<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=525392224501275&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How Marketing has Changed: Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Dustin Brackett
December 27, 2015

Trying to decide which CMS is right for your website?

View CMS Comparison

Find Out How HubSpot Can Help Your Business Grow Better!

Download our free HubSpot one-pagers and get the inside scoop on all things HubSpot.


A lot has changed in the last few years...

We've all migrated from Myspace to Facebook (and several other networks), we started using our phones for literally everything, Mashable announced that the hipster beard is dead (RIP), and the landscape of marketing has shifted.

With the ability to tune out, skip, ignore, and avoid traditional advertising such as radio ads, television commercials, direct mail, and billboards, businesses have had to shift their focus to helping and targeting the people that actually want to hear from them. The old days of 'spray and pray' are coming to a close. Let's take a look at the transition...

Definitions: Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

First, let's start with a definition of inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

HubSpot defines inbound marketing as, “...a focus 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.” Essentially, inbound marketing is the process of putting out quality content and optimizing and understanding your customer to make it easier for them to find you when searching for your business, product, and/or service. It's all about finding and fixing a problem. Tactics used in inbound marketing include social media marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization, website design, blogging, and more.

Outbound marketing, in contrast, is what we have all grown up with - intrustive advertising that focuses on getting in front of as many people as possible. It's a numbers game. In order to reach your target market, you're essentially pushing your content in front of everyone hoping that your target market takes notice. Tactics used in outbound marketing include radio ads, television commercials, direct mail, billboard ads, sponsorships, and more. 

Please note - this is not a one or the other situation. Many businesses are successful employing both inbound and outbound marketing (especially large companies), but we'll take a look at the overall shift from outbound to inbound marketing in 2015 and moving forward.

What's my ROI?

One of the biggest issues with traditional outbound marketing is that ROI is very difficult to measure. How many people visited your business because of your radio ad? Is television or billboard working better for your business? How many people are reading your direct mail? If you're utilizing any of these forms of outbound marketing, you probably have no answer or a very vague answer to these questions. (it's ok...you're not alone.)

Now this isn't to say that simply employing some inbound marketing tactics (social media marketing, blogging, etc.) that you'll automatically be able to measure your ROI, but using the HubSpot platform, you can see what is working, why it's working, and what can be improved. You can also pull some analytics from each social network, email platform, and most blogging platforms. 

According to HubSpot's State of Inbound 2015, regardless of marketing spend, companies were three times as likely to see a higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound. [Hubspot]

Cost & Value

Because of a more targeted approach with inbound vs outbound marketing, costs are much lower for each action and the cost of leads tend to be much lower. Just a few statistics about outbound marketing:

  • 45% of Direct Mail is never opened
  • 85% of people skip television commercials
  • 84% of 25 to 34 year olds have clicked out of a website because of intrusive ads

Now, this is not to say that there aren't industries and businesses that buck these trends, but it's becoming overwhelmingly evident that consumers are taking marketing into their own hands. If consumers don't want to see your ad, they really don't have to anymore.

One of the biggest differences, as a marketer, in inbound vs outbound marketing is the cost per lead. The average cost per lead is 61% lower for inbound vs outbound marketing. [HubSpot]

Intrusion vs Permission

Raise your hand if you love ads. *crickets*

The biggest reason that people don't like ads is because they've been shoved down our throats for decades. Watching your favorite show? Commercials every few minutes. Trying to enjoy some music? Ads every few minutes. Driving on the highway? Billboards everywhere. Reading your favorite magazine? One third of the magazine is probably advertising. We've never been given the option. It's intrusive. Whether you want to see ads from that business or not, you're getting them.

Now, with inbound marketing, it's all permission based. The idea is that you only want to provide information to those that actually want to see it. They opt-in to your blog updates, request eBooks, follow you on Twitter, and click on your links in search results. 

There are many differences between inbound and outbound marketing, more than I've covered here, but it's obvious that there has been a shift in marketing. With inbound marketing, you can attract, qualify, convert, and delight your customers as opposed to standing on a mountain top screaming about your sale. 


Do you have more questions about inbound marketing or want to find out if your business is a good candidate for inbound marketing? Start HERE:

inbound marketing