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There’s a brewing debate in the marketing community. Does email marketing, as a whole, qualify as inbound or outbound marketing?  

Understanding the key differences and how to apply them to your general digital marketing strategy will help you attract leads and communicate with subscribers who truly want to receive your content.

What is the difference between outbound and inbound email marketing?

Many sales and marketing initiatives can be split into two categories: inbound and outbound.

Have you built a subscriber list through opt-in forms full of people who have given you explicit permission to contact them? That’s inbound marketing. The lead wanted you to contact them. Even those that have downloaded a gated piece of content would still be categorized as inbound leads.

If you’ve purchased email lists or you’re sending cold emails to prospects, those would both qualify as outbound email marketing.

Some marketers would say that certain types of emails, like re-engagement campaigns, qualify as outbound marketing because you’re reaching out to subscribers and asking them to engage with your content. However, if these subscribers have already asked to receive information from you through email, these types of campaigns would still qualify as inbound marketing.

The rules of outbound email marketing

Purchasing email lists was—and is—never a good strategy. Sending emails to people who never gave you permission to contact them is a guaranteed way of receiving a high number of spam complaints. No one wants unwanted emails cluttering up their inbox, especially now as email volume is every increasing.

Inbox providers are using more and more sophisticated machine learning programs to keep unwanted SPAM emails out, and block repeat offenders. Email services are adopting similar methods to keep bad senders off their platforms, so they can maintain a good relationship with inbox providers and have a high success rate for inbox placement.

Email regulations like the GDPR further complicates the use of purchased lists by adding comprehensive requirements for the use of individuals’ data that are backed by teams of regulators and heavy fines.

And while this regulation aligns with age-old email marketing best practices, now these practices are enforceable.

Consider the following when considering outbound email marketing:

  • Do I have opted-in consent from these contacts to email them?
  • Am I within the boundaries CAN-SPAM?
  • Am I within the boundaries of the GDPR?

Learn more about how Campaign Monitor responds to the GDPR here.

How to measure your outbound email marketing results

Unlike inbound email marketing, it’s very difficult to determine what positive results can be tracked from outbound email marketing.

While the team here at Campaign Monitor requires recipients to have opted in to your email list, others maintain these types of cold emails can still be compliant with regulations. Whether they are not, the fact remains: You’ll see strong results from email marketing when your list is opted-in, interested, and engaged with your content.

Does it really matter?

It’s important to know the key differences between inbound and outbound email marketing. It’s especially crucial to understand the laws and unwritten codes of conduct for avoiding spam filters with your outbound emails.

Understanding these concepts will help you build a well-rounded email marketing campaign.

What now?

Focus on building a healthy email list and providing your subscribers with interesting, relevant, high-quality, and, most importantly, personalized content. Get started with your strategy by learning how to promote your business with email marketing.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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