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Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: 6 Characteristics

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

First, let’s define inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing, keeping in mind two aspects of marketing strategies: distribution and messaging.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Regardless of whether HubSpot coin the expression “What is Inbound Marketing?
Even if HubSpot didn’t coin the term “inbound marketing,” they have certainly spent a lot of time and money branding it as their own.

Here’s how they define inbound marketing:

“Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.”

It took Vital a while to embrace the term “inbound” to describe what we were doing with our clients. In the beginning, we referred to it as “SEO” and “content marketing.” And although we weren’t a HubSpot partner agency at the time, we were reading their content.

We knew a term was needed for the paradigm shift we were seeing in online marketing. SEO had fundamentally changed and digital marketing was becoming increasingly more disparate from traditional marketing. Digital distribution made analysis highly measurable and results-oriented, showing that inbound marketing was exponentially more successful than outbound marketing — when done correctly.

It’s not just that traditional distribution was so different from digital distribution; the message was changing, too. And the more we were learning about the message, the better the results we were getting. The terms “digital marketing” or “traditional marketing” only spoke to the distribution aspect of the message, and “inbound marketing” included the new message itself.

This new message was educational, involved thought leadership, and was transparent and engaging. So, in the absence of anything better, we drank a little bit of the HubSpot Kool-Aid and gave in — today we call it inbound marketing, too. But there’s more to inbound marketing than the statistics on the dwindling audience of outbound and the engaged and accessible audience of inbound.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is “inherently obfuscated, duplicitous, and full of shit.”

– Jeff Rosenblum of Questus

Also known as traditional marketing, outbound marketing includes tactics like:

  • Radio
  • TV
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Direct-mail
  • Billboards
  • Event sponsorships

A traditional outbound strategy can even be found in such digital distribution forms as email blasts, banner ads, PPC, and spam. But the defining qualities of outbound marketing are in the messaging.

Outbound is a world of jargon where the loudest and most obnoxious marketers are rewarded. Back in the day, clever was rewarded. But due to the escalating costs and increased competition to reach dwindling audiences, marketers have had to dumb things down to the lowest common denominator to maximize their conversions.

So we are left with advertisements that use fluorescent pink, bold print, BIG discounts, exploited women, and puppy dogs. How dumb do they think we are? No wonder a paradigm shift in advertising had to take place.,” they have surely invested a great deal of energy and cash marking it as their own.

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing: Which is More Effective?

Inbound MarketingOutbound Marketing
DefinitionFocuses on crafting high-quality content that organically attracts people. Uses traditional non-digital strategies and jargon-filled messages to draw attention.
ExamplesBlogs, SEO strategy, keyword targeting, social media, etc. TV commercials, billboards, direct mail, newspaper and magazine ads, etc.
Audience EngagementPermission-based and relevant. Interruption-based and often disassociated.
Brand PositioningYou’re always the main headline. Stand out or you won’t be seen at all.
Marketing StrategiesIntegrated, cross-channel strategies. Linear strategies with limited marketing avenues.
MessagingEducational, specific, useful. Broad, forced, complicated.
DistributionContinuous and iterative. Inconsistent and varied.
Data & AttributionAll digital and quantifiable. Immeasurable and hard to track

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