What is Outbound Marketing?

Jaycen Thorgeirson
Founder & Chief Storyteller
Photo by:

It's been a long day of emails for Mary, Chief Marketing Officer for a large communications company. Some emails are important, yet most of them are dragged immediately into the trash. 

Exhausted, she's ready for the day to be over already. Then a package arrives, along with the mail for the day. It's a dimensional package with her name handwritten in looping cursive. 

She immediately opens the dimensional mail package, and she's transported away from the doldrums of her normal day. A mystery box, inviting her into an adventure. And in her favorite color?

Suddenly, she becomes part of the story. The package and content experience continue to surprise and delight while addressing some of her specific pain points. Later, she'll use it as an example of creative marketing with her team and peers. 

But right now, as she solves the puzzle and gets to the gift inside, all she feels is fun.

This is the magic of outbound marketing.

Photo by Daily Nouri

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is the practice of reaching out to qualified prospects to encourage a partnership. 

Some people think outbound marketing is restricted to cold calls, but this is a very limited view. Outbound marketing is about going after your ideal audience rather than waiting for them to come to you. I'd even venture to say that Outbound Marketing is ABM. In B2B marketing, outbound marketing can be highly effective and a key driver of growth. 

Examples of outbound marketing include:

  • Individualized gifting
  • Targeted advertising
  • Direct mail marketing
  • Multimedia outreach (such as augmented reality and video working together to share your message)

Outbound marketing is most effective when it is remarkable, memorable, and personalized (For more tips on bringing these aspects to your marketing messaging, check out our series: How to Deliver a Remarkable Impression.

Outbound marketing is typically contrasted with inbound marketing. So what's the difference, and when is it best to use each?

Photo by UviaUs

How is outbound marketing different from inbound marketing?

The easiest way to tell the difference between inbound and outbound is to ask yourself this question: who is looking for who?

With outbound marketing, you're reaching out to qualified prospects with your offers and messaging. After a lot of research and consideration, you identify who they are and then use tactics to address them individually. 

With inbound marketing, the prospects find you. They're doing the research, probably to answer a question they had without even knowing you exist. In the process of their research, they find your blog, podcast, review, video content, or something else and become familiar with your brand. 

It's been likened in the past to the difference in fishing approaches. Inbound is like fishing with a big net. Indiscriminately, you catch a big swath of fish and then discard the ones that don't fit through stages of qualification and effort. Outbound is like spearfishing. You see your target, and with precision, you go after it. 

Photo by Marten Newhall

Qualification of prospects

Another difference between inbound and outbound is the level of qualification. As we mentioned, you decide who you reach out to with outbound marketing. You've already vetted your prospective audience.

Inbound marketing relies a lot more on post qualification. Since your casting a wider net, typically through content marketing efforts, you'll tend to attract a wide variety of folks in this approach, requiring you to qualify and disqualify prospects before sending them over to sales. In the end, only a percentage of the people who you draw in will be the right prospects for your B2B marketing strategy.

The difference outbound marketing makes for B2B marketing

When you're trying to reach vast swathes of a specific demographic, inbound marketing can be an efficient way to reach those people. In those circumstances, reaching out to individuals with outbound marketing is often unrealistic or unnecessary for B2C.

However, when your clientele is specific types of companies with hard-to-reach decision-makers, outbound marketing is an effective way to make an impact in a remarkable way. In that case, it's best to tailor your approach and message to the recipient, with huge word-of-mouth returns.

Next week, we'll dive into how outbound marketing is especially valuable for B2B marketing, including the results of long-term investment in B2B marketing.

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