EP35 – Inbound, Outbound, and Direct Response Marketing

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To watch the video recording of this episode, click here

This week, Carter rejoins us after his adventure to the emergency room, largely recovered and eager to dive into our discussion of inbound, outbound, and direct response marketing.

When I first began my entrepreneurial endeavors, I had no idea what what any of these terms meant. Don’t feel embarrassed if you, too, feel confused!

Carter and I will explain what these concepts are and the pros and cons of each, as well as the types of business models most suitable to these different marketing strategies.

Inbound vs. Outbound

Described as simply as possible, inbound and outbound marketing differ in this way: with inbound marketing, people are coming to you, and with outbound marketing, you are going to them.

My business is supported primarily by inbound marketing. I put my product in front of my target audience and try to get them interested so they will come to me to purchase it.

To this end, I use marketing in the form of Facebook and YouTube ads (like I discussed in Episode 30 as well as in last week’s episode), pay-per-click ads, and even this podcast!

Carter’s business is primarily outbound. He goes out and presents his product to prospective buyers and tries to get them to make a purchase. He uses strategies such as cold calls and cold emails.

Each strategy has its own set of pros and cons:

Inbound Pros:

  • Very easy to scale up
  • Hands-off marketing that works in the background
  • Number of leads may spike with no added effort

Inbound Cons:

  • If you don’t have traffic, you have to pay for traffic (e.g. ads and pay-per-click)
  • It takes time to establish yourself, get traffic, and figure out your numbers
  • Each source of traffic will vary in terms of engagement and throughput (i.e. sales)

Outbound Pros:

  • Success rests entirely on how much effort you put in
  • Great for startups because it requires no capital
  • You get feedback much faster than with inbound marketing

Outbound Cons:

  • You must be consistent because success depends on you!
  • More difficult to scale up because it usually requires human capital
  • Requires a strong base sales process
  • Cold calls require a very thick skin

As a general rule, inbound marketing tends to be business-to-consumer and outbound marketing tends to be business-to-business.

The “Is It Inbound or Outbound?” Game

Carter came up with a fun game for us to play that would put our knowledge of inbound and outbound marketing to the test and at the same time drive home for our listeners the difference between the two strategies.

Carter presented me with a specific type of advertising, and it was my job to decide what type of marketing it was. Carter then agreed or disagreed with me and explained why. Some examples were much clearer-cut than others!

  1. Facebook ads. The verdict: inbound.
  2. Google pay-per-click. The verdict: inbound.
  3. Booth at a trade show. The verdict: I said outbound, but Carter said inbound, so it’s a a little of both.
  4. Newspaper ad. The verdict: inbound.
  5. TV commercial. The verdict: inbound.
  6. Call center. The verdict: outbound.
  7. Automated message call center. The verdict: maybe both?
  8. Pens with your logo on it. The verdict: This one stumped us! What do you think?

Direct Response Marketing

Direct response marketing is similar to inbound marketing, but it is a very specific type. The difference between it and any generic type of marketing is that it is designed to elicit a response immediately or in a short time frame.

With direct response marketing, you are expecting a response from your target audience, so you can measure the response you receive. It is advertising that warrants an action you can measure.

A great example of this is paid advertising, such as ads on social media websites and pay-per-click ads. An old-school type of direct response advertising is a form you mail out to people and ask them to send back if they are interested in your product.

The opposite of direct response marketing would be marketing that you can’t track because there is no action for the audience to take. Marketing you can measure is much more useful than marketing you can’t measure, so try to use direct response marketing whenever you can!

Trevor’s Book and Carter’s App of the Week

Book: How to Win at the Sport of Business, by Mark Cuban. Carter did not have a book selection this week, so I stepped up to the plate with this suggestion.

I listened to this on audiobook. Most of the time, when I try to read a book or listen to an audiobook, I get halfway through and then stop. Not so with this one, which kept my attention until the end.

The thing I really enjoyed about this book is that it tells stories about Mark Cuban’s youth as well as sharing his business strategies and tactics. We get to hear about all the hard work he put in to become successful, which really humanizes him and offers an honest portrayal of the successful entrepreneur.

App: QuickBooks Self-Employed from intuit. This is a paid app that works on your computer or your phone, but Carter prefers the phone version. You link the app to your bank account, and then it pulls up a list of all your transactions.

On the mobile app, you swipe left for business and right for personal. The app organizes your accounts and gives real-time projections of your quarterly and annual tax estimates.

This app is the best solution Carter has found so far for keeping track of accounting as it pertains to taxes. And the mobile version of the app kind of makes you feel like you’re playing a video game!


Before I end this post, I must mention Greg Hickman, Justin McGill, and the Zero to Scale podcast. They mentioned the Coders’ Startup in a tweet, and now I am repaying their courtesy!

McGill has a product called LeadFuze (link below) that sends leads for the business-to-business market space directly to your inbox. Essentially, you pay a certain amount of money per month to get a certain amount of leads. With the $1,000/month plan, you end up paying around $1 per lead.

This product flips outbound marketing on its head because they do the outbound work for you. Your role becomes a little more like inbound marketing!

And finally, check out Carter’s business at UnitedBusinessLeaders.com and sign up for his email list. Also don’t forget that I offer business coaching at codersstartup.com/coaching. The first session is free!



Zero to Scale Podcast

LeadFuze Product

How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban

QuickBooks Self-Employed App

2 thoughts on “EP35 – Inbound, Outbound, and Direct Response Marketing

  1. I have been enjoying the show, but honestly I would delete this one and re-record with someone who knows marketing because you guys got more than half of what you talk about mislabeled.

    First sales and marketing are different. Marketing generates leads and sales closes. You can use inbound marketing and a sales force, like Hubspot or use it with online automated sales like a SAAS.

    Next, any time you are looking for the customers or targeting the customer it is outbound or traditional marketing, so any ad purchase anywhere.

    Inbound was defined as when you were attracting customers, pretty much specifically when you’re tracking them without using your brand name. Much of inbound marketing is also content marketing like blogging and Podcasting. So you are not starting with why my product and brand are what you’re looking for in an interruption fashion like ads, but starting with answering their problems and then introducing them to your brand or product.

    1. Thanks for the comment Chris!

      Always good to hear from our listeners, even if it is a backhanded compliment. Means we’re doing something right 🙂

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