What is outbound marketing? Outbound marketing occurs when an organization pushes out communication to a large audience who may or may not be seeking that information. It is a one-way form of communication that assumes that if you get content in front of the masses, you will find some people who want to receive it.

There once was a time not so long ago that outbound marketing ruled the day. Huge ad budgets were allocated toward developing flyers, making cold calls, running TV commercials, and advertising on billboards. It was enough to make a modern-day inbound marketer shudder at the lack of personalization and inefficiency of the ad spend.

Though marketing tactics have changed drastically over the course of the last several years, and inbound marketing is now the white knight of the marketing world, opportunities to utilize outbound marketing techniques still remain.

Outbound marketing is a tool that every marketer should have in his toolkit, but the thing that makes one a good craftsperson is not simply having a tool — it is knowing how and when to use it.

What is outbound marketing?

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing occurs when an organization pushes out communication to a large audience who may or may not be seeking that information. It is a one-way form of communication that assumes that if you get content in front of the masses, you will find some people who want to receive it.

Understanding outbound marketing

If you are still struggling to understand what outbound marketing is, think of it this way — outbound marketing and traditional marketing are virtually the same thing. If you imagine the famous marketing campaigns of the early days of advertising up until the ubiquitous use of the internet, then you are most likely thinking of outbound marketing.

Some of the places where you likely have seen outbound marketing include the following:

Outbound marketing can have a large impact on a large group of people, but it nearly fully lacks the personalization on which most modern-day marketers pride themselves.

For a long time, outbound marketing was pretty much the only solution for marketers who wanted to reach people. The advent of the internet has brought many more opportunities for marketers — including additional outbound opportunities — but those involved in traditional marketing simply didn’t have the tools and tactics that are now readily available to marketers who are seeking to make a more personal impact.

That’s not to say that outbound marketing is completely useless or that it has completely run its course. You will still see many opportunities in which organizations utilize outbound marketing efforts. In fact, there are still organizations that are all-in on outbound marketing and see success.

Having said that, not only is outbound marketing no longer the only way — it is most often not the better way. The wise marketer will evaluate the potential reach and effectiveness of outbound marketing efforts and inbound marketing efforts and then utilize those efforts that are most effective at helping him reach the intended audience is and receive the desired outcome.

Outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing

So, how do you know which marketing technique is most effective for your organization? This is best understood when you can understand how outbound marketing and inbound marketing compare to one another. See some examples below:

Outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing

Audience engagement


Outbound marketing is often referred to as interruption marketing. This type of marketing finds people doing something else unrelated to the marketing effort being pushed, then introduces them to a product, initiative, or campaign.

It rarely has much to do with the context of the situation in which a person finds himself and has more to do with the ability to reach large quantities of people who are in a similar situation. The audience isn’t asking for this information at that moment, and they may or may not resonate with the communication when they receive it. Without additional research, an outbound marketer may not even know how well his communication reached the intended audience because there is little feedback given in outbound marketing efforts.


Inbound marketing is often referred to as permission-based marketing. This means that there is interaction between the intended audience and the marketers or marketing platforms that signals to marketers that an individual likely desires information. Search engine marketing is one example of inbound marketing.

Once you type or speak a search query, you are giving permission to marketers to reach you with content that they believe helps answer your question. The key here is that an individual takes some sort of action that triggers inbound marketing efforts. On the other hand, outbound marketing efforts are basically triggered by a person simply existing.

Strategic overview


Outbound marketing is not an especially complex form of marketing. Like was mentioned above, the channels that you have on which you can market are limited. With outbound marketing, you simply choose a channel or channels on which to market and then allocate funds toward marketing campaigns on these channels.

Once a marketing effort has concluded, a wise marker evaluates the success of the different channels he chose to use and then restarts the process based upon learnings from the prior campaign. This can be difficult for outbound marketers because data is harder to quantify with outbound marketing efforts.


Inbound marketing employs strategies that are much more complex. With inbound marketing, the work is continuous. Marketers are continually updating blogs and websites. They are also consistently developing new content to entice users to engage with their content and products. Measurement happens consistently — not just after a campaign ends.

With inbound marketing, a marketer has the ability to quickly adjust tactics to improve how content reaches those who are seeking a message that inbound marketers are trying to deliver. Because inbound marketing can be more complex, some marketers shy away from it and instead continue to mostly employ more traditional efforts.

Messaging differences for outbound marketing

Messaging differences


Outbound marketing messages are typically broad and non-specific. Because outbound marketing efforts often are found on places like flyers, billboards, commercials, and radio spots, marketers do not have a lot of time or space to work with and must deliver a message that quickly grabs attention and makes the consumer of the message interested to read or hear the message until the end.

This type of marketing is often quick and pithy but may lack the substance desired by somebody who is seeking answers.


Inbound marketing messages are built specifically to be useful. The content is often delivered in a way that is consumable and meaningful for the moment in which the audience receives it. This content is typically meant to educate and engage the audience.

With inbound marketing messages, organizations should seek to build relationships with their audiences and create brand ambassadors through continued efforts.



Outbound marketing requires organizations only to use the channels and platforms made available to them by those who own the channels and platforms. It assumes no ownership of the locations where the marketing will occur. In essence, the marketing is completely built on rented land.


Inbound marketing sometimes does require organizations to utilize channels they don’t own, but this is only part of the story. Inbound marketers also have control over many of their own channels to build up their marketing efforts.

For example, a subscription-based email list or newsletter, or internal blog are both great examples of inbound marketing tools.

Measuring success for outbound marketing

Measuring success


Outbound marketing success is difficult to measure. A company could potentially understand if their efforts are successful by asking their customers how they heard of their business, but that requires additional tracking on your behalf, and it requires customers to take share with you their experiences. There is very little reliable data that allows for outbound marketers to understand if their efforts are successful.


Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is highly measurable, and nearly everything that you do is quantifiable. In fact, with inbound marketing, the complexities come from having too much data rather than not enough data. With an inbound marketing strategy, you can measure return on investment and determine how to make adjustments to improve your return on investment.

Some of the things that you can do with inbound marketing include tracking IP addresses across a customer journey, understanding how long people are spending on your site, and diving in on what content is most applicable to your intended audiences.

Problems with outbound marketing

We have touched on some of the issues above, but it bears repeating that there are obstacles you will need to work through if you choose to engage in outbound marketing tactics and techniques.

Here are a few:

  • Radio advertising is not as prevalent as it once was due to online streaming services. Those individuals who purchase premium versions of these online streaming services are able to avoid receiving ads altogether.
  • Ad blockers account for more than $2 billion in lost revenue every year.
  • The majority of those people who receive direct mail never look at it. It is called “junk mail” for a reason.
  • Many people now stream television shows and movies through premium services that do not show any ads at all.

Determining the potential for success with outbound marketing initiatives can be helpful.

Outbound marketing by the numbers

Determining the potential for success with outbound marketing initiatives can be helpful. One of the best ways to determine potential success is to learn from the successes and failures of others and to learn from your intended audience.

A few of the data points that are helpful to better understand the associated marketing pitfalls and opportunities include:

  • Roughly 3 in 5 television viewers would take the initiative to locate and download TV shows if it meant they could avoid advertisements while viewing. (Weidert Group)
  • A full 58 percent of direct mail recipients say they “never” read direct mail. (Weidert Group)
  • Reports indicate that nearly 40 percent of flyers are held for at least a few days. Flyers that promise money off of a product are 50 percent more likely to be kept for a week. (DLM)
  • More than 70 percent of people say the consciously look at billboards while they drive. (Back40 Design)
  • More than half of people say they have been highly engaged by a billboard they have viewed in the last month. (Back40 Design)

Most effective outbound marketing tactics

Though outbound marketing is far from perfect, it can still work in certain situations. According to a survey of marketers, the most effective tactics (in order) include:

  • Cold emails
  • Cold calling
  • Direct mail
  • Tradeshows

Conversely, the outbound marketing tactics that are believed to be least effective are print ads and press releases. Not coincidentally, both print ads and press releases are nearly impossible to measure.

Not sure where to start with your outbound communications? Let ClearVoice handle it. Talk to a content specialist today about getting content developed for email campaigns, tradeshows, direct mail, and more.