Differences and Benefits For eLearning

Inbound Vs. Outbound Marketing: Finding The Right Balance

Inbound and outbound marketing describe two fundamentally different approaches. When you take an in-depth look at the key differences between inbound and outbound marketing, you can understand how the world of marketing is shifting from one strategy to the next. But, first things first, let’s see what each marketing approach is.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

In short, the main goal of inbound marketing is to pull readers in based on their interests and search intent. Such a technique usually focuses on content marketing. By writing and sharing valuable content, inbound marketing experts solve consumers’ needs. The good thing about inbound marketing is that you have the opportunity to interact with your readers, either in the form of comments or even by establishing an email communication if they reach out.

A masterful content marketing campaign will manage to turn the audience members into leads as they keep consuming helpful content. You can use an inbound marketing strategy in websites, blogs, eBooks, webinars, opt-in emails, SERPs, social media.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

On the other hand, outbound marketing is written to sell products. It’s one-way communication, which, most of the time, disrupts whatever content is being consumed. Outbound marketing is effective when you have some basic knowledge of your target audience. Then, you build programs that educate specific prospects about your products and services in a meaningful way.

You can accomplish outbound marketing typically by using the more traditional ways such as email marketing, direct mail, telemarketing, and events. If you’re looking for more outbound marketing examples, think of online popup banner ads, TV ads, billboards, magazines.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing – Which Is More Effective?

Answer a few simple questions and find the best marketing solution to promote your business, even on a tight budget.

Key Differences Between Inbound And Outbound Marketing

All set? Now, we can proceed to analyze core differences and identify when one strategy is more fitting than the other. Keep reading.

1. Subtle Vs. Forced

One main difference between inbound and outbound marketing is that inbound is a subtle, not-so-salesy way of attracting prospects. By doing so, users engage with relevant content until they become customers and brand ambassadors. Remember, it’s all about trust and showing off your giving nature. Such content focuses on attracting people who go out to find what they need: the seekers of knowledge.

In fact, it’s not just information they’re looking for; these guys need solutions to their problems. So, what do smart inbound marketers do? They serve them with the right information to attract and pull them into their sales funnels. For example, we do so in the form of content marketing, SEO, and social media. In this way, users come to us through trusted channels (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), our newsletter, or by finding our content via search engines.

Yet, outbound marketing is more aggressive since it interrupts prospects to get their attention. For example, when watching your favorite TV show or listening to a radio program, several ads are thrown in. Regular interruption is something we’ve learned to expect. However, when people have the chance to skip, they’ll change their station.

Of course, there are times when if the interruptive ad is shown at the right time, conversions will happen. Repetition is what does the trick here. And, with a compelling CTA, you can get superb results. For example, when you scroll your social media feeds, you’ll get regular advertising interruptions without asking for it. Sometimes you might skip past them. But other times, you will click through because the ad captured your attention. The same goes for popup banner ads.

2. Push Vs. Pull

Another key difference is that inbound marketing helps you get discovered by your ideal customers. Meaning, they initiate the action when searching for solutions and land on the helpful content that you have created. Thus, by letting them consume that content piece you’ve managed to successfully pull them into discovering your business.

In order to reach the right buyers, this strategy demands that you create content that answers your buyer personas’ questions. So, you have to address topics or queries that prospects are already searching for. From our experience, the best way to accomplish this is to do thorough keyword research or even go around community forums and find what is trending.

Outbound marketing works in a totally opposite way. In this case, you develop content with the assumption that it might capture your prospects’ attention. However, because they didn’t search or ask for it, you have to push your assets via advertising to reach your audience. Unfortunately, sometimes such a strategy might be effective, but others might not—at least not without focusing on what interests your ideal buyers. Giving them what they crave is of the utmost importance.

3. Generic Vs. Specific

An outbound marketing campaign via mediums like billboards, print ads, TV, or radio is more generic at its core. That happens because anybody can pass by a street with a mounted billboard or watch a TV show. So, to reach a substantial fraction of people interested in an ad, marketers create more generic outbound campaigns or at least try to appeal to a larger audience.

Conversely, when implementing an inbound marketing approach, you can be more specific on who you can target. Besides, the core principle of an inbound strategy involves creating educational (or even entertaining) content that addresses a specific audience’s problem.

As a result, inbound marketers concern themselves with more distinct audiences. When planning your inbound marketing campaigns, you can include blogs, newsletters, and social media posts to get your message across to your ideal buyers. What’s more, by leveraging SEO techniques, you can optimize your efforts for targeted queries. Meaning, you create strategies that are aimed at a defined audience.

For example, you might write a specific content piece that targets instructional designers looking to develop microlearning courses. Or, you might need to attract training managers who are on remote work policy and need an easy way to training their remote workforce. In both examples, your content is explicit in solving the specific problems of your ideal buyers. So, the key for inbound marketing success is to know your buyer personas, understand their pain points, and serve them with solutions!

Now that you know the core differences between inbound and outbound marketing, how do you choose which is the best for your business? Again, what matters the most is how well you execute each marketing strategy. With that in mind, let’s see when it’s preferable to use one approach over another.

When Should eLearning Marketers Use Inbound And Outbound Marketing?

Do eLearning marketers need to choose between the two or can you have it both ways and reap the benefits of each one?

First things first, if you’ve recently launched a new product or your business is brand new or it makes total sense to use outbound marketing, you might like to turn to TV, billboards, and other solutions to build awareness. By taking every chance you can get, depending on your budget, making your brand known is a key priority. After all, targeted ads can also help you reach the right buyers. More often than not, there will be users scrolling Facebook, LinkedIn, or watching a YouTube video, who will be intrigued to click on your ad. Or maybe, after seeing your ad they might look you up on Google.

When it comes to inbound marketing, it will take time for your content efforts to bear fruit. The same happens with building a substantial following on social media and growing your email list. And if you’re trying to get good Google rankings with your content, don’t expect it to take effect in just 2-3 months. But with the help of a good SEO strategy, you can make things easier and reach your ideal buyers.

As a matter of fact, SEO, keyword research, and Google Analytics can help you identify your prospects’ interests. Then, based on their online behaviors and data touchpoints, you can develop a proactive outbound marketing strategy. Most importantly, one that resonates with the search intent of your target audience.

Why You Need Both

So, when you have the budget and you want to create instant buzz, outbound marketing can drive fast results in the short term. However, the moment you stop paying, the results will fade.

Inbound marketing might not bring you immediate results, but in the long term, it is value for money. Why? Well, inbound marketing is 62% less expensive compared to outbound methods. And, once it set in motion, you can get evergreen organic traffic. Meaning, you have the chance to pull in visitors, leads, and customers constantly.


The differences between inbound and outbound marketing are evident. However, the lines between the two are often blurry. For example, you can implement an inbound marketing program as the first step of a long-term marketing campaign, mainly to capture lead data.

Then, you might want to use an outbound strategy to nurture and educate those prospects. Meaning, your end goal is to affect their buying decision with all your efforts.

By combining inbound and outbound, savvy marketers manage to create a sustainable program that can produce a continuous stream of sales opportunities for the long term. Hence, if you’re looking for success in your B2B lead generation, you should leverage both inbound and outbound marketing techniques and create the right mix.

On the one hand, inbound marketing is necessary to bring new leads and replenish your sales pipeline. On the other, outbound marketing will help you track and drive your existing prospects through the buying cycle.

Only by combining both practices can you build an effective lead generation engine capable of filling your sales pipeline.

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