The Evergreen Value of Outbound Marketing

By marco ·  November 5, 2020

Outbound marketing is the concept of “reaching out” to potential customers. 

The Cambridge dictionary (although they don’t specify marketing) also makes it easy to understand.


In this case, we’re talking about any marketing or communications from one point (your company) to another point. (the customer)

For example, if you watch a TV commercial – the company is directly targeting you and starting the conversation with their message.

Or if you are on your bicycle and see a major outdoor Ad like this:

netflix ad bus station

Netflix is showing you an intriguing advertisement, but more importantly, they’re starting the conversation and hooking your interest.

Outbound marketing also happens online. Companies may target you via email, through display ads, in Gmail or on random websites. But no matter the channel: the premise is always the same. The company takes the initiative to start the conversation.

No matter the (outbound) channel: the premise is always the same. The company takes the initiative to start the conversation.

Channels through which outbound marketing takes place include: Newspapers, email, radio, print, flyers, postcards, brochures, catalogues, events, trade shows, Tele-sales, Street promotions, Online Ads.

But what is the difference between inbound and outbound?

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

Traditionally, outbound marketing makes a lot of sense. How else would people be able to sell anything? 

If you have a restaurant, it would be difficult to not ask people to come in and try the food.
Historically, people were dependent on being loud and putting out the message that they had great food.

But the rise of the internet changed everything. It enabled people to find their ideal restaurant now based on personal preferences, reviews, locations and more.

In the old days, you were maybe competing with 5 other restaurants in the neighbourhood and so directly targeting customers around you with great offers was an easy win.

But through the internet; markets have become global, competition increased and as a result, attention spans declined significantly.

Enter: The Era of Inbound Marketing

Whereas Outbound Marketing focuses on reaching people directly – Inbound marketing is the opposite. Inbound marketing is about enabling customers to find you. This is usually done through content marketing, SEO, email marketing and lead nurturing. 

Inbound marketing is about enabling customers to find you. This is usually done through content marketing, SEO, email marketing and lead nurturing.

It’s basically a method of pulling customers to you who already have a need. And in case they don’t have a need yet, it’s about educating them in such a way that customers realize they have a need. 

Many sales-driven organizations traditionally prefer outbound marketing because it often shows a direct response at the customer, which makes it seem more effective with a higher ROI.

However, many researches have shown that although outbound marketing often delivers a faster direct response, it is much more difficult to scale on the long-term. Inbound marketing on the other hand often shows a slower direct response but is much easier to scale over time. 

The reason: it’s easier to scale the amount of content you produce than the amount of people you hire to reach out to people. 

The Problem of Outbound Marketing

The reason Outbound Marketing got a pretty bad rep over the last years and especially online is that many people associated it with spam or being annoying

There is a major nuance that needs to be added here. When an Advertisement is not relevant; it makes the fact that it was unrequested a lot worse.

This means that when companies don’t do their homework and send Ads into the world without any sense of understanding of their audience; they run a high risk of p*ssing people off. 

And in return, people don’t only blame the companies for their Ads; they blame the structure itself: “outbound” is … fill in the blank. 

However, the truth is more nuanced. Outbound still happens every day and those companies which do it well are actually adding lots of value to their customers. 

For example, this is a billboard ad by Spotify:

There are probably very few people in the world who would walk by this billboard and find it annoying or intrusive – regardless of the fact that they never asked for it. 


You could consider the fact that companies using “Outbound” with skill and caution take into consideration a type of customer funnel. This means they are not focused on immediately selling the product, but rather on driving awareness and providing value.

Now if Spotify’s add would read:

“Spotify is the best place for Music. Buy Spotify NOW”

– suddenly many more people would have a problem with it. 
In a nutshell – the problem with Outbound Marketing is very easy.
It’s simply not well understood by companies (advertisers) for the following two reasons

  1. Showing Ads to people who are not their target audience making the Ad irrelevant and annoying
  2. Immediately selling without offering any value or content or considering a customer funnel

And this misunderstanding doesn’t only produce poor results. It also makes people angry. 

The professional outbound marketing that happens is still a key driver of many sales that take place in the world.And because they blend in so easily, people never find them intrusive.

The secret: an outbound advertisement doesn’t really need to feel like an advertisement – but should rather add value and at the least be relevant. If it accomplishes the core goal of connecting with the customer, then it still works. 

Examples of Outbound Marketing

Cold Emails

Cold email is the practice of sending emails to potential customers that you haven’t interacted with before. It’s unsolicited and therefore should be handled with great care.
If you don’t tread lightly, you’ll easily be perceived as annoying and be classified as spam. 

Here’s a good example of a cold email. 

cold email

In the business world, cold emails are still a very much accepted business practice. The process looks somewhat like this: 

  • Define ideal customer
  • Find ideal customer name and company
  • Find the ideal customer email address
  • Verify that ideal customer email address is correct- send this ideal customer a personal email
  • Follow up if need be

And if it went like that; most people would probably be ok with it. The problem becomes bigger when companies start thinking it’s a numbers game. 

“If I send out 100 emails and get 1 positive reply, then let’s send out 10,000”.

This is where the majority of leads are burned, reputations get lost and money gets wasted.
It’s the reason people start calling cold email spam and why channels get saturated – there’s simply too much irrelevant noise.

Therefore, we recommend that if you do engage with outbound, do it safely and focus on providing value. Also, make sure to check your country’s laws and regulations on the practice of unsolicited emails.

Here are a few tips and tricks on how to create great cold emails: 

Although cold email can still be effective, in our experience, it’s only good if it’s helpful or relevant for the potential customer. And creating relevance for 10,000 people simultaneously is simply not possible.

Cold Calls

Cold calling is the practice of reaching out by phone. It’s basically an unsolicited phone call.

However, it is one of the oldest practices in the book of business. Traditionally it was the main way how business was done. And although it’s less accepted now, it’s still a very big source of deals. 

  • Define potential accounts that may be interested in your product
  • Define who you should speak to at the account
  • Call in and get connected to the right person
  • Pitch your product and engage
  • Customer asks for additional information and follow-up calls
  • You send product specs, presentations, references etc.
  • And the deal gets closed sometime thereafter.

Here are a few cold calling scripts and guidelines:

Flyers, Brochures and Packages

If you’re alive, then you have received unsolicited flyers, brochures and sometimes even packages. Think pizza flyers. Fashion brochures. Furniture magazines and so forth. 
In business, these same things happen and they’re a method of advertising and directly reaching out to people.

The process looks like this:

  • Identify potential accounts that could be interested
  • Find out the address
  • Send it at random to the address or specify to the specific person you’d like to reach

Although this practice is much less common in business, it could be a good source of qualified leads if the offer adds value, is enticing and or helpful. 

For example, at Zengrowth, we ran a campaign once sending packages including cookies and a postcard to potential clients on behalf of a client. We got extraordinary reply rates so creativity may pay off. 

Billboard Ads

Billboard ads are those which are very visibly seen on street corners, bus stations, on top of buildings and more. 
They are often very notable and extremely creative. They need to be otherwise there would be a phenomenon occurring which is known as “banner blindness”.

Here are a few examples of creative billboard Ads. 

McDonald's ad example
ikea ad example

The common thread? They’re creative, disruptive, add value and stand for a brand. None of them tries to sell directly. An important learning for all the other outbound channels being used.

Printed Ads

Printed ads can be an effective way to advertise to people. The reason is, magazines are often tailored to a specific audience with specific needs and wants. 

For example, if a magazine targets athletes, then it’s a good idea to advertise to that audience selling protein powder. Like the image below. 

men's health ad example

However, this can be repeated for any type of advertisement and audience. For example car magazines, fashion magazines or anything else.

A good strategy to track the ROI of such campaigns (since it’s difficult to track offline) is to include coupon codes or bundles. That way, customers enter the data online and the lead source can be properly attributed. 

Of course, we can go much more in-depth on each individual point, but I hope this helps you get some inspiration.

Need help with setting up your marketing strategy? Music to our ears.


Written with 💙 from your CEO,
Marco van Bree

About the author

Marco Van Bree Marco is the Founder and CEO of Zengrowth. He loves marketing, distribution and growth and has been helping SaaS companies achieve better results for the last 5 years. You can wake him up for pizza and pick his brains about anything chess related. He is also into self-development and loves sharing his learnings in business.
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