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What’s the Difference between Inbound and Outbound Business Attraction?

Economic development business attraction is really just B2B sales and marketing.

Jerry Taylor
Jerry Taylor
9 min read
What’s the Difference between Inbound and Outbound Business Attraction?
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Table of Contents

Do you struggle with doing business attraction yourself?  Have you looked everywhere for business attraction advice and techniques, only to come up empty handed?  Do you feel dependent on outside vendors to make the phone ring with new economic development leads?

If so, this article is for you.

Business attraction is really just B2B sales and marketing.  And there are really just two types of B2B sales and marketing: inbound and outbound.

Inbound and outbound sales are two different methods of prospecting potential customers. Inbound is when a company reaches out to people who have shown interest in the product or service, while outbound is when a company tries to reach new prospects.

In this blog post, we will be discussing what the difference between inbound and outbound sales as they relate to economic development attraction marketing, as well as how each method can be beneficial for both companies and economic development organizations.

The goal of an inbound strategy is to generate leads through various channels, whereas with an outbound strategy it's about identifying potential customers then converting them into leads.

Photo by TUAN ANH TRAN / Unsplash

1. What is an Inbound Sales Strategy?

Inbound sales is a method of selling that focuses on creating content to attract and convert prospects. In other words, it’s all about enabling people to find your brand by informing them about a topic they’re interested in. By doing this, you’re naturally drawing in people from your target audience: the type of people your brand is most likely to appeal to, and the most likely to make a purchase.

Inbound marketing is all about nurturing potential customers by providing them with useful information or promotional material that helps build trust between the company and the prospect. The key to inbound leads is knowledge, i.e., understanding your target market's needs and wants, then meeting them appropriately.

Content can be provided in a variety of ways such as blog posts, white papers, eBooks, videos, etc etc.; the main aim behind content creation is to educate your audience about the benefits of using your products and services.

Woman typing on a keyboard
Photo by Daniel Thomas / Unsplash

2. What are some examples of Inbound Sales Techniques?


Blogging is a great way to offer free content and attract readers to your website or business blog. You can also use this platform to build authority for your company by sharing how-to tutorials, commentary on industry developments, holiday sales events etc.


Creating YouTube videos is another popular use of inbound marketing. These short, to-the-point video clips help educate your audience about a product or service. In addition to YouTube, you can also promote these channels on other social media like Facebook and Twitter.

White Papers

A white paper is often used as an educational tool with the goal of explaining why a customer should choose one product over another. It’s often used as a way to get leads so it falls under the category of inbound sales.  They can be long-form pieces of writing (usually 10+ pages) or audiovisual presentations that showcase a product or business in a positive light. Just make sure they’re free for the public to view and download.


A podcast is an audio post that can be published on a website, iTunes or Stitcher. They’re usually fairly short, with episodes lasting anywhere from 10-30 minutes.   And, they can be on any subject—so long as your audience is interested in listening!


Social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are often utilized for business purposes. Regular engagement on these online communities  can help to spread a company’s name and brand awareness.


Ebooks are great as lead magnets because they provide value to people who want to learn more about your products and services. By putting out information on your website or blog, you’re allowing prospects to gain knowledge about your products and services while also giving them the chance to reach out to your company for more information.

Infographics / Charts / Graphs

Infographics are visual representations of data that make it easier to understand for your audience. It basically boils down complex information into content that is easy to digest, i.e., more useful than a simple list or bullet points.

Admiration | Instagram: @timmossholder
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

3. The Benefits of Using an Inbound Sales Strategy

It’s Cost Effective

You won’t have to spend as much on acquiring new customers using this strategy because you’re not paying for advertisements or other marketing materials that come with inbound marketing.

You Build Customer Trust

As customers learn more about your brand and the products/services you provide, they’ll start to develop trust in you and your company. This is often a determining factor for whether or not someone decides to make a purchase with your business.

It Focuses on What Your Audience Wants

Following customer needs helps differentiate your brand from competitors because you’re able to provide exactly what customers are looking for. It also makes it easier to gain new clients and retain old ones because you’re providing them with information they want and need.

Photo by Hello I'm Nik / Unsplash

4. The Cons of Using an Inbound Sales Strategy

Inbound Takes Work

As the name suggests, inbound marketing is focused on attracting consumers who are looking for your products and services. With this marketing strategy, you’re reaching people who are actively searching for a solution to their problems—not necessarily those who don’t know what they want. That means inbound sales has the potential to be more time-consuming than outbound strategies because you have to dedicate yourself to creating content that your customers want to consume.

You Can’t Just Create a Segmented List

Because inbound sales is based on your customer’s needs and wants, it can be difficult to segment prospective clients into separate groups when building an email marketing list. That means you have to create content that will appeal to everyone. It’s not impossible, but can be a hassle if you’re not used to creating content for various audiences.

It Requires Planning and Consistency

When executing an inbound sales plan, you have to keep your pulse on what people are searching for in order to create the right content that will address their questions and concerns. Creating content that no one is interested in will do nothing to help your business grow.

Close up of magnetic darts on dartboard
Photo by Marc A / Unsplash

5. What is Outbound Marketing ?

Outbound marketing is a traditional advertising strategy that focuses on events and one-way conversations to promote your product or service. Outbound sales works by directly pitching your business to a prospect in order to make a sale. This includes tactics like billboards, social media advertising, cold calls and cold emails and direct mail.

Outbound sales is a much more aggressive strategy than inbound and requires a lot of attention to detail. When executed properly, outbound marketing can help you reach your target audience directly by getting potential clients to reach out to you for information about your product/service offerings.

Photo by Charanjeet Dhiman / Unsplash

6. What are some examples of Outbound Sales and Marketing Techniques?

There are many different tactics you can use for outbound sales and marketing. Here are a few:

Cold Calls

Cold calling is one of the most common techniques businesses utilize to try to get new clients. Essentially, you’re using this method specifically when you initiate contact with someone who has not asked for your product/service.

Social Media Advertising

Many businesses use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to promote their products/services with paid advertisements. By creating a campaign on social media and paying to present your business to people who have an interest in buying, you’re able to raise awareness for your brand.

Cold Emails

This method of outbound marketing is essentially sending emails directly to a prospect and asking them to buy your product/service. Cold emails can be tricky to execute, but if you get it right, they offer a lot of potential for new clients.

Direct Mailing

Direct mailing is like cold emailing, but uses the post office instead of email.


Paid advertising can be extremely effective if you’re trying to get your brand in front of a lot of people who don’t know about it.  You can advertise in magazines, on billboards, in websites, and almost anywhere there's a flat surface.

Event Sponsorship

Like advertising, sponsoring an event is a great way to reach new prospects. This method can be more effective because you can build a relationship with the people you meet at the event and continue marketing your brand after they’ve already been introduced to it.

Trade Shows

Pre-COVID, the primary way that most economic developers did outbound marketing was through trade show booths. You know what I'm talking about: you rent a booth space at an event, setup a good looking booth, and then hope that potential prospects walking the aisles looking for swag stumble into your booth space and leave their business card.

Everything is going to be alright
Photo by Viktor Forgacs / Unsplash

7. The Pros of Using Outbound Sales

Outbound Sales is Cost Effective

One of the biggest benefits of outbound sales is that it’s relatively cheap. If you have a limited marketing budget, this strategy puts less pressure on your resources because you can focus your money and attention on one specific type of advertising over all others.

You Can Find Your Audience Quickly

You’re able to reach an audience more directly with outbound sales because you’ll have less interference from other brands. The groups that will be most interested in your product or service will respond well to a direct pitch, which can help increase sales and customer retention rates.

You Can Track Your Results Easily

When you’re using outbound sales, it’s easy to track your results. With inbound marketing, you can only prove that people are searching for your brand—you have no way of knowing if they’ve seen the content or even like what you provide. Outbound sales allows you to see how many people have responded to your campaign and gives you an opportunity to see if there are any trends in their questions or concerns that can help you make any changes.

Resting bulldog
Photo by meredith hunter / Unsplash

8. The Cons of Using Outbound Sales

It’s Time-Consuming

Outbound sales is a labor intensive strategy because it forces you to handle all the prospecting and promotion of your business on your own. You’ll have to handle the day-to-day logistics of building out your campaigns and handling any questions or concerns that arise with new prospects or clients.

It Requires a Lot of Attention to Detail

Because you’re directly reaching out to people, there are a lot more details to keep track of. If you don’t have an efficient tracking system in place, it can be difficult to figure out which campaigns are performing well and which ones need improvement.

It Can Be Costly

If you’re spending money on things like print ads, cold calls or cold emails, your budget can quickly get out of hand. You have to pay for the actual advertising as well as the time it takes to promote your brand.

It Can Be Intimidating When Done Poorly

Outbound sales is intimidating when not done in an ethical way or when it doesn’t produce the results you want. When executed improperly, it can put people off and make them distrustful of your company. You can lose potential clients by doing things like spamming their inboxes with ads or calling them incessantly to try and get a sale.   You can also lose employees because  the aggressive nature of the campaign can make them feel pressured to perform well.

happy moment
Photo by Aziz Acharki / Unsplash

9. Which One to Choose: Inbound and Outbound Sales?

These two sales strategies are very different, but they can also be complementary. The most successful companies achieve success using a mix of both inbound and outbound sales. By taking advantage of the strengths of each method, you can build a more stable economic development organization that will make you more successfull in the long term.


Jerry Taylor Twitter

Jerry is a staff writer for the Econ Dev Show.

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