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The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is defined as the following: inbound marketing is every marketing activity/channel an individual or company can do, or take part in to organically draw people to their company, brand, products or services. While outbound marketing is paying to promote your company, brand, products or services.

That’s the long and the short of it, but the real difference isn’t so clear. I always find that stories, especially short stories, are a great way to understand complex concepts in a simple way. With that said, I present a short story on why inbound isn’t enough and the difference between inbound and outbound marketing.

The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing (Short Story):

Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

The wagon wheels on Reggie’s caravan were splintering and his ox was tired from traveling the long, dry, and dusty road from the east… the hope of making it to California was dwindling like the time left on his life. You see, Reggie has a gambling problem and he owes some very unsavory men a large amount of money. Why these men have not already taken his life is a miracle in and of itself. Reggie has a plan though. There is a gold rush in California and he has developed a new method via an invention that will allow him to prospect for gold in a way that no one ever had. This would be his saving grace.

Reggie’s ox fell to its knees in exhaustion, Reggie peered down the dusty road ahead and saw all he needed to encourage his trusty ox to continue on with supplies in tow. That salvation was a sign labeled, “Welcome to California”. He had done it, there was no doubt in his mind that the toughest part of the journey was over.

The following day, Reggie picked a spot, set up his contraption, and went to prospecting like a man out of his mind. People gathered to watch as this behemoth of a machine unloaded the silt and mud from the bottom of the river bed with ruthless efficiency. It dropped through a sifter the size of a locomotive, and into a massive vault that looked to be stolen from the local federal bank. This vault was to protect the gold that would pay Reggie’s debts. It was certainly something to behold.  There was no doubt in Reggie’s mind that the vault would be full of lifesaving gold by the end of the day!

As the sun began to set, Reggie was standing back admiring his genius when a sharp and swift blow to the back of the head folded him like a deck of cards. Reggie turned over, hand on head, blood seeping through his fingers to find himself staring down the barrel of a Colt .45. Had it been any other time, he would have marveled at the beauty of the ivory handled pistol, but all Reggie could see was its owner, a man he owed an enormous amount of money to, Sten Myers. For Sten himself to be here was a sure sign of his demise. Sten was the ruthless leader of the gang that Reggie was irrevocably indebted to. Reggie’s time had run out.

Sten peered down at Reggie through his beautiful deadly gun and spoke,

“You have three seconds to tell me where my money is. 1…”

Reggie, panic-stricken, yelled and pointed at his machine,

“It’s there, it’s in there!”

Sten took a confused look at Reggie’s monstrous machine, looked back at Reggie and replied,

“Show me.”

Reggie slowly climbed to his feet, blood dripping from his head to the ground like sand from an hourglass. He began the meticulous process of opening the ironclad safe with Sten’s patience reaching its limits. Finally, the machine clicked with an oddly quiet and peaceful sound for a machine that had been so loud and boisterous just a few moments ago. Reggie flung open the door and stood back with his hands up,

“It’s all yours”, he exclaimed.

Sten instructed Reggie to step back as he inspected the inside of the vault.

Reggie’s fears and trepidation began to reside as Sten pulled out a small handful of gold nuggets and flakes.

“See, I told you, you can have it all. What’s in your hand and the rest in that giant vault.” Reggie said.

Sten scowled, “This is all that’s in there.” He cocked his gun back with a wrath that shook Reggie to his core.

So did you put it all together? Are you tracking on what the difference between inbound and outbound marketing is?

Inbound was Reggie’s machine. It was efficient and got him tons of leads (mud and silt). However, at the end of the day, Reggie did not need mud, he needed gold. Inbound, his machine, only got him a handful. Reggie’s machine only focused on quantity, not quality. It also only focused on one portion of the job that is the top of the funnel as it relates to the customer lifecycle/funnel.

With that said, make sure your strategy as a marketing department is focused on the FULL funnel. Keep in mind that some of the best marketers on the planet don’t think of marketing as a funnel but a circle instead (but more on that later). At the end of the day, the difference between inbound and outbound marketing is important to understand, but make sure your marketing department has tools supporting every aspect of the funnel, not just the top of the funnel, where inbound typically resides.


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