn’t have to cost much at all; larger companies might hire in-house writers and social media managers to produce content, but smaller companies can outsource their content to companies like Copify or have existing marketing teams produce it.

Inbound marketing is also, in many ways, preferred by customers. Customers don’t like having ads pushed on them, particularly ads that might not even be very relevant to what they’re searching for. Inbound marketing is about building a solid foundation of trust between brand and customer by producing content that is genuinely useful and insightful.

But inbound marketing isn’t without its downsides. It can be time-consuming to create quality, meaningful content on a regular basis, and even the best inbound marketing can’t compete with the reach of outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is also much harder to measure for success; whereas with PPC campaigns it’s easy to find your ROI by comparing revenue and spend from ads, inbound marketing has no such measurable metrics.

Choosing the right marketing strategy for your business

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The truth is that most businesses rely on some combination of both inbound and outbound marketing, though some might lean on one more than the other.

When deciding how to run your digital marketing campaign, it’s important to consider your goals, budget, and audience, all of which should be included in your content marketing plan; these are the elements that will help you to determine the best strategy for your needs.

Companies with generous budgets will no doubt want to invest in both forms of marketing, whereas smaller companies may be better off starting with inbound marketing. While outbound marketing can give clear net returns, inbound marketing done well offers better value and efficiency. In this form of marketing, there is no waste, with content aimed narrowly only at those users who are looking for it.

Outbound marketing will help you drive traffic to a specific place, whether that’s a website, a blog post, or a social media page. Inbound marketing can help you to draw more users to your page, but more importantly, it will hold the interest of site visitors once they’re there.

Header image: Kaleidico on Unsplash

Embedded images: Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash, Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash, Firmbee.com on Unsplash

Vicci Noreiko

Vicci is a Content Delivery Manager at Copify who's gained over ten years' experience in content creation since graduating from university with a degree in English and Philosophy. When she's not writing copy, she's probably reading, playing video games, or being bossed around by her three cats.

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