Choosing the right business marketing strategy can make a big difference in your success.

Marketing is the obvious answer for making your business known, but when you want to maximize your return on investment, diving a little deeper can pay off. To best reach consumers, you need to understand the differences between inbound vs. outbound marketing techniques—and which one will work best for you.

When trying to target potential customers, not all marketing tactics are worth your time. These days, 87% of consumers begin their product searches online, where thousands of businesses are vying for their attention at once. By learning how inbound marketing and outbound marketing differ, including how each draws in consumers, you can get better results faster and beat your competitors.

Inbound vs. outbound marketing

The biggest difference between inbound and outbound marketing is the process used to attract potential leads to a brand, product, or service.

Outbound marketing, as the name suggests, occurs when a business blasts out a message to a mass audience. In this process, the company always makes the first move, trying to capture the consumer’s attention. You could describe an outbound strategy as a traditional marketing approach that seeks to “interrupt” consumers’ lives.

In order for outbound marketing to work, your audience must take their focus away from other activities and close in on what you’re saying. Common examples include TV ads, direct mail, email marketing, radio ads, and cold calling, though outbound marketing can also include highly digital tactics like Spotify ads and YouTube ads.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, allows your leads to start the conversation. Instead of pushing unsolicited content on an audience, you’re giving them content they’re actually looking for on the platforms they’re already on. In this process, a lead may stumble upon entertaining content on social media or an article that answers their question on Google. They’re pulled into your sales funnel in a more natural way and are open to learning more.

Many inbound marketing plans use search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and social media to attract new leads.

3 benefits of inbound marketing

As consumers get smarter about avoiding pushy outbound marketing—even using digital tools like AdBlock and spam filters—inbound marketing is becoming central to many modern marketing plans. This method of attracting new customers is proving to be the most effective way to reach empowered consumers, especially as the buyer’s journey starts on the internet more and more often.

Here are three specific reasons why inbound marketing works best for many businesses.

1. It’s cost-effective

Whereas outbound tactics are sent to a mass audience, leading to relatively high costs for a small percentage of successful leads, inbound marketing allows you to get highly specific with your targeting—even based on things like buying habits and browsing history. With inbound tactics, your marketing is built to reach the consumers who are looking for you (or for the products and services you sell). As a result, your leads will cost 61% less to earn than outbound leads.

It’s easy to save when you’re no longer spending on a large group that may not even be interested in what you have to offer. Instead, you’re creating relevant content viewed mainly by your target audience. Naturally, your conversion rates will be higher, too, since you’re skipping over the people who don’t want to hear your pitch.

2. It’s highly measurable

Inbound marketing primarily relies on digital channels, which means you’ll have access to a broad spectrum of data for targeting and understanding your audience. Because of this, you’ll have an easier time figuring out how your leads are finding you and what they do once they land on your site. This helps you figure out where changes are needed and quickly boost your lead generation.

3. It builds relationships

One of the biggest differences when comparing inbound vs. outbound marketing is the amount of communication that occurs between the business and the customer. With outbound marketing, you tend to be focused on showing and telling a consumer what to think. For example, an email blast is usually built to attract, pitch, and directly connect them to a given page instead of engaging them in conversation.

An inbound marketing strategy, on the other hand, is catered toward your customer’s needs instead of centered on your product or service. After giving consumers the content they sought out, your company continues to support them throughout the buyer’s journey by leading them toward a real conversation. For example, you may have a Facebook chatbot available for social media followers or Podium Webchat installed on your web pages to capture qualified leads you can text.

By focusing on the customer and creating two-way conversations, your company feels more real, more genuine, and—most importantly—more trusted.

Building your inbound marketing strategy

While inbound tactics like SEO and content marketing can and probably will be a huge part of your inbound marketing strategy, these are just the start for a sustainable business. Instead of just generating leads and making sales, the end goal of your inbound marketing should be to maintain a growing customer base in the long run.

Here are three steps that a complete inbound marketing campaign should accomplish.

1. Attract consumers

The first step to growth is making your potential customers aware of your business in the first place. This is the step you think of most when you think of inbound marketing tactics. Here, you may be optimizing your website with keyword-rich web pages or perhaps blogging about topics your target audience is reading up on. The goal of this step is to get in front of consumers when relevant, where relevant to pique their interest.

2. Convert leads

After you’ve successfully caught a customer’s eye, you want to make sure they don’t slip away. Though inbound tactics like whitepapers and blog posts aren’t sales pitches in themselves, they should include calls to actions that tell your consumer what to do next.

Within this step, consumers should always have the opportunity to ask more questions through contact forms, chat options, or other digital tools that allow them to leave their information behind. In return, you should be available to answer on a timely basis, perhaps using a full interaction platform like Podium to centralize all your messages.

Once a consumer has all the information they need to make a buying decision, you can close the sale.

3. Keep customers happy

Whether you’re following an inbound strategy or outbound strategy, your marketing efforts should never leave behind your current customers. Keeping your retention rate high can help you save on customer acquisition and make more money per customer.

Your inbound marketing plan can include plenty of digital content—for example, a blog post with tips on how to make the most out of the product they purchased—that works to constantly reengage your customers in your brand.

As you increase customer loyalty, you won’t have to work twice as hard for your customer base to continue to grow. Your customers will naturally stick with you because the value that you provide is just as good as what attracted them to you in the first place.

Choose the right marketing tactics

When comparing inbound vs. outbound marketing in the digital age, there’s a clear winner that provides the most efficient results. Consumers have more power than ever to block outbound ads they don’t want to see, which means inbound marketing content is the smart way to get your brand noticed and appreciated all at once. As the right consumers enter your sales funnel, they’ll receive more value from your inbound tactics than they would from any TV ad, no matter how expensive.

In the end, prioritizing inbound marketing will allow you to generate more leads with less spending and make your website work smarter, not harder.

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