The Truth About Inbound and Outbound Marketing


The Truth About Inbound and Outbound Marketing

As marketers, we’re constantly testing the strategies that make sense for both our brand and target audience.

But now and then, instead of solely experimenting with what works, it also helps to do one simple, often overlooked thing: Ask!

In that spirit, we ran a survey of 500 Americans to get a sense of how they feel and interact with various inbound and outbound marketing tactics.

How Consumers Feel About Marketing

I think we can all agree that pop-up ads are universally hated, but where do other marketing channels land when it comes to sentiment? Do people see the value, or do they simply get annoyed?

Sentiment Around Marketing Tactics

When we asked, we discovered that pure content provided on websites and blogs had the most positive sentiment of the bunch, probably because it’s produced to provide value to potential customers and clients and often isn’t viewed as marketing or advertising.

Website ads and sponsored posts had the most negative sentiment, perhaps because people are inundated with these types of advertisements.

The Ubiquity of Search

If content on websites and blogs is often viewed in a favorable light, how are people discovering this content?

Unsurprisingly to any search marketer, people heavily rely on search to get the information they’re seeking. It’s a very common way that they come in contact with brands, and it’s why marketers allocate so many resources into ranking well on Google, Bing, and other search engines.

Marketing people have engaged in in the last week

We also asked respondents how often they’d seen TV ads, and 59% said they watched one in the past day. Using a search engine came in at a close second at 56%, making it nearly as common in our culture as watching commercials.

How people learn about companies and products

Again, we see that search engines are a crucial part of how people gather information. However, this graph also showcases the importance of third-party trust and authority signals like customer reviews, which are greatly prioritized by consumers over on-site testimonials.

Snail Mail Stands Out

So far, we’ve primarily explored types of inbound marketing or marketing in which information or value is provided to potential clients/customers, causing those people to reach out to the brand rather than the other way around. 

Outbound marketing involves a brand directly reaching out to consumers to communicate a message.

When we examine these tactics together, we can reveal important insights about their effectiveness.

Interestingly, neither inbound or outbound unanimously surpasses the other in effectiveness. As we’ve seen with previous results in this survey, search still reigns supreme, and other types of inbound marketing that people cite as effective are being offered free content and emailed about discounts or company updates.

But notice that physical mail comes in at No. 2, while email clocks in at No. 5. This might feel counterintuitive, as email is often considered a crucial component of any digital marketing strategy.

And it is! But consider how flooded your inbox can be with deals and discounts trying to lure you into opening, clicking, and ultimately, buying. The extremely high volume of emails being sent every day has created a competitive culture – one that even inspired our annual digital PR survey on what writers look for in email pitches.

28% of respondents don't use "Promotions" Gmail tab

So it makes sense that if you mail people who are now receiving fewer physical letters than before, it’s likely to be read.

Ads Done Right 

Just because traditional ads don’t score at the top doesn’t mean they can’t be effective, but it does mean you need to be all the more diligent about figuring out the best way to deploy them.

The last time respondents clicked on different types of ads

Website ads are still the most commonly clicked on, although the spread between the three types isn’t too dramatic.

53% of people use ad blockers

Unfortunately, about half of our respondents said they use ad-blocking software or extensions, meaning even the best-crafted ad can go unseen by a large portion of your targeted population. This is all the more reason to study which channels and what type of messaging will work best for your audience (or switch to other tactics besides digital ads).

Retargeted ads are a common method of trying to hook someone who’s already landed on your webpage or explored your content. But when you ask consumers, most of them can identify this tactic, and half of those people feel negatively toward the strategy.

This is particularly interesting since some marketers have been skeptical about the effectiveness of retargeted ads.

It’s very possible that retargeting feels more intrusive than other types of marketing since a brand feels like it’s following you across the web. 

Social ads, on the other hand, are less noticeable to respondents, which could mean they do a better job at blending in with the platforms and not standing out in a negative way.

Where people notice ads

Even more importantly, Facebook’s sponsored content click-through rate is impressively high at nearly 40% of people saying they’ve clicked in the last week. Instagram, however, may start to play catch-up now that people are getting more acclimated to making purchases on the platform.

Have respondents clicked on sponsored content

What It All Means

Often, a blend of inbound and outbound marketing can be the most successful strategy, but you must keep tabs on what consumers want and how they want to receive it (rather than taking a guess and hoping for the best).

But one thing’s for sure: Search is exceptionally important, and it’s not going anywhere.