How to optimize your outbound marketing

A consumer receives an outbound marketing email message via mobile phone.

Outbound marketing refers to campaigns where engagement with the brand is initiated by the marketer. It includes any type of marketing where the company is actively reaching out and advertising directly to customers. Targeted display ads and cold calls are two examples of outbound marketing.

Inbound vs. outbound marketing

The fundamental difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is that inbound is initiated by the consumer, whereas outbound is initiated by the business.

Some companies differentiate between the two by saying that outbound refers to any paid marketing, such as paid search or paid social, while inbound refers to free methods. Brands can use a combination of inbound and outbound marketing to reach customers throughout the buyer journey.

Examples of inbound tactics include content marketing that remains active and available to consumers to find and interact with on their own time, based on their own needs. A company creates and makes content available for customers to consume and act on themselves. Common examples of inbound marketing include search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, and organic social media.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is a more proactive approach to connecting with customers. Also known as interruption marketing, these campaigns are designed to grab consumers’ attention and inject messages into their day-to-day interactions.

Advertising is perhaps the most traditional form of outbound marketing. Companies run ads in publications, radio, and television media — as well as through direct mail, over the phone, and on billboards — that literally interrupt whatever the consumer is doing to convey their message. Outbound marketing in the digital space includes paid social campaigns, display ads, and cold emailing.

The two marketing approaches are not mutually exclusive. Most brands do a mix of both inbound and outbound marketing to make sure they’re reaching their target audiences in the most effective ways possible. In fact, a strong account-based marketing (ABM) strategy usually includes a combination of both tactics to initiate and keep the conversation flowing and to build a solid customer relationship that leads to sales, referrals, and repeat business.

Pros and cons of outbound marketing

In some cases, since B2C generally has a shorter sales cycle, inbound is considered better for B2B marketing and outbound is better for B2C. However, most companies include both inbound and outbound in their marketing strategies.

There are occasions when a business needs to push a message in front of a customer to get their attention, especially if they’re trying to build awareness or tell consumers about a new product. Brands may need to do some outbound advertising to start the conversation and then use inbound to provide additional information and insight.

Outbound marketing relies on the company’s ability to gain exposure to and reach potential customers or leads — usually by acquiring contact info through an ad, list, or sponsorship purchase. These leads are then nurtured through cold calls or cold emails.

Outbound marketing — also known as interruption marketing — is a more proactive approach to connecting with customers than inbound, which is more passive.

While this sounds like a difficult way to kick off a conversation, nearly 60% of C-level prospects prefer phone contact, and a recent McKinsey study found that email is 40 times more effective than social media when it comes to acquiring new customers. There are a number of benefits to using this strategy, including:

Of course, with all this ease of access also come some downsides. Only about 3 in 5 marketers see outbound campaigns as effective. More effective campaigns contain personalization that consumers have come to expect, but that’s difficult to do at scale for initial contact campaigns. Other disadvantages to outbound marketing include:

There are advantages to both inbound and outbound marketing, as well as situations in which one or the other will be more effective. Companies succeed when they use a combination of both tactics — delivering quality content when customers are researching and asking questions, then reaching out directly when customers want to know about a specific product.

Nearly 60% of C-level prospects prefer phone contact.

Optimize your outbound

Outbound marketing is a great way to broaden your reach and expose your brand to a wide variety of potential customers. This more proactive tactic is often accompanied by offers that can entice a prospect to engage with your brand further and hopefully develop a relationship.

One way to start improving your outbound marketing is by defining — or redefining — your target audience. Understanding who your ideal customer is and where they might spend their time can help you focus your outbound efforts more precisely. From there, you’ll want to gain exposure to these people — for example, using email campaigns. Your messages should make it clear from the start what value you have to offer a potential customer.

While outbound marketing can seem daunting, there are tools available that make it a whole lot easier. Adobe Marketo Engage is a complete solution that specializes in customer engagement, bringing marketing and sales together to nurture leads, orchestrate personalized experiences, optimize content, and measure business impact across every channel. Marketo Engage helps marketers build and execute campaigns that can be tracked for ROI and performance metrics, allowing you to tailor your messaging and adjust your tactics as you go.

For more information, take a free interactive tour of Adobe Marketo Engage.