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Inbound marketing vs outbound: what’s the most efficient

Every modern digital marketer is often torn between two marketing strategies: inbound marketing vs outbound. In a desperate attempt to cover everything, the marketing plan is generally built on a mix between inbound and outbound campaigns.

But what works the best? Understanding the inbound marketing vs outbound question is a first step to an efficient digital marketing strategy.

Inbound marketing vs outbound tools

Understanding the difference between INbound and OUTbound is pretty easy: either your leads come IN, either you go OUT to find them. But when it comes to the inbound marketing vs outbound tools, marketeers get confused on what’s what.

The usual digital outbound tools are: direct email, telemarketing, mass email marketing and banner advertising. The outbound philosophy stands in the advertiser picking the subject of the campaigns, the context and the time and place of exposure. It’s often a one-way discussion, hard to measure.

Inbound marketing relies on a different logic: precise measurement, strategic identification, specific targeting. The inbound tools commonly used are: search engine optimization, content marketing, backlinks, blogging, viral marketing, social media marketing, podcasts.

In a certain way, the latest outbound trends have somehow found their inspiration in inbound marketing. Sales rep now often use automated personalized e-mail sequences, giving the impression of a one-to-one contact.

Once upon the inbound

Between Hubspot omni-presence and the profusion of “new” inbound service providers, people tend to think inbound marketing is the new “trendy” thing.

In fact, it’s an old story being rebranded. In 1999, Seth Godin already wrote a first book about Permission Marketing, which explained exactly the principles of inbound marketing. Instead of opting for a traditional marketing, permission marketing works with high lead qualification and pushes based on permission only. In a world saturated with advertising messages, leaving the consumer the choice drives significantly higher results and better quality marketing.

The inbound marketing vs outbound dilemma stands in:

  • a question of choice. With inbound marketing, leads choose their exposure accordingly to their interests. Outbound marketing only push predefined messages.
  • a different targeting. Inbound is based on specific and precised targeting before, during and after the conversion. Outbound is more unpredictable, with a wider and hypothetical targeting.
  • a different conversion rate. Being specific, inbound marketing comes with higher conversion rates than outbound. Which often means that outbound has to be massive to drive the same results.
  • last but not least, a different brand vision. Marketing is conversation: inbound is focused on discussion and attraction, whereas outbound is more of a “sales” attitude. Even if both can drive results on short/mid-term, inbound marketing has a lead when it comes to building a sustainable brand awareness.

Inbound marketing vs outbound statistics

The direct conclusion of all above points is this: inbound marketing costs generally 62% less than outbound marketing. It also comes with a more “controlled” environment, where results can be precisely tracked and are not completely dependent on budget. Building your marketing plan entirely on outbound will force you to have an ever increasing marketing budget.

In 2018, the state of digital marketing led by Hubspot was stating that 53% of marketers find inbound marketing to drive higher ROI for their organisation. In terms of budget spent, inbound marketing usually drive 3x more leads than an equivalent outbound marketing.

In terms of results for inbound marketing vs outbound, for 59% of marketers, inbound marketing drives better quality leads but fewer leads than outbound. At the same time, inbound leads generated through SEO have an average 14.6% conversion rate whereas outbound leads have an average 1.7% conversion rate. When building your funnel and choosing your marketing tactics, it all comes down at a proper mix between the number of leads and the expected conversion rate.

The major point to take into consideration is this: are you looking to attract leads, have a long term discussion while growing your brand awareness? In this case, Inbound marketing is the best approach.
Or are you looking to be massive and everywhere, sell quickly and do not need retention? In this case, budget is everything and you’ll probably go for outbound marketing.

To summarize, the choice is here: quality vs quantity.
We have our preference: better be a simple human than an advertising robot, don’t you think?


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