If you meet enough ‘marketing people’ you’ll probably hear the phrases ‘inbound marketing leds’ and ‘outbound marketing leads’. If you’re a normal human, your default response will be to think ‘I don’t care which way they are bound – I just want some sales, please.’ But bear with me. Today I wanted to give a quick overview of what we actually mean when we use those terms so you are informed and aware.
Now, this bit is important.

Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan coined the phrase inbound marketing in 2009 and then created the world’s number one inbound marketing software from that concept. So it’s pretty much stuck in marketing parlance and has been for 10 years. But the World has changed. We bet you’ve heard of writing blogs to get ranked on search engines. How about videos?
Nowadays, most people do inbound marketing in some form. The terms are actually a bit redundant now. Brian says himself:
“We spent half our marketing energy on [the inbound movement] and half on HubSpot. It was a tremendously large initiative that still goes. We wrote a book about it. We have a big conference about it…. It helped that it was a polarizing name, like, ‘good guys inbound, bad guys outbound,’ old versus new. That yin and yang polarization worked. It captured the gestalt of what was happening at the time.”
And as marketing land put to him:
As awareness of HubSpot and inbound marketing has spread over the past decade, lines between inbound and plain old online marketing sometimes blurred. The idea that companies need to publish great, helpful content to attract and nurture an audience is no longer revolutionary. Outbound marketing has become more inbound, and vice versa.
However, if you aren’t in marketing, you need to be aware of what people are trying to say. But beware. When we go to analyse what is what, you need to get your waders on before you dive in, because the waters are a bit muddy.
Below are some ‘concepts’ of what is what. But you’ll have questions. Such as, is magazine advertising educational, like a blog piece, making it inbound, or is it more scattergun, an outbound marketing activity? It all depends on what the content is, where it goes, what the call to action is and who it’s speaking to.
Frankly, there isn’t a pool of ‘inbound’ and ‘outbound’ customers. There are only potential customers with varying states of interest in what you are selling. Because Hubspot coined the phrase, and run marketing automation platforms off the back of it, there’s never going to be complete clarity that hasn’t got bias running through it like a stick of rock.

So, if you want to look at it another way, just call inbound digital marketing and outbound traditional marketing.

Outbound / traditional marketing

Typical lead sources:

  • Telesales
  • Sales visits
  • Expos and shows
  • Traditional TV adverts
  • Radio ads
  • Magazine advertising
  • Direct mail advertising
  • Merchandise

Characteristics of an outbound lead

  • Approached by you
  • You are ‘seen’ at events or in magazines – you are building awareness
  • May or may not be ‘ready to buy’
  • May or may not be a decision maker
  • Needs to be convinced/ educated on your product

What you need to know:

  • Difficulty in tracking return on investment (ROI)
  • Increasing blocking techniques (Do not call list, Spam filters, TiVo, etc)
  • High cost, low yield.

Inbound / Digital Marketing:

Typical lead sources:


  • Video marketing
  • Webinars
  • Targeted paid search
  • SEO
  • Blogging
  • Social media
  • Email marketing

Characteristics of an inbound lead

  • Approaches you
  • Aware of your business
  • More likely to be ‘in the market’ to buy
  • May already be in the stage of educating themselves on your product and competitor products

What you need to know:

CRM Daily reports, “nearly half of the companies that implement inbound marketing efforts see a 25 percent greater return on investment (ROI) on those programs than companies that do not. The survey found that inbound marketing channels can deliver up to 30 times the campaign conversion rate of traditional outbound direct-mail campaigns.”

Okay – so what’s the best? Clue: You need both

A quick misnomer would be to state that inbound leads are the best! Educated customers, aware customers, people ready to buy and hear from you. But before you give your sales team their P45, a slice of reality.

You could have the best content in the World, the best video channel, amazing social media and you would and SHOULD still look to educate and convert people outside of ‘the bubble’ – the people who already know what they want, when they want it and what they want to pay for it. When the World collapses, sales people will still exist. There is still a need to do the de trashows, to place that TV ad, to spark that inital connection with someone.

In other words, there is life outside of the internet – not much of it, I agree, but there is still a place for inbound and outbound. The most important thing in any business is to remember that you shouldn’t rely just on one lead generation source – or even two or three – you need to diversify constantly and you will avoid the risk of reducing your possibilities to a minimum.

It also makes good sense – if you are running at a place where 95% of your income is coming from outbound marketing and sales efforts, switching to even a slightly different percentage where inbound is your focus will take a dramatic shift internally and could really make things fall apart quickly.

The solution? Hire a marketing freelancer!

Oh of course I would say that, would’t I? But it can work. If your business is a well oiled machine that sees ‘okay to good results’ from doing, say, 100 sales calls a week, visits, direct mail flyers and a raft of traditional advertising, then apportioning just some of that budget – say £1,000 – £2,000 a month into inbound tactics can ensure you maintian your current position without any real risk whilst growing the potential for more leads. Taking someone without the skill to try and do the job for you is much more expensive and time-consuming. It’s also a slow burner.

Sadly there is no pool of customers just waiting to be found, marketing has to get them to ‘rise to the bait’ whether that’s through video, online search, social media or answering questions for them.

The benefits of a marketing freelancer is that whilst all this is cooking, you continue as normal, aware that sometime soon, the leads will start to trickle in.

What to ask a marketing freelancer to do for you:

  1. Survey existing customers – You need to know what they read, where they go, where they spend time online. Let them do this for you.
  2. Find what blogs, social and video content is popular with your competitors. Who’s making waves in your sector?
  3. Write a blog. With all this information, you should expect your freelance marketing support to be able to rustle up a 2000 word piece with advice and rich media that’s then placed on the best channels, fully optmised and evergreen.
  4. Promote. Press releases, social, paid promotion. They should be able to get your news out.
  5. Analyze. Where did people find you? Is traffic up? Where from? Why?

The end result – You will have inbound marketing underway and you’ll still be offering the same service before you hired someone. If you see great traction and feedback, you now have a recipe to follow-up on and create more of the same. If the results aren’t what you’d hoped for? Well, you’re no further behind.

What’s not to like?


I launched ‘Your Marketing Managed’ as an addition to my existing business Keep Writing Ltd a way to offer businesses the service of a marketing manager, without needing to pay for holidays, sick leave, national insurance and pension, whilst still getting a great service. I had noticed a growing need for businesses to have hands-on marketing support with flexibility.

My background has been 14 years in marketing, working as head of department in a mixture of start ups, local businesses and PLC’s including Tuffnells, BriefYourMarket, Go Outdoors, SVM Global and alpharooms. I had my first child and decided to build on the freelance work I had been doing with a new business dedicated to marketing support.

In my work I help with a range of things dependent on each client’s needs, such as PR, social media, event marketing, print and ‘traditional’ marketing, website management, influencer outreach, blogging and more. I can also come on-site or have regular calls to engage other team members.

I don’t call myself a ‘consultant’ as that implies someone who comes in and dictates to an existing team- I’m very much hands-on, able to offer strategic direction but also knuckle down and get your tasks done!