difference between outbound and inbound marketingLead generation can be so frustrating.

First, you want a campaign that will produce a high volume of leads at the lowest possible cost.

But that’s not enough.  You also want those leads to be qualified – meaning they have real potential for becoming a customer.

So you adjust your campaign to focus on lead quality, but you quickly discover the lead quantity suffers.

Boy, people are never satisfied.

This is the discussion you need to have when you are deciding whether to use inbound or outbound marketing for lead generation.

If you’re unfamiliar with inbound and outbound marketing, let me explain …

Inbound marketing is an online marketing strategy that combines the use website content (articles, blog posts, video, charts, etc.) with SEO and social media to bring visitors to your website and then to convert those visitors into leads.

Outbound marketing is more straightforward.  It uses direct mail, email or the phone to reach out to a targeted list of prospects to begin a sales conversation.  When these prospects respond or show an interest in what you sell, they become leads.

How they differ

  1. What is so popular about inbound marketing is that the leads come to you. There’s no cold calling involved. The only people you need to talk to will be those who have expressed in discussing your products or services.Conversely, with outbound marketing, you need to initiate the first contact with your prospects.
  2. Comparing costs, inbound marketing is a favorite for many because it’s cheap (in terms of money, not time). Leads are generated through SEO and social media – which require no out-of-pocket costs. You will, however, need to create a lot of quality content on your website – and this will cost you plenty in time (or money if you need to outsource).Some outbound marketing is cheap too – like cold calling and email – if you’re willing to do everything yourself. But that’s not usually a very efficient use of your time. For most companies, outbound marketing – by phone, mail and email – requires some investment of money upfront.
  3. If you are planning to use inbound marketing, you will need to be patient.  Even if you create a lot of good content, it takes time for Google to index your pages and move you to the top of the rankings – which, of course, is not guaranteed.  It could take months, maybe years.With outbound marketing, your leads are almost immediate.  With the right message and offer, leads should begin as soon as your prospects receive your message and respond.  Further, you can adjust your outbound quantity to match your lead requirements.

But the real difference is lead quality

We all want lots of leads, but we also want serious leads, qualified leads – meaning prospects with a high potential for becoming customers.

When you get a lead through your website, the only thing you know about that individual is they were interested in what you offered on the website. That’s an important first step but you still have a lot of questions:

  • Does the lead fit your profile as a potential customer?
  • Can the lead afford your product or service?
  • Does the lead have the decision-making authority to purchase your product or service?
  • Is the lead located in a place where you can deliver your product or service?

Inbound marketing delivers leads that often leave these questions unanswered.  Even when they are answered, the leads often fall outside of your desired lead profile.

But with outbound marketing, you build your contact list around these questions.

  • You create your profile for a potential customer. You choose the industry or industries you want to target.
  • You make a judgement call on company size to find companies that could reasonably afford your product or service.
  • You select contacts by job function or job title.
  • You focus on the geographic area where you have sales coverage.

In essence, you pre-qualify your list before you call, mail or email.

By doing effective list research and planning, you know that every lead you get is qualified. The only lead qualification question that has yet to be determined (before the campaign) is the “interest” question. Are they interested in what you sell?

This question will be answered when they respond.

Inbound marketing serves an important purpose and can eventually provide you with a flow of low-cost leads (I use it myself extensively), but when you need  a steady flow of qualified leads – and you need them now – outbound marketing is your best bet.

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."