Comparing Inbound and Outbound Marketing: The Role of Email in Each Strategy

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Inbound and Outbound Marketing: Let’s break it down

Inbound vs. outbound marketing, what’s the difference, what exactly do they mean and how do they involve the emails we are so used to in our daily lives? You may have often encountered both of these concepts, but have not thought about their definition and difference. Let’s take a closer look.

Inbound marketing increases brand awareness and engagement through content creation. Outbound marketing involves reaching out directly to consumers. Both approaches can be highly effective in lead generation and sales. Learn about the key differences between them in our article.

Inbound vs. Outbound Email Marketing: What’s the Key Difference?

When determining whether email marketing is inbound or outbound, it’s crucial to first understand the clear distinction between the two.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Where did the term “inbound marketing” come from? It was coined by Brian Halligan, co-founder and executive chairman of HubSpot. Together with Dharmesh Shah, he created a movement around this business concept, including organizing the event “Inbound” and co-authoring the book of the same name “Inbound Marketing”.

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on engaging potential customers through content and experiences created specifically for them, thus attracting potential customers to the company.

There are three ways to apply the inbound methodology:

Attract: Attract the right people with valuable content and conversations that make them feel like a trusted expert.

This stage includes such tools as ads, Video, Social media, Blogging, and Content strategy.

Engage: Present ideas and solutions that address customer’s pain points and objectives so they are more likely to buy from you.

This stage incorporates such tools as Email marketing, Lead flows, Lead management, Conversational bots, and Marketing automation.

Delight: Offer help and support to assist them in achieving success with your product.

This last stage includes the following tools: Smart content, Email marketing, Attribution reporting, Conversations inbox, and Marketing automation.

In other words, companies need to shift their business focus to inbound marketing strategies to effectively reach and engage with their target audience. From the perspective of the idea creator, when you create all this informative content, it will attract people and make them fall in love with your brand. By utilizing social media, email marketing, user-friendly websites, and blogs as a channel for valuable and engaging content, you’ll develop a genuine connection between people and your brand and drive business growth.

What Does It Mean to Create an Inbound Email Marketing Strategy?

Simply put, this methodology is based on the concept that customers seek authentic, meaningful relationships with the companies they work with, which is exactly what inbound marketing helps to do. Now let’s get to the bottom of it.

Inbound marketing is typically implemented through valuable blog posts, creative social media content, white papers, useful infographics, podcasts, webinars, and, of course, emails. Marketers target their audience with emails daily all around the globe.

Typically, inbound emails are sent to leads who have already shown interest in your service or product or have subscribed to your email list. Here are some simple examples like newsletters, content roundups, personalized offers and recommendations, and discount codes for returning customers.

Is Email Marketing Essentially Inbound?

The answer is most likely yes, but there’s a nuance: if your strategy is built to provide valuable advice and relevant information to the user with the goal of long and mutually beneficial relationships.

As you can see above, emails appear at two stages of inbound marketing: Engage and Delight.

Most people who visit your site every day don’t buy right away but need time to think about their problems and evaluate decisions. Therefore, you need to be nearby all the time, continuing to engage them so that you are at the top of their minds when it comes time to purchase.One way to stay in front of potential customers is to build an email list by inviting your site visitors to sign up for various forms of lead magnets. And then send them regular updates and news. Send them newsletters, including your latest content, various updates, and industry tips and tricks.

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The final stage of inbound marketing is to delight the customer, exceed their expectations, and gain their loyalty. Emails at this stage help show customers that you truly care about them by delivering recommendations, guides, courses, and tutorials, and continue to provide value to them even after the purchase is complete.

But the approaches to creating emails can be quite different, so let’s look at the opposite concept.

What is Outbound Marketing?

Broadly speaking, outbound marketing is a strategy that involves reaching out to potential customers by actively promoting a product or service. The main goal here is to create a solid connection with the target audience, raise brand awareness, and spark interest in exploring the product.

This approach is disruptive in the sense that potential users will be bothered regardless of whether they have been looking for your product or not. Common examples include telemarketing, radio advertising, billboards, print ads, banner and display advertising, cold calls, and cold emails. Let’s take a closer look at the use of emails here.

What Is Considered as Outbound Email Marketing?

Outbound email marketing means reaching out to potential customers who have not chosen to communicate with you on their own. By their very essence, outbound emails are unsolicited and can be considered disruptive, as they are designed to reach out to your audience without them having searched for you or not.

The most important difference between inbound and outbound email marketing is their way of reaching and interacting with the target audience.

Whereas inbound email marketing targets only customers who are interested in your product or service, outbound email marketing does not obtain consent from recipients to receive emails. Yes, you guessed it right, we’re talking about popular cold emails, which are still one of the most powerful lead-generation methods today.

To make it easier to understand, outbound email marketing is about actively promoting a message and constantly following up if there is no response from the audience. Certain types of emails, such as re-engagement campaigns, are also considered outbound marketing because you are proactively reaching out to subscribers and asking them to engage with your content. However, if these subscribers have opted in by permitting you to receive emails from you, these campaigns are considered inbound marketing.

The outreach process looks like this: first, you complete outbound prospecting, then develop an outbound email marketing strategy, and finally, start sending cold emails and follow-up messages to your prospects.

What Are the Main Rules of Outbound Email Marketing?

As we know, buying email lists has never been a good strategy. Sending emails to people who have not given you permission to do so is bound to lead to a lot of spam complaints and unwanted email overload.

Mailbox providers and email services use sophisticated machine learning in their algorithms to block spam and repeat offenders. Major regulations like the GDPR and CAN-SPAM impose strict requirements and heavy fines for misuse of personal data, so it’s imperative to comply with them.

When considering using outbound email marketing, keep in mind:

  • Make sure you have received consent from your contacts.
  • Follow the rules of CAN-SPAM, GDPR, and other major email marketing laws.

Inbound or Outbound Email Marketing: What to Choose?

We’ve gone over the key differences between inbound and outbound emails and made sure that both approaches are important, but you need to know the laws and best practices to avoid spam filters and violations of the rules.

While inbound email marketing is the primary and very valuable approach, outbound methods are allowed to be used moderately. The key here is to maintain a balanced approach that combines both strategies and gives the best results without spoiling the relationship with users, which is the main value of any business.

For example, a well-known use case for this balance of strategies is when you create engaging content and drive organic traffic generating interest in your inbound newsletter, and then run targeted outbound promotions to maximize brand awareness and engagement.

However, it’s a good rule of thumb that email marketing should be primarily inbound, with outbound efforts only complementing it within the law.

Wrapping Up

In a media space crowded with messages, being noticed is a constant challenge for companies. Inbound marketing helps to effectively capture customers’ attention, make your product easy to find, and organically attract people. It allows businesses to establish an authentic connection and build strong user loyalty.

Email marketing can include both inbound and outbound approaches. Inbound email marketing is about building customer-initiated relationships, while outbound marketing aims to reach potential new clients. Both methods are better to include in your strategy, following the rules. Using their balance can be effective, but choosing the right one depends on the specifics of your business.Add the use of a trusted and comprehensive spam test from GlockApps to your strategy that helps your campaigns get into the inboxes and achieve the best performance metrics!

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Khrystyna Sliusar

Content Lead at GlockApps