Inbound Marketing Gets a Lot of Hype

I love marketing automation, but some marketing automation vendors would have you believe that inbound marketing is the only approach that works anymore and that outbound marketing is no longer effective.


People can tune out messaging they signed up for just as easily as they can tune out messaging they were not expecting. Conversely, they can also be intrigued by either.

The key is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both inbound and outbound marketing and create a blend that works best for your business.

Inbound Marketing

The basic idea of inbound marketing is that a lead has shown interest in what you offer and has even gone so far as to give you permission to contact them.

Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want leads reaching out to them only when they are sincerely interested in their product or service? Who wouldn’t want leads that give a direct request to send them information?

In fact, inbound marketing is great when:

  • You really know your customer
  • You know where to find your customer
  • Your customer is already looking for you

Let’s break this down a bit. If you really know your customer, it is easy to create campaigns that intrigue them and to incorporate keywords that you know they are searching for. Same thing with knowing where to find your customer; if you know they are on Facebook, that makes life a lot easier.

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That last point – your customer is already looking for you – is especially important. After all, if your customer is not already looking for your company or your specific product/service, they are going to have a hard time being drawn into your inbound campaigns.

Inbound marketing is not so great when:

  • No one knows you exist
  • The service you provide is different from what your prospects are currently thinking about
  • People search for what you offer infrequently
  • You have a long sales cycle

If your company is brand new, it will be harder for people to find your inbound campaigns. If you offer a service that is different from they are used to – even if it is much more helpful – they might not stumble on you as easily as you’d like. Same thing when people only use your product or service infrequently, or if you have a long sales cycle.

Outbound Marketing

Now let’s look at outbound marketing – is it really so imposing and awful as recent hype might have you believe?

No, it isn’t.

Outbound marketing is great when:

  • You need to get in front of people quickly
  • You have money to spend on advertising AND you know where to put those advertising dollars to work
  • You can buy or compile lists to start a database
  • You have a sale to promote in a very specific zip code

Outbound marketing, which includes advertising and cold calls, is very useful when you need to get your product in front of people in a hurry. Inbound marketing takes time; outbound doesn’t.

Outbound often requires money for advertising or list purchasing but it might only require some scrappy research. Like compiling a list of prospects using good ol’ Google.

Outbound marketing can also be very useful when you have a very specific offer and you know exactly how to find your prospects – via snail mail, email or even a trade show.

Outbound marketing is not so great when:

  • You want to nurture a relationship with your prospect
  • You want to stay in your prospect’s mind throughout a long sales cycle
  • You want a way to qualify leads

Of course, life is a mix of pros oand cons. With outbound marketing, the cons are the one-off nature of the approach. For long-term relationship building, outbound marketing is not so useful, nor is it especially helpful in qualifying leads based on nuances of lead score.

Interestingly, you will see that a long sales cycle appears in the “not so great” lists for both inbound marketing and outbound.

Long sales cycles mean the prospect is not urgently thinking of what you offer, which means they are less likely to be looking for information via an inbound campaign. However, it also means that – once you have their attention via an outbound campaign – you need a way not to lose it.

So, what do you do? Which is better – inbound marketing or outbound marketing?

Inbound Outbound

The Best is the Combo

It’s a mistake to think only inbound or only outbound is the way to go. In most cases, your business will need a mix.

How to use inbound and outbound marketing together:

    – Use outbound marketing to reach people in a hurry
    – Use inbound marketing to keep people moving through your funnel

Outbound marketing is great for filling in the gaps of your marketing plan, especially when you are in launch mode. Cold calls, cold emails, face-to-face selling at trade shows and even paid ads and native content can be a great way to kick-start your sales.

Once you’ve established contact, then use inbound marketing to generate interest and do permission-based outreach. For instance, in the case of a long sales cycle, you might try cold calling a list and inviting them to sign up for a nurture program that provides educational content.

So, ignore the hype. However you build your marketing program, a combination of inbound and outbound marketing techniques will put your company in the strongest position.

Michelle Marketing Strategies provides expert consulting services in digital marketing, marketing automation and content development. Email or phone for more information.