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Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

Inbound vs. outbound marketing–attracting vs. shouting

Are you shouting to be heard, instead of attracting those who want what you offer?

Inbound vs outbound marketing, which strategy is right? Advertising in all of its forms is based on one premise … “hey, look at me!”

Of course, smart advertisers will place ads where they expect their target audiences will be looking. But those ads–from magazines to TV to billboards–are still based on intruding, demanding attention. Shouting.

Inbound marketing incorporates some advertising, but is a digital strategy based on attraction, instead of shouting. When you’re considering inbound vs outbound marketing, one doesn’t replace the other. In fact, inbound and outbound marketing can work well to support and enhance one another. Yet inbound marketing is today’s marketing, because it’s designed to attract people who are looking for what you have to offer–online.

Quick definition of inbound marketing, according to HubSpot:

Sharing is caring and inbound is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.


As the chart shows, inbound marketing includes tactics to attract and then engage your audiences, to turn them from visitors to customers. The advantage of software like HubSpot is these tactics are integrated into one online program. It’s possible to create, watch, measure and then improve based on the results you achieve.

Why inbound? Why attract instead of shout?

Digital. The web. Where do you start when you’re researching, comparing prices, deciding which airline or hotel or shopping for something in particular?

Traditional advertising interruptsThings have changed since the heyday of advertising. (Think Mad Men, when there were only a few TV channels, and a few well-read magazines.) Marketers only had the options to shout.

It was easier to reach people because there were fewer communication choices.

The last 10 years have produced a huge disruption in many industries–from travel agents to real estate, retail shopping to marketing and advertising.

That digital disruption was also the foundation for inbound marketing. Inbound marketing helps a marketer entice people who are already looking for what is offered. It’s designed to draw people in, answer questions, offer value and build a relationship based on trust.

People today don’t want to be sold, they want to be informed

The tremendous explosion of information–from price comparisons to reviews, social media discussions to e-books–has put searchers and buyers in the driver’s seat. Rather than talking to a salesperson to learn about different products or services, people are searching online to be educated and informed before ever contacting a vendor.

When you position your online brand to answer questions, to be found for specific keywords and phrases, you will attract those who want what you offer. When you follow that with stories, FAQs, comparisons, how-tos and straightforward information, you’ll earn trust and pull them through your sales process. You’ll attract instead of shout.

Outbound marketing, still relevant?

Yes. People are still reading magazines, especially the more targeted ones. People still see billboards (about the only media that reaches practically everyone in a specific area). Trade shows for specific industries can also show a good return.And there are still people who don’t have access to high-speed WiFi or a reliable computer.

Know your audiences. Generally older audiences are the ones reading the newspaper. Magazines and radio stations have a narrow focus on a particular audience group. And the Superbowl still commands a gigantic price tag for a 30 second spot–because they have the audience.

Use the right (based on your audiences, what you offer and your budget) outbound marketing to send people online for an offer, to learn more, to engage. Something as simple as vehicle graphics can grab attention and send someone to your website.

Success doesn’t come from using one or the other, inbound vs. outbound marketing. Success comes from knowing your audiences, what they’re searching for, and what they need to know to choose you. When you nail those basics, then choose how to integrate inbound vs. outbound marketing.

Learn more about inbound marketing from this Flipboard compilation of articles. Great insight!
View my Flipboard Magazine.

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About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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  1. Interesting post and totally agree that inbound doesn’t in any way replace outbound – it just adds to the options and gives brand with purpose more opportunity to be heard – and found.

    • Thanks Stephen, it’s an interesting world out there to see how the inbound and outbound can mesh and enhance effectiveness. thanks for your feedback!


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