After getting off a call with a so-called ‘marketing professional” (I hate it when people describe themselves like that!), I thought it would be helpful to write this blog – because clearly, a lot of self-proclaimed marketing experts don’t understand the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

In the simplest terms, inbound marketing is when people choose to come to you – and outbound marketing is where you try to convince people to come to you (sometimes described as disruptive marketing).

Now, none of us likes to hear ‘you must use our business, we’re amazing!’.

It’s a bit like saying that you’re really good at telling jokes. If you said so before telling a joke, you’d be far less likely to get a laugh; your audience would feel under pressure to find the joke funny and at the end of the day, it’s the audience who will decide if it’s funny or not.

I always try and give really crude examples – they’re just an easier way of demonstrating things – so here are some super simple examples of outbound and inbound marketing activities for a variety of services.

3 examples of outbound marketing activities:

  • Designing and printing loads of flyers advertising dog walking and paying to have these put into local newspapers that get posted through people’s doors
  • Standing in a street stopping passersby, asking if they would like to buy car insurance for new drivers
  • Paying to have a poster in a train station that advertises stairlifts

Finding the results from these 3 examples of outbound marketing is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. They’re less likely to convert and can be expensive to create and implement.

Outbound marketing is like a firework: it goes off with a big bang and then fizzles to nothing – unless you invest in another firework.

For example, the success of the dog walking flyers is immediately hampered by the fact that only 23% of people in the UK own a dog. Even if the flyer landed on a dog owner’s doormat, how do you know if they need or want a dog walker? Will the flyer even capture attention, or be cast-off as junk mail straight away? All of this reduces the chances of converting the flyers into new business.

3 examples of inbound marketing activities:

  • Advertising a dog walking service on a popular blog article that talks about “how to keep a dog happy when you are at work”
  • Creating a Google Ads advert that targets the search term “best car insurance for new drivers”
  • Creating a blog article explaining how stairlifts are fitted into different stair configurations

These examples of inbound marketing will put you in front of fewer people for sure – but you stand a much higher chance of it being relevant to a potential customer. You can expect a higher conversion rate for your efforts and marketing budgets, and you can also commit a smaller unit budget but on a more regular basis.

It might sound like outbound marketing doesn’t work – but it can if it’s done well.

As fewer people are doing outbound marketing these days, it’s starting to become more effective again. It used to be that you got 50 flyers through your door every day and would just pick them up and throw them in the bin. Now, you’ll only get a couple a week, making it easier to capture people’s attention.

It’s easy to just write off outbound marketing – but a creative, memorable solution can still work wonders as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

There are some grey areas. Some people consider email marketing as outbound – but under GDPR, you should never collect information and email anyone without their consent. If a person signs up to your mailing list, they have an interest in your offering and so, your emails should be classed as inbound marketing.

But if you are doing it badly (or illegally), I would consider “email blasts” as outbound marketing and less likely to convert.

Finally, here’s another blog article I wrote that you will find interesting on semiotics; this takes inbound marketing to the next level!