Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

Inbound v Outbound--Medium


Having a solid marketing strategy should be of paramount importance to any company looking to increase revenue. Determining which methods will work within a certain industry, like the legal industry,1 is a vital step in the marketing process. In order to make an educated decision as to what sort of marketing strategy your firm will adopt, you need to understand the two basic models—outbound marketing and inbound marketing.

Outbound Marketing (aka Interruptive Marketing)

TV commercials, radio commercials, direct mail, billboards, trade shows, and telemarketing.

Outbound marketing is the traditional model in which a company pushes its message out far and wide (by way of everyday media advertisements, cold calls, mailers, and so on) in hopes of reaching potential buyers. Finding buyers this way can be likened to hunting for a needle in a haystack. In essence, companies utilizing outbound marketing strategies must buy the attention of thousands of people in an effort to reach the few that are actually interested. As a result, this method can be quite expensive—too expensive for many small businesses.

On top of being expensive, outbound marketing initiatives are becoming more and more likely to be avoided by the public. Think about outbound marketing with yourself in mind. When was the last time you opened any junk mail before discarding it directly into the trash? Are you on the do-not-call list? Do you often record cable TV shows and fast-forward through commercials or simply use any one of the Internet’s numerous commercial-free entertainment platforms, such as Netflix, HBO Go, and iTunes? Can you remember the last time you heard a radio commercial and actually paid attention?

Not only can outbound marketing be expensive and easily avoided by the public, but success from a specific outbound marketing initiative can be difficult to measure. Companies can inquire how a customer heard about them, but this does not lead to a concrete analysis.

Inbound Marketing

Social media, blog posts, search engine optimization (SEO), white papers, e-books, webinars, videos, case studies and (opt-in) emails.

Many smaller, penny-wise companies have found that inbound marketing strategies are more cost-effective, deliver genuine quantifiable results and can be incorporated into their existing campaigns. Inbound marketing is a term coined by Hubspot that describes the holistic method designed to attract an audience with useful content and SEO, convert them into leads/clients and finally allow analysis of initiatives for future improvement. This strategy is rooted in the idea that customers value informative content created by knowledgeable parties and that this content will pull customers toward a company, eliminating the need to shout at them with “interruptive marketing.”

Inbound marketing proves to be an effective method for several reasons:

  • Inbound marketing targets customers who are already actively searching for your services instead of advertising your company to every consumer out there.
  • Inbound marketing campaigns tend to be less costly than outbound initiatives, allowing more content to be created that can positively affect a company’s reach.
  • Since inbound marketing is a largely digital method, the content that is created by a company has a long lifespan and is available 24/7 compared to a thirty-second TV commercial that has a finite amount of running time on the air.
  • The social media and blog components of inbound marketing allow for a two-way conversation between a company and its audience. Potential clients can tweet concerns on a company’s twitter page or comment on a blog post, giving their input directly to a company.
  • Lastly, the digital aspect of inbound marketing means that results are quantifiable. Social media tactics can often be analyzed directly through the platform website or by using a third-party like Hootsuite or Buffer. Website and blog efforts can be reviewed through the implementation of Google Analytics.


In the end, you must choose the marketing strategy that will best align with your firm’s goals and budget. No matter what approach you ultimately decide to take, be sure to always keep your prospective clients in mind when creating new marketing materials.


1 Legal professionals must keep ethical regulations in mind when marketing or advertising their practices. Please visit your state’s bar website for guidance regarding best practices.