Lead generation: inbound or outbound?

Abi Abrahams, Thursday 13 December 2018
7 min read time


lead genration- inbound or outbound-1

Lead generation is the process fuelling your business success. Enabling your team to discover new business opportunities to continually produce revenue for organization growth, mastering this vital process is imperative. But which strategy is best- inbound or outbound lead generation? Whilst many embrace both techniques, understanding their effectiveness and discovering their hindrances is telling when planning future lead generation strategies.


Definitions and differences


Simply put, an inbound approach brings leads in, an outbound approach goes out to find them.


Inbound lead generation encourages leads to inquire with your business of their own accord, welcoming them in with a website, blogs, content or social media. An almost entirely digital approach, inbound lead generation places a trail of information about your brand and product on certain platforms, leading prospects to identify a need for your services and take the appropriate action.

Outbound lead generation takes your brand to prospects through a phone call, direct mail shot or event. Speaking directly to decision makers, leads are generated through targeted outreach and impactful advertising. Where inbound focuses on a softer approach, nurturing prospects towards your brand, outbound is loud and proud, working hard to share your brand message and help prospects understand why they need your services.

These two are approaches are almost perfect opposites, though some marketing channels sit harmoniously between them. PPC for example, uses outbound targeted advertising to display relevant adverts to those searching appropriate keywords, but the prospect still has control over whether they interact with the campaign, like many inbound approaches.

Understanding how these approaches work to deliver high-quality new business leads means we’re perfectly poised to see how they compare; what benefits and pitfalls do they bring to lead generation strategies? 


Pros and cons of inbound marketing




  • It’s more effective- A recent study discovered that 68% of marketers believed their inbound approaches were effective in producing the desired result, however only 48% believed the same of outbound approaches. This isn’t to say outbound is ineffective, but it appears inbound provides a more reliable lead generation approach. 
  •  Better ROI- Inbound marketing approaches are more cost effective, as they aren’t as targeted or data reliant as outbound. This means their ROI is vastly more positive, 46% of marketers see inbound approaches provide a healthy ROI, where outbound is only successful 12% of the time. 
  • You come across as experts- As inbound approaches are rich in their content and powerful with their message, they perfectly establish your brand as industry experts. Raising brand awareness through inbound approaches heightens your business profile and produces leads who already see you team as the authority. 
  • You can nurture leads- When nurturing prospects with regular online content, you produce leads of higher-quality, who will spend an average of 47% more on your product. Inbound approaches perfectly position your valuable content to nurture engaged prospects, improving lead generation success. 
  • Its permission based- Inbound approaches let prospects inquire when they’re ready, in a non-invasive manor. This ensures your brand is viewed in a positive light, and you generate leads aware of how they want to use your product. 



  • It’s time-consuming- Creating relevant and engaging content to continually run a powerful inbound strategy can be time consuming for your team. Leads can also take a little longer to start coming into your business; as each prospect will choose when they’re ready to inquire, you have little control over precisely when you’ll gain the leads you want. 
  • You’re website reliant- As an inbound approach is focused online, you’ll need an outstanding website to ensure success. From properly optimizing SEO and ranking to featuring continually targeted content, you’ll need to spend additional time properly managing your website alongside inbound lead generation tactics. 
  • Competition- Your inbound marketing approaches will almost always be at risk from your competitors, with their website outranking yours on specific keywords, or their social media platforms generating more followers. Though you want to leave a trial for prospects to follow and discover your brand, your competitors will be keen to distract their inbound marketing journey. 
  • You need a diverse team- Managing inbound approaches such as SEO and content creation requires specialist skills you may struggle for when recruiting. Organizations with smaller marketing teams may find difficulty in filling these niche positions, causing them to outsource skills and drive the cost of inbound approaches up. 


Pros and cons of outbound marketing




  • Reach a wider group- As inbound marketing approaches are only discovered by those searching for a solution or brand similar to yours, there may a whole audience you’re failing to reach. Outbound marketing approaches help your team reach out to those who may have no idea they need your product just yet; your call or advert may be exactly what they need to identify a problem to which you offer a solution.
  • Control leads targeted- As outbound approaches often target specific data sets, you have more control over who hears about your brand and which business leads are passed onto your sales team. Inbound approaches don’t offer your team this high control over leads generated.
  • Get there first- Instead of waiting for businesses to approach your team, outbound approaches reach out and bring businesses in, meaning they’re less likely to have started researching your competitors. 70% buy from the fist businesses they engage with, and outbound marketing helps you get there first.
  • Campaign strategy- Outbound approaches like direct mail or email are sparked by carefully controlled and planned campaigns, helping your team better understand when a large influx of leads can be expected, making it easier to plan lead generation targets. 



  • Expense- Outbound strategies tend to carry higher expenses. Direct mail campaigns require postage cost, and cold calling needs a large employee base, meaning obtaining a positive ROI can be difficult. 
  • It’s interruptive- The moment you choose to reach out with a call or email may not be the right moment for your prospect, meaning your lead generation strategy is interrupting their schedule. Inbound marketing lets decision makers choose when to engage with your brand and when to get in contact. 
  • One way communication- As outbound approaches spend all their time reaching out to audiences, many campaigns don’t offer precisely what buyers need. As communication is always moving out of your company, your team gain little feedback, and don’t improve strategies to properly tailor to prospect needs. 
  • Buyers aren’t easily attracted- Most buyers are halfway through their journey when they reach out to a businesses, so convincing cold prospects they need your product is a challenge. Though outbound approaches continue to deliver lead results, buyers are easier to attract through inbound approaches. 


Working together 


Both inbound and outbound approaches come with their own set of perks and a list of possible challenges; it remains the case that only focusing on one process is the biggest hindrance to your results. Properly combining both inbound and outbound approaches to produce a balanced lead generation strategy is the secret to success. 


Combining approaches helps ensure your team keep control over the audiences you’re targeting, whilst maintaining a strong online presence to boost all digital channels and improve overall lead quality. Using outbound’s ability to target an ideal audience and inbound’s strengths in lead nurture and exuding expertise, you can build audience trust, and fluid two-way conversations that boost all lead generation efforts.

To easily combine inbound and outbound marketing, discover Lead Forensics. Our groundbreaking software maximizes inbound lead generation by identifying the businesses visiting your website and providing contact details for key decision makers. This data fuels your outbound approach, enabling highly effective follow-up communications tailored to each business, in the knowledge they’ve already shown an interest in your brand and product. Revolutionize your lead generation today. Find out more- book your free demo.


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Topics: B2B marketing, Lead generation, Lead Forensics, Prioritize Leads

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