If you work in an office, chances are you are well-versed in the running slew of corporate jargon. There are practical uses for the recognizable buzzwords but often, it’s just irritating, overused and, painfully, used erroneously. It’s become a little bit of a pet peeve of mine when popular idioms are consistently used grammatically incorrect (they’ve been termed anew – like “I have an ask for you.”) or executives flat-out don’t understand the meaning behind the term. Here’s the worst offender in the marketing and sales arena: inbound and outbound marketing.

There are countless resources online that do an excellent job explaining, depicting, and even illustrating the meaning of inbound and outbound marketing. HubSpot even has an entire conference named after the more modern marketing method, INBOUND. Yet, upper management still does not understand the difference. So, let this be yet another article you might Tweet or casually share in hopes of educating your team because I understand how frustrating it is to hear it being misused and worse, mistaught among unknowing non-marketing/sales colleagues.

The comparison is certainly not new but there is definitely still some confusion out there and the most simplistic way to think of this is:

Outbound is mostly pay-to-play.

This is the “traditional” (or sometimes considered “old-school”) marketing methods. These methods are still valuable and applicable depending on your business. It’s always important to create a strategic plan that includes a good mix of tactics that can be tested, measured and challenged. There is sometimes confusion here because paid digital advertising like Facebook ads, website ads and Google AdWords is seen as “modern” or “today’s digital marketing” but this is still an outbound tactic because you are pulling prospects from the outside to come in and again, you are paying for that position. It’s considered “one-sided” communication. It’s used mostly as a top-of-funnel strategy to attract and acquire prospects and as we all know, it takes budget to initiate a brand and start generating exposure to a broad base audience – so it’s critical.

Here are some examples of outbound tactics:

  • Paid advertising (online, social, TV/radio, print, outdoor, etc.)

  • Tradeshows

  • Cold calls or telemarketing

  • Direct mail via postage

  • Email marketing campaigns or e-blasts to purchased lists

Inbound is mostly all modern digital marketing that has little to no hard cost.

This is still coined as “new” but if you’ve been doing this as long as our team, you know that inbound marketing is simply today’s standard in marketing strategy. The idea is, you are generating attention or content that draws prospects in to you without paying to enter their space (digital or otherwise). I say there are no obvious hard costs because you are not paying an advertising channel, however, there are costs involved such as a copywriter’s time, a graphic designer’s designs, a subject matter expert’s knowledge, a public relations professional’s expertise, a video producer’s content, and more. The concept is that you’ve showcased something that a prospect wants, and they respond by engaging with your social media, downloading your content or visiting and interacting with your website. This is considered “two-way” communication.

Here are some examples of inbound tactics:

  • Email marketing from your own opt-in lists (names collected from your website or other)

  • Organic search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Public relations (media appearances or public speaking)

  • Blogging

  • Content: videos, infographics, white papers, case studies (thought leadership)

  • Webinars you host on your own

  • Influencer outreach

  • Social media (viral marketing)

Remember: the easiest way to differentiate the two terms is to think that if you’re paying for one, it’s probably OUTBOUND and if you’re not, it’s most likely INBOUND marketing.

For those of you having to endure more conference calls titled or termed incorrectly – Godspeed and KCCO!