Vintage TVIn the marketing world of 2016, it seems that all we hear about – and indeed, as blogger, often all I write about – is inbound marketing and its various disciplines. The posts I provide for this very blog in fact are nearly always centred around giving advice on how to draw internet users to your website using inbound marketing techniques. And, lo and behold, the very post that I’m writing now is doing the exact same thing – by delivering an article discussing whether there’s still value in outbound marketing, the objective is to entice you to the 201 Digital website where a small percentage of you will hopefully be persuaded to invest in our services.

But, what about outbound marketing? Is it still used? And what is outbound marketing anyway?

Well, dear reader, this post will reveal all.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is often thought of as traditional marketing – or even less generously as old-hat marketing. Put simply, outbound marketing is all about actively taking steps to find and engage with potential customers (whereas, by contrast, inbound marketing is all about customers finding you and starting the conversation themselves).

Outbound marketing techniques include:

  • TV commercials
  • Radio commercials
  • Tradeshows
  • Print advertisements – i.e. newspaper and magazine ads, brochures, flyers, posters and printed catalogues
  • Email blasts
  • Cold calls

Outbound marketing, it is true, is being regarded with more and more suspicion by marketers for many reasons, not least for the costs that such methods typically incur.

Brian Halligan from HubSpot:

“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.”

The Difficulties With Outbound Marketing

First and foremost, one of the main difficulties with outbound marketing is budget. SMEs in particular typically run on very small margins, and outbound marketing campaigns are expensive.

TV commercials cost a bomb. Newspaper ads are fleeting. Cold calling needs to be conducted in such great quantity due to the fact that modern day individual has become absolutely sick of it.

Indeed, perhaps the most unnerving problem with outbound marketing is that return on investment (ROI) is so hard to track, and when you can work it out, the calculations often conclude that you’re running campaigns at high cost for low yield.

How Inbound Marketing Solves These Problems

Outbound marketing techniques will no doubt continue to exist in one form or another. But, realistically, it’s going to increasingly become the sole reserve of the large corporation with the large budget.

And so what to do for the humble SME?

Well, the solution lies in inbound marketing techniques.

Inbound marketing is cheap (often free in fact – minus the time it takes you to create campaigns), the ROI is far easier to calculate and indeed is generally higher (due to the fact that initial expenditure is so low), and, in today’s world of the internet-savvy empowered consumer, typically returns a higher yield for your efforts.

Indeed, as CRM Daily reports, “nearly half of the companies that implement inbound marketing efforts see a 25 percent greater return on investment (ROI) on those programs than companies that do not. The survey found that inbound marketing channels can deliver up to 30 times the campaign conversion rate of traditional outbound direct-mail campaigns.”

Inbound Marketing Techniques

So, what are the most effective inbound marketing techniques?

Let’s run through them:


By creating a valuable, regular blog on your website, internet users looking for information will come across your site, and, since you will use your blog to position yourself as an industry expert, will be much more inclined to buy from you than if you just stuck to the hard sell.

Social Media Marketing

Of course, establishing your brand across all of the popular social networks is a sure fire way to make sure that people are aware of your business and what you do. You should use your networks to promote your blog posts and engage in human conversations within the various communities.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing is perhaps one of the purest forms of inbound marketing, since it is the internet user him/herself who begins the process by typing a search query into Google (other search engines are available). Your job is to ensure that your website is search engine optimised and that your business is discoverable. A good blogging record is great for SEO, but it will also pay to invest in AdWords and PPC (pay-per-click) initiatives to ensure that your website is displayed for users to see it – but it’s still up to them to start the conversation.

What are your thoughts on outbound marketing? Has inbound displaced it forevermore, or do you still think there is value in the old techniques for SMEs?