Dang it, Neil Patel!
Sigh. Figures. Right before we cover this topic, he goes and does it bigger.
We’ll stay in our miniature lane and share the abridged version of things…
First: the nutshell distinction. Inbound means marketing to the people who have (willingly) come to you and given you their attention. Outbound means going out into the world and marketing to people where they are.
If you write a spectacular blog post (complete with all the SEO trimmings) and it attracts a bunch of new traffic, that’s inbound marketing. The people came to you. Most advertising, on the other hand, is outbound marketing; whether it’s traditional TV placements or Facebook lead ads, you are going out and talking to the people whether they like it or not.
Second: a word on balance. Like so many digital-marketing dichotomies, it’s easy to polarize into Inbound vs. Outbound camps (based mostly upon our differing specialities). But of course—you guessed it—healthy marketing requires them both, and the best marketing requires them to be teammates.
Inbound and Outbound marketing are separate things, and they’re radically different in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, and skills required. So…
Third: a quick-and-dirty recap of their strengths and weaknesses. Neil does a better job unpacking these details, so instead of trying to Speedy Gonzalez our way through four lists, we’ll leave you with two helpful similes:
🐭 Inbound marketing is like an elaborate mousetrap. If it must be ‘elaborate,’ it’s only because these mice are so thrifty. Anyhow: inbound marketing, like a mousetrap, only works when (…or perhaps because? 🤔) the mouse comes to it. The mousetrap needs some kind of “cheese” to motivate the mice and keep their attention, but it also has to be patient and comfortable while each mouse deliberates whether or not they should reach for the cheese.
📣 Outbound marketing is like propaganda, but for profit instead of politics. There’s no escaping propaganda in the modern world, and what most people don’t realize is that this is part of what makes it effective. It draws power from its ability to consistently send messages to a large audience, regardless of their readiness. Sometimes people will be persuaded by a single message, but far more often, people are persuaded by the cumulative weight of the messages. Last but not least: when you’re communicating to audiences this large, persuading even a tiny fraction of them can have enormous effects.