Inbound vs Outbound Marketing - How to pick a winner for 2020

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing - How to select a winner!  To develop an effective marketing strategy for your business, you should have a solid understanding of both. It boils down to what is best for your business

Table of Contents 

  1. What is Outbound Marketing 
  2. What is Inbound Marketing 
  3. Inbound vs OutBound Marketing
  4. Inbound Marketing Process
  5. Features of Inbound
  6. What's best for your business
  7. Leveraging Inbound Sales 
  8. Inbound Sales Methodology
  9. Inbound Sales Process 
  10. Action Plan 
  11. Transforming Sales & Marketing 
  12. Sales and Marketing Alignment For 2020 - Funnel to FlyWheel 
  13. Going a Step Further With Your Inbound Strategy - MSPOTs

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

We all have heard the terms “inbound” and outboundmarketing, but we really know the difference between the two?

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is the marketing method where the marketer initiates a ‘loud’ one-sided conversation, in the hope that his message will reach far out; to a very large crowd among which, some are his potential customers and rest are who don’t have any connection with the product.

Outbound marketing included trade shows, seminar series, email blasts to purchased lists, internal cold calling, outsourced telemarketing, and advertising. I call these methods "outbound marketing" because marketers push his or her message out far and wide hoping that it resonates with that needle in the haystack. 

I think outbound marketing techniques are getting less and less effective over time for two reasons.  First, your average human today is inundated with over 2000 outbound marketing interruptions per day and is figuring out more and more creative ways to block them out, including caller ID, spam filtering, Tivo, and Sirius satellite radio.  Second, the cost of coordination around learning about something new or shopping for something new using the internet (search engines, blogs, and social media) is now much lower than going to a seminar at the Marriott or flying to a trade show in Las Vegas. 

In general, outbound marketing tends to market to a larger volume of less-targeted people, using tactics like:

  • Commercials
  • Trade shows
  • Print ads
  • Billboards
  • Cold-calling
  • Direct mail

So Outbound  marketing techniques are getting less and less effective over time because the cost of learning about something new or shopping for something new using the internet is now much lower than going to a seminar or tradeshow.

What is Inbound Marketing?

The modern buyer is no longer dependent on salespeople for necessary purchasing decision information. Inbound is designed to bring potential customers to your business who are actively in the market. It’s about getting found when they’re looking, rather than forcing your message on people who may or may not be interested.

Inbound marketing is a new marketing opportunity for businesses. Examples of inbound marketing are blogging, social media promotions, search engine.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing



Outbound Marketing

  • Commercials
  • Trade shows
  • Print ads
  • Billboards
  • Cold-calling
  • Direct mail



Inbound Marketing 

  • Attract - Blogs, Video's, SEO, Social Publishing
  • Convert - White papers, Valuable Content, CTA's,e-Books, Landing Pages, Chats Bots
  • Close - CRM, Email, WorkFlows
  • Delight - Surveys,Smart Content, Social Monitoring


Inbound Marketing Process 

An Ultimate Guide For Successful Customer Acquisition-1

Inbound marketing attract


Lead attraction begins with online content publication – in the form of business blogging and advanced content like e-books, videos, tip-sheets, etc. – and search engine optimization (making sure your company comes up on the first page of search results), social media engagement, and online PR/media distribution and promotion.


Inbound marketing converts website visitors into leads by giving them highly valuable content in exchange for their contact information. By enhancing your website with a well-planned user experience and populating it with relevant and valuable content, we help convert more of your traffic (and higher quality traffic) into sales-ready leads.

inbound qualifyQualify

Through the power of marketing automation, CRM tools and 2.0 lead management strategies, lead qualification is now easier than ever. We use intelligent form strategies and personalized content to help clients get the best leads to “raise their hands” during the conversion process. Then, using marketing automation lead management tools, we identify which qualified leads are ready to turn over to Sales, and which prospects still need nurturing and support.

inbound nurture stageNurture

Traditionally, lead nurturing has meant email marketing—newsletters, drip notifications, and subscription updates. With the combined power of marketing automation and content management tools, our approach to nurturing is increasingly more personalized and sophisticated. In our unified campaigns, we personalize messaging in a variety of situations: in the prospect’s inbox, as they visit website pages, when they engage on social media, and when reading published articles.


From search engine optimization to how well a specific content piece generates leads, inbound marketers can assess marketing quality and sales-generation quantity at every stage. No more estimating the value of an ad: with inbound, you know the business impact of every single move you make.

inbound close stageClose

A strong closing strategy begins with efficient transfer of leads from Marketing to Sales—we build service level agreements (SLAs) to facilitate this process—and sales teams are supported by perfectly tuned nurturing efforts throughout the sales process. Using analytics and qualification data, we build advanced lead scoring to help organize and set priorities for the Sales team, helping to create systems of continual improvement.

Unique Features of Inbound Marketing

  • Inbound marketing opens new possibilities to promote your products, communicate with your customers and build brand reputation.
  • Inbound Marketing is cost effective – Compared to outbound marketing, inbound marketing is incredibly cheap. Platforms like blogs, social media profiles and promotional videos are a lot cheaper to promote than TV commercials and print ads.
  • Efficiency – Inbound marketing, if done properly, will hit your target audience with full strength.

If someone says that “inbound marketing can pull customers to you like a magnet pulling needles,” it’s not an exaggeration because this can be done with the right marketing strategies.

Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is when a marketer reaches out to people to see if they're interested in a product. For example, this could include door-to-door sales or cold calling where a sales rep or marketer approaches someone without knowing if he or she is even a qualified lead. Inbound marketing is a strategy where you create content or social media tactics that spread brand awareness so people learn about you, might go to your website for information, and then purchase or show interest in your product.

While some outbound strategies take lots of time and effort and may yield no leads, inbound strategies allow you to engage an audience of people that you can more easily qualify as a prospect of lead.

The best analogy I can come up with is that traditional marketers looking to garner interest from new potential customers are like lions hunting in the jungle for elephants.  The elephants used to be in the jungle in the '80s and '90s when they learned their trade, but they don't seem to be there anymore.  They have all migrated to the watering holes on the savannah (the internet).  So, rather than continuing to hunt in the jungle, I recommend setting up shop at the watering hole or turning your website into its own watering hole.

Leveraging Inbound Sales 

In today's connected world the information that buyers need to make a purchase decision is just a click away. The power in the buying and selling process has shifted from the seller to the buyer. The buying process is transformed. Due to this proliferation, the modern buyer is no longer dependent on salespeople for necessary purchasing decision information. 

Inbound Sales realizes this need with today’s empowered buyer, they understand that sales process and sales experience needs to transform into the buyer’s context. 

Whether your sales process relies on inbound leads or targeted outreach, whether you’re a big company or small, whether your sale is complex or simple; inbound sales are relevant. That’s because inbound sales transform selling to match today’s empowered buyer -- so sales reps can sell the way people buy. Inbound sales teams recognize they must transform their entire sales strategy so they're serving the buyer.

What is inbound sales?

Inbound sales is a personalized, helpful, modern sales methodology. Inbound salespeople focus on their prospect's pain points, act as a trusted consultant, and adapt their sales process to the buyer journey.

Inbound Sales Methodology

  • Understand Buyers Persona & Buyer's Journey
  • Tailor a sales process around the buyer's journey.
  • Identify your ideal buyer persona.
  • Lead with a helpful, customized prospecting message. 
  • Craft customized questions to uncover the prospect's pain.
  • Give a tailored presentation.

Inbound Sales Methodology

Inbound sales organizations develop a sales process that supports the prospect through their buyer's journey. The stages that buyers move through are -  Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. The four actions (Identify, Connect, Explore, and Advise) inbound sales teams must implement to support qualified leads into becoming opportunities and eventually customers.




Inbound Sales Process

Inbound Sales Process Tailored Around the Buyer's Journey

Legacy sales teams build their sales process around their own needs, not their buyers’. Legacy salespeople focus their energy on “checking the boxes” their sales manager laid out for them instead of listening to the buyer and supporting them through the purchasing process. As a result, the seller and buyer feel misaligned. Furthermore, this self-serving process delivers minimal value to the buyer. Buyers don’t want to be prospected, demoed, or closed. These steps add zero value to the buyer because all the information they get in these meetings can be found without a sales rep’s help.

If salespeople cannot add value beyond the information buyers can find on their own, the buyer has no reason to engage with salespeople at all.

Inbound sales teams avoid this issue by starting with the Buyer’s Journey. Before they ever pick up a phone or send an email, they make it a priority to understand their buyer’s world.

They follow three-part framework for the Buyer’s Journey:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

During the Awareness stage, buyers identify a challenge they are experiencing or a goal they want to pursue, then decide whether or not it should be a priority. In order to fully understand your buyer’s awareness stage, ask yourself:

  • How do buyers describe the challenges or goals your offering addresses?
  • How do buyers learn more about these challenges or goals?
  • How do buyers decide whether the challenge or goal should be prioritized?

During the Consideration stage, buyers have clearly defined their challenge or goal and have committed to addressing it. They evaluate different approaches or methods available to solve their challenge or pursue their goal. In order to fully understand your buyer’s consideration stage, ask yourself:

  • What categories of solutions do buyers investigate?
  • How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each category?
  • What differentiates your category in the buyer’s eyes?

In the Decision stage, buyers have decided on a solution category. They create a list of specific offerings and vendors in their selected category and decide on the one that best meets their needs. In order to fully understand your buyer’s decision stage, ask yourself:

  • What offerings do the buyers typically evaluate?
  • What criteria do buyers use to evaluate available offerings?
  • What differentiates your offering in the buyer’s eyes?
  • Who needs to be involved in the decision? How does each stakeholder’s perspective on the decision differ?

Once the buying journey is defined, the next step is to build your sales process. Unlike legacy sales teams that design their sales process first, inbound sales teams build a sales process after the buying journey has been defined. This inbound sales process supports the buyer through their purchasing journey. As a result, salespeople and buyers feel aligned through the buying and selling process, not at odds with one another.

In order to develop an inbound sales process, ask yourself what your salespeople can be doing at the awareness, consideration, and decision stages to support buyers. The following four-part framework for your sales process or the Inbound Sales Methodology:

  • Identify
  • Connect
  • Explore
  • Advise

Inbound salespeople Identify strangers who may have goals or challenges they can help with. These strangers become leads.

Inbound salespeople Connect with these leads to help them decide whether they should prioritize the goal or challenge. If the buyer decides to do so, these leads become qualified leads.

Inbound salespeople Explore their qualified leads’ goals or challenges to assess whether their offering is a good fit for the qualified leads’ context. If it turns out it’s a good fit, these qualified leads become opportunities.

Inbound salespeople Advise these opportunities on how their offering is uniquely positioned to address the buyer’s context. If the buyer agrees the salesperson’s offering is best for their context, these opportunities become customers.

Inbound Sales Action Plan

1) Identify

Identifying the right business opportunities from the start can be the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. Knowing what to look for also helps salespeople create a predictable, scalable sales funnel.

2) Connect

Inbound salespeople connect with leads to help them decide whether they should prioritize the goal or challenge they're facing. If the buyer decides to do so, these leads become qualified leads.

3) Explore

Inbound salespeople explore their qualified leads' goals or challenges to assess whether their offering is a good fit.

4) Advise

Inbound salespeople advise prospects on why their solution is uniquely positioned to address the buyer's needs.

What’s the best tactic for your business?

Even though there are far more reasons to practice inbound marketing, it may not be time to ditch outbound marketing completely. If your budget allows, you should consider mixing inbound and outbound marketing strategies, especially if you’re trying to expand into a new geographical region.

In this case, you could run television and direct mail advertisements in the new region prior to launch and then focus on inbound marketing strategies after the official launch date. You may also consider mixing billboard advertisements with social media deals.

If your company is on a tight budget, you may want to focus strictly on inbound, since outbound marketing can be costlier. You should always consider your potential ROI. Measuring your return on investment for billboards, television, or newspaper advertisements is much more difficult than determining ROI for online efforts.

It’s time to change your marketing strategy

Rather than doing outbound marketing to the masses of people who are trying to block you out, doing inbound marketing where you help yourself "get found" by people already learning about and shopping in your industry. 

In order to do this, you need to set your website that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, blogging and social media. Inbound marketing is focused on providing value to your prospects. It’s educational and often non-promotional.

The major strength of Inbound Marketing is that it uses Buyer’s journey or we can say it is selling what customer wants.

Transforming Your Marketing from Outbound to Inbound

Rather than doing outbound marketing to the masses of people who are trying to block you out, I advocate doing inbound marketing where you help yourself "get found" by people already learning about and shopping in your industry.  In order to do this, you need to set your website up like a "hub" for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, blogging, and social media.  I believe most marketers today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and 10% on inbound marketing, and I advocate that those ratios flip.

Transforming Sales 

In today’s selling environment, salespeople have to realize that they serve a completely different function than their predecessors. 

The Inbound Sales Methodology covers every step of the buyer’s journey traveled on the road from stranger to customer and each corresponding salesperson action. The new methodology acknowledges that Inbound Sales don’t just happen -- you do it.  And, you do it using tools that help you personalize the sales process to appeal to precisely the right leads, in the right places, at just the right time in their buying journey.

Sales & Marketing Alignment 

A successful inbound strategy requires seamless handoff and alignment between marketing and sales.

When you help clients align their sales and marketing teams, you’re able to prove ROI for the services you offer, help clients grow their revenue faster, and enable future investment in marketing programs.

Inbound is a better way to market, a better way to sell, and a better way to serve your customers. Because when good-for-the-customer means good-for-the-business, your company can grow better over the long term.

Enter the modern world of sales, marketing and delighted customers get started with inbound sales today.

Alignment for 2020 Funnel To FlyWheel 

Funnel to Flywheel


If you are in sales or marketing, chances are you know funnel very well. However over the last few years, the relevancy of the funnel seems to have slowly died out, leaving room for a new, strategy to take its place.

I wasn't very surprised when HubSpot announced they are retiring the funnel and adopting the flywheel as the new model.


The Hard Truth About Acquisition Costs (and How Your Customers Can Save You)-32

The funnel is helpful in visualizing the customer journey in specific steps.

However, in an era when trust in traditional sources has eroded — in government, media, and in companies and the marketing they employ — word-of-mouth from trusted peers wields greater clout than ever.

The funnel fails to capture momentum, it turns out Funnels lose the energy you put into them once you reach the bottom, but the flywheel is remarkable at storing and releasing energy.

What is Marketing Flywheel?

Much like an engine needs a flywheel to store energy, marketers need a marketing flywheel to garner the power of loyal customers. The flywheel is similar to the funnel in that it represents the customer journey in three main stages.

Going a Step Further With Your Inbound Strategy - MSPOTs

When you’re a scale-up, focus and alignment are everything. There are so many people working on so many projects, how do you keep everyone moving in the same direction?


At every stage of growth, focus and alignment are everything. It’s the difference between moving fast or stumbling, taking on too much or not doing enough.

How MSPOTs work


  • Mission: What is our big-picture vision?
  • Strategy: How are we going to get there?
  • Plays: What are the core plays of that strategy?
  • Omissions: What will we not be doing as a result of our chosen strategy?
  • Targets: How will we hold ourselves accountable to these goals?

Seems easy right? Just pop some ideas into a PowerPoint template and you’ve got yourself some MSPOTs!

MSPOTs are not an end in and of themselves. MSPOTs can help you get to focus and alignment, but they don’t create it. Alignment and focus comes from doing the hard work of thinking, planning, and communicating. Using data to hold ourselves accountable to the strategy we've  laid out in our MSPOTs. That’s focus.

Focus doesn’t just happen. It’s a byproduct of shared vision. And vision comes from talking, sharing, looking at data, and updating assumptions.

Instructions for how to utilize the MSPOT can be found here.

Editor's note: This post was originally published as " Inbound vs OutBound Marketing" in May, 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.